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Louisiana editorial roundup

March 20, 2019

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

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March 18

American Press on socialism:

A number of members of Congress, both old and new, have latched onto socialistic policy proposals that are gaining support both in Washington and around the country, and especially among some presidential candidates.

Such proposals as “Medicare For All,” the “Green New Deal,” ″Free Healthcare” and “Free College” sound good but what would they mean for the American economy and for the income of the average American family?

The Council of Economic Advisers has written a report titled “The Opportunity Costs of Socialism,” which gives some answers to that question.

The Council is an agency of the federal government established in 1946 within the Executive Office of the President of the United States to give the president advice on economic issues. The current chairman of the agency is Kevin Hassett.

The report gives a definition of socialism, touches on the history of that economic and political system and addresses current policies by self-declared socialists, such as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and other members of Congress and presidential candidates who support such policies.

The report notes that, “In assessing the effects of socialist policies, it is important to recognize that they provide little material incentive for production and innovation and, by distributing goods and services for ‘free,’ prevent prices from revealing economically important information about costs and consumer needs and wants.”

Researchers found that replacing U.S. policies with highly socialistic policies, such as Venezuela’s, would reduce real GDP (gross domestic product) at least 40 percent in the long run, or about $24,000 per year for the average person.

And if the United States taxed and regulated labor markets on the level of the Nordic countries (such as Sweden, Norway and Denmark), American families would be taxed $2,000 to $5,000 more per year.

In addition, living standards in Nordic countries are at least 15 percent lower than in the United States.

More specifically, “Medicare for All,” if financed through higher taxes, would mean the GDP would fall by 9 percent, or about $7,000 per person. Also, health-wise, it would reduce longevity.

If you’d like to read more about the costs of socialism in this country, you can find the entire 72 page report at https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/The-Opportunity-Costs-of-Socialism.pdf.

Online: https://www.americanpress.com/

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March 20

The Advocate on litter cleanup efforts by mayors in Louisiana’s largest cities:

To their credit, the mayors of both Baton Rouge and New Orleans have made cleaning up the landscapes of their cities a priority.

Both LaToya Cantrell, of New Orleans, and Sharon Weston Broome, of Baton Rouge, come from local government, and Cantrell was a community organizer in Broadmoor when she came to prominence after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Now, both are in positions where they can attack the blight, trash and lax code enforcement that can make a city look like a dump.

Broome reported recently on what she dubbed Operation Fresh Start. It involves both volunteers and city employees in a targeted set of neighborhoods and is supported by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development on state highways and rights of way in the key corridors.

The incredible tally: 705 tons of trash & debris collected; 6,318 abandoned tires; 735 illegal signs collected; 171 potholes filled; 34,000 lbs. of broken concrete collected; 716 trash & debris piles collected; 3,119 bags of trash from community cleanup efforts; 125 street signs replaced.

That’s in just three of the Fresh Start’s weeklong efforts, the latest last month.

For her part, Cantrell formed Tiger Teams in city government and focused doing the same kind of valuable work in neighborhoods and on key corridors.

Cantrell emphasized that there would be stricter enforcement of ordinances against abandoned cars, littering and uncut grass in residents’ yards, among other things.

Last year, she told The Advocate’s editorial board that it is one of the most popular things that she’s undertaken at City Hall.

Her philosophy: “We cannot grow if we don’t have a healthy city. We encourage residents to step up, businesses to step up and be held accountable because you too have a responsibility if you’re calling the city of New Orleans your home, so let’s walk the talk together.”

All that is true in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, as well as other communities where the quality of life is threatened by the obvious signs of disorder — if not chaos — in public areas.

But as Cantrell points out, it’s also a problem when landowners don’t do their parts. Code enforcement is part of the solution, but a better idea would be proactive efforts to put private as well as public spaces in order in the first place.

“It takes a partnership between dedicated citizens and committed public servants to beautify our parish and shift the culture of litter in our community,” Broome said in her latest status report on Operation Fresh Start.

The phrase “culture of litter” ought to resonate. It’s not what we want in our communities.

Online: https://www.theadvocate.com/

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March 17

NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune on state aid to low-income residents for divorces, evictions and other civil legal matters:

Louisiana is one of only four states providing no funding to help low-income residents deal with child custody, divorces, evictions, successions and other vital civil legal matters.

Even Mississippi dedicates money to civil legal aid. That is how far out of step Louisiana is.

Here, thousands of residents are stuck representing themselves in complex cases that affect their well-being. They may lose custody of their children. They may not get legal protection from an abusive spouse. They may be unable to get clear title to their family home.

The Legislature shouldn’t let that happen.

A decade ago, Louisiana dedicated $500,000 in the state budget for legal aid organizations such as Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (SLLS) to provide assistance in civil cases. That was far less than some other states, but at least it assured that some people in need of representation would get it.

But then-Gov. Bobby Jindal did away with that aid early in his first term. Legal aid advocates have been trying to get funding back in the budget since then but have had no luck.

“When something gets taken out, it’s really hard to get it put back in,” attorney Chris Ralston said in an interview with NOLA.com ′ The Times-Picayune reporter Richard Webster.

The state ought to put the money back in the budget this year.

Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne said the governor’s office received a request for $500,000 from SLLS and its sister organization, Acadiana Legal Services Corporation.

“We recognize the importance of the work done by these organizations, and we’re considering the budget request alongside the dozens from other nongovernmental organizations,” he said in an email.

Legislators agree that civil legal aid should be in the budget.

“We want to fund it,” Sen. Eric Lefleur, a Democrat from Ville Platte, said. “But wanting to fund it and funding it are two different things. The same is true for indigent defense. We fund it but we fund it insufficiently. It’s why Louisiana ranks at the bottom in a lot of areas. We don’t make it a very high priority.”

But it should be. And lawmakers and the Edwards administration ought to be able to find at least $500,000 for such an essential service.

Funding for SLLS is precarious. The nonprofit, which provides free legal representation in Orleans and 21 other parishes, gets 60 percent of its budget from the federal government. That funding has been under threat for the past two years and may be again this year.

The Trump administration wants to eliminate funding for the Legal Services Corporation, a nonprofit created by Congress in 1974 that distributes legal aid funding to SLLS and other agencies across the country.

Congress so far has refused to zero it out. In fact, last year funding to the Legal Services Corporation went up by $25 million for a total of $410 million nationwide.

Even so, Legal Services Corporation officials say funding is at historic lows and demand is high. That makes it more vital for Louisiana to provide its own money.

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Online: https://www.nola.com/