A group of conservative Louisiana legislators is pushing back against efforts by Gov. John Bel Edwards and Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon to have $45 million set aside in a new incentive fund designed to lure property insurers back to the Pelican State. The governor has called the Legislature into a special session, starting next week, where the only purpose is to appropriate money into the fund. But as the Illuminator’s Greg LaRose reports, 11 members of the Conservative Caucus met in Florida recently with Gov. Ron Desantis, and came away convinced that the state needs to do much more. 

The Florida State Legislature, in which Republicans hold a supermajority in both chambers, held a special session last month to address the crisis. Lawmakers approved a $2 billion supplement to the state’s insurance incentive fund – following a $1 billion seed allocation in May. In a separate measure, they made it harder for property owners to sue insurers who don’t cover damages adequately or pay claims in a timely fashion.

The caucus wants the Legislature to follow the lead of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of Louisiana, which thinks the problem is too much regulation of insurance corporations and wants more flexibility in the state’s insurance rating laws. 

Expiration of pandemic SNAP benefits put seniors at risk
The monthly food benefits that people receive through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which increased during the Covid-19 pandemic in response to rising rates of hunger, will return to pre-pandemic amounts in March. While the changes will be difficult for many because of increased food costs due to inflation, older Americans are particularly at risk. That’s because nearly half of SNAP households in 2019 – 46 percent –  included at least one adult age 50 or older, and older adults often receive the smallest benefit amounts. The Washington Post’s Tara Bahrampour reports: 

“It means they are going to see the biggest reduction in food purchasing power,” [Vince Hall, a spokesperson for Feeding America] he said. Seniors are also more vulnerable because many lack transportation, are still reluctant to congregate at food distribution centers because of covid-19 fears and have fewer options for adding to their incomes. “They’re not going to pick up more hours at work or go get a new job when their SNAP benefits go down,” he said. [Doretha] Harrison said she expects she will rely more on food banks and eat less healthily once the emergency allotments expire. Before the pandemic, she was receiving $156 a month. “It will be kind of a hardship on me,” she said.

A national day of racial healing
Earlier this month the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (a financial supporter of LBP) teamed up with the MSNBC cable network for a one-hour town hall, taped in New Orleans, devoted to racial healing and civil rights. The Times-Picayune columnist Will Sutton was in the audience for the valuable discussion, but noted that conversations about racial healing and equity far too often take place between people who already agree on the issue. 

(MSNBC moderator Joy) Reid said her MSNBC colleague (Chris) Hayes, who is White, is doing the work to be open, to learn and to educate others. Hayes wishes more White people would come to the table, and he’s not sure what it will take. We made a big leap forward in 2020, the summer after the George Floyd killing, when diverse people came together to pursue equal treatment, Hayes said. When I talked with Reid about getting White people involved, she said “they have to invite themselves to that conversation.”

The real debt crisis is low taxes
U.S. House Republicans are hoping to force cuts to vital safety-net programs, such as Medicare and Social Security, as a condition of agreeing to let the country pay its debt obligations. The New York Times’ Binyamin Appelbaum explains that the easiest way to address America’s rising public debt – which means more money has to be spent on interest payments instead of services – is to raise more revenue through taxes. 

Using taxes to pay for public services means that the government can do more. Borrowing also exacerbates economic inequality. Instead of collecting higher taxes from the wealthy, the government is paying interest to them — some rich people are, after all, the ones investing in Treasuries. If the debt ceiling serves any purpose, it is the occasional opportunity for Congress to step back and consider the sum of all its fiscal policies. The nation is borrowing too much but not because it is spending too much. The real crisis is the need to collect more money in taxes.

Number of the Day
9.5 million – Number of American adults age 50 and older that are food insecure. Older Americans will be at particular risk of going hungry when benefit increases to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program return to pre-pandemic levels in March. (Source: AARP via the Washington Post)