The Inflation Reduction Act becomes law

The Inflation Reduction Act becomes law

President Joe Biden signed the Democrats’ sweeping climate, tax and health care package on Tuesday, marking the most significant effort in U.S. history to combat the dangerous effects of climate change. The Inflation Reduction Act uses tax credits and incentives for businesses and individuals to promote clean energy, and will reduce health care costs and reduce the federal budget deficit. As Vox’s Rebecca Leber reports, the new law also contains several lesser-known but important provisions, including block grants that give states great flexibility to clean up emissions. 

Each state is eligible to compete for one grant to cut carbon pollution, administered by the Environmental Protection Agency. And it doesn’t have to be the governor who applies. This can make a major difference despite partisan differences. For example, Georgia’s independent public utility commissions could end up applying for this funding even if the governor was opposed. … In red states, one of the best uses for this money may be just to beef up state environmental agencies responsible for enforcement (for instance, Texas has an abysmal record of enforcing its own environmental rules against natural gas leaks).

This provision could be extremely helpful in the Pelican State, where the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality has overseen major lapses in enforcement of pollution regulations. LBP’s Jan Moller weighed in on the new law’s promise for Louisiana’s future:

The new law continues for three years the enhanced premium tax credits that have made health insurance more affordable for 14.5 million Americans who buy coverage through the marketplace. Without this provision, premiums were set to spike on Jan. 1, and would have caused more than 3 million people – including 64,000 in Louisiana – to drop their health insurance. It also makes prescription drugs more affordable for our seniors on Medicare by capping out-of-pocket costs at $2,000 and allowing the government to negotiate prices on some prescription drugs. But its most long-lasting impact will be on climate, where the new law promises to speed up the transition to a cleaner economy that runs on renewable energy. With a long history as an energy-producing state, Louisiana must take advantage of the law’s many incentives to reimagine the ways that electricity is produced and consumed. 

The law also sets aside money to help Black farmers who’ve been victims of discrimination, and lowers the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare recipients.

Descendents of enslaved people still fighting for justice 
In 1838, Jesuit owners of Georgetown University sold 272 enslaved men, women and children to plantation owners in Louisiana to pay off the schools’ debt. Last year, the U.S. branch of the Jesuits pledged to raise $100 million for a reconciliation initiative in partnership with the enslaved peoples’ descendants to atone for that heinous act. But as The Associated Press’ Deepa Bharath explains, the Jesuits have been slow to provide the reparations, which has irked the descendents of the people the Catholic order once enslaved. 

If the partnership falls apart, “the Jesuits leaders of today will effectively betray Descendants today just as the Jesuits of the past betrayed our ancestors,” [descendant Joseph] Stewart wrote. “Jesuits will attempt to put Reconciliation back on the shelf for another 200 years as voices for ‘reparation’ get stronger and stronger and louder and louder.” Their partnership and joint creation of the Descendants Truth & Reconciliation Foundation was announced in March 2021. The Jesuits pledged to raise $100 million within five years with a broader goal of reaching $1 billion from an array of donors. The money would pay for educational opportunities for current and future descendants, and the foundation would oversee fundraising and grant allocation.

As the Louisiana Illuminator’s Wesley Muller reports, descendants of other enslaved people testified in front of a United Nations panel on Aug. 11 about the damaging effects of environmental racism in Louisiana’s Cancer Alley: 

“Even after generations of enslaved family members left and plantation structures, such as the ‘big house,’ were gone, our ancestors’ remains are still in those grounds, watching, waiting for the protection of the only land they ever owned: their burial plots,” Jo Banner said. “What slavery didn’t destroy, these [industrial] organizations will, ancestor and descendant alike.”

A reading revival in Louisiana 
Louisiana’s reading scores have flatlined over the past decade, with only 55% of fourth grade students in the state reading at or above the “basic” level. While Louisiana ranked low compared to other states in 2011, the state’s stagnant reading scores caused other states who committed to literacy, like Mississippi, to jump us in the rankings. State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley, writing in a guest column for The Advocate, explains how he and other educators are tackling the state’s literacy crisis.  

We’re implementing the science of reading — a fancy way of saying we’re going “back to the basics.” These phonics-based techniques are effective at teaching children how to read. Letters make sounds, sounds make words, words make sentences, sentences make paragraphs, and so forth. We all know this — it’s how most of us learned to read, not with confusing, complicated techniques. Louisiana’s LEAP test data from last school year showed a 3% increase in students mastering English. This is the most significant increase since 2016. This growth is a testament to educators and students working diligently. The shifts are beginning to work. This progress is a nice start, but all students must be able to read.

California’s fast food worker bill 
A bill making its way through the California State Legislature aimed at providing relief and protections to fast food workers could have huge impacts on all essential workers. The Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act, or the FAST Recovery Act, would create a state-appointed council made up of workers, employers and state agencies to improve working conditions, benefits and wages for California’s 550,000 fast-food workers. Katrina vanden Heuvel explains in the Washington Post

The Fast Recovery Act would grant California’s fast-food workers a long overdue seat at the table. The biannual public hearings required by the measure would provide space for workers’ concerns to be addressed. Corporate franchisers would be accountable for violations that occur under their brands. And larger cities and counties would be allowed to establish their own fast-food sector councils, which could engage when a given challenge might not rise to the state level. If enacted by California, as Khanna remarked, the measure could promote sectoral councils in other states, able to advance worker protections and establish and enforce industry-wide wage standards — which could help to close racial and gender pay gaps and reduce economic inequality

Number of the Day
-27.8% – How much less a teacher in Louisiana earns weekly compared to their college-educated, non-teaching peers (Source: Economic Policy Institute).