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Republican members of the Louisiana Legislature are pretty smug about their ability to block any proposed legislation or budget put forward by Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Witness the antics of Rep. Cameron Henry (R-Metairie) as he danced to puppeteer/House Speaker Taylor Barras (R-New Iberia) in rejecting the findings of the Revenue Estimating Conference, effectively killing any chance Edwards had of implementing badly needed pay raises for Louisiana’s public school teachers.

But do Henry and Barras, members in good standing of the “Caucus of No,” give a damn about teachers or, for that matter, the state as a whole?

You can check that box No.

And the same can be said for Attorney General Jeff Landry, who would far rather take pot shots at the governor than do his job.

The only thing—and I stress the only thing—important to them is winning. Defeating any proposal of the governor in an effort to cast him in a bad light as the 2019 election approaches is considered a victory for them.

It’s a damned shame that grown-ass men put their own interests and the interests of their precious political party (be they Republican or Democrat) over the good of the citizens of this state. They would rather point fingers of blame for failures and grab credit for successes than come together to try and lead this state out of the backwater world of financial, educational, environmental, and cultural existence for which it has become notorious.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at the number of legislative sessions we’ve had over the past three years:

  • 2016: 4 (one was the organization session held ever four years, so realistically, we shouldn’t count that one).
  • 2017: 3—Regular session and two special sessions—just to try and pass a state budget.
  • 2018: 4—Regular session and three special sessions—same problem.

Legislators Robert Johnson (D-Marksville) and Sen. Eric LaFleur (D-Ville Platte) put their fingers on the problem in 2017 when they dubbed the philosophy of putting corporate interests above individual taxpayers as ”OBSTRUCTIONIST POLITICS.”

And therein lies the problem. The big moneyed interests—big oil, big Pharma, banks, payday lending, nursing homes, communications companies, and insurance companies—all working together under the umbrella of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, the Louisiana Chemical Association and the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, pour money into legislators’ campaign funds, forevermore buying the undying loyalty of their lapdogs who, by pushing a red or green button mounted on their desks, control the fate of four million Louisiana citizens.

When it comes to you,  with your $25 donation, having your complaint about high cable TV bills, high drug prices, or unfair lending practices going up against their hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions, legislative parties, meals at Sullivan’s and Ruth’s Chris, and the occasional “companionship” during a deep-sea fishing trip, just who do you think is going to be heard?

Again: don’t believe me? Then attend a legislative committee hearing on a bill in which you have an interest. Sign the card to speak for or against the bill. If your position is contrary to the committee members’ positions that have already been bought and paid for, just watch their eyes glaze over as you testify. Or, they might even get up and leave the committee room to take an “important” phone call or just get a cup of coffee. The point is, they ain’t listening to you.

Having said all that, I now bring to the witness stand the latest findings of 24/7 Wall Street, that private research firm that publishes dozens of lists and ranks each day, from the best wines or automobiles to companies projected to downsize to the most obese state, poorest state, state with the biggest gap in gender pay to today’s published results:

The BEST and WORST RUN STATES in AMERICA.

The survey is based on many metrics, including, but not limited to:

  • The ability to attract new residents (new money and new demand for goods and services);
  • The strength of the job market;
  • Diversity of economy;
  • Per capita GDP;
  • Crime rate

Do you want to even hazard a guess as to where Louisiana ranked?

You got it.

Dead last. 50th. Anchor position.

The top three, in order were Oregon, Utah and Washington.

Utah’s state minimum wage is $7.25 but Washington has the nation’s highest at $11.50 and Oregon is fourth-highest at $10.75

The bottom five, in order, are West Virginia, Mississippi, Alaska, New Mexico, and….

Louisiana

We have the nation’s fifth highest unemployment rate (5.1 percent), the second lowest GDP growth, and the third highest poverty rate (19.7 percent).

Alaska’s minimum wage is $9.84 per hour and in New Mexico and West Virginia it is $8.25. In Mississippi and Louisiana, however, the minimum wage is still $7.25 even though the LIVING WAGE CALCULATOR says the living wage for a single adult in Louisiana ranges from a low of $9.46 per hour in Avoyelles Parish to $11.40 for several parishes in the New Orleans area. Here is the living hourly wage for a single adult in the following Louisiana parishes:

  • ACADIA: $9.62
  • ALLEN: $10.20
  • ASCENSION: $10.89
  • ASSUMPTION: $10.13
  • AVOYELLES: $9.46
  • BEAUREGARD: $10.20
  • BIENVILLE: $10.20
  • BOSSIER: $10.98
  • CADDO: $10.98
  • CALCASIEU: $10.20
  • CALDWELL: $10.20
  • CAMERON: $10.20
  • CATAHOULA: $10.20
  • CLAIBORNE: $9.88
  • CONCORDIA: $9.88
  • DESOTO: $10.98
  • EAST BATON ROUGE: $10.89
  • EAST CARROLL: $9.96
  • EAST FELICIANA: $10.89
  • EVANGELINE: $9.88
  • FRANKLIN: $9.88
  • GRANT: $10.83
  • IBERIA: $10.31
  • IBERVILLE: $10.02
  • JACKSON: $9.88
  • JEFFERSON DAVIS: $10.20
  • JEFFERSON: $11.40
  • LAFAYETTE: $10.79
  • LAFOURCHE: $11.27
  • LASALLE: $9.92
  • LINCOLN: $10.69
  • LIVINGSTON: $10.89
  • MADISON: $9.88
  • MOREHOUSE: $10.20
  • NATCHITOCHES: $10.25
  • ORLEANS: $11.40
  • OUACHITA: $11.01
  • PLAQUEMINES: $11.40
  • POINTE COUPEE: $10.89
  • RAPIDES: $10.83
  • RED RIVER: $10.34
  • RICHLAND: $9.88
  • SABINE: $10.14
  • BERNARD: $11.40
  • CHARLES: $11.40
  • HELENA: $10.89
  • JAMES: $9.73
  • JOHN THE BAPTIST: $11.40
  • LANDRY: $9.54
  • MARTIN: $10.79
  • MARY: $10.32
  • TAMMANY: $11.40
  • TANGIPAHOA: $10.90
  • TENSAS: $9.88
  • TERREBONNE: $11.27
  • UNION: $11.01
  • VERMILION: $9.79
  • VERNON: $10.77
  • WASHINGTON: $9.90
  • WEBSTER: $9.78
  • WEST BATON ROUGE: $10.89
  • WEST CARROLL: $9.88
  • WEST FELICIANA: $10.89
  • WINN: $10.20

No living wage for a single adult in any of the 64 parishes was given at $7.25, so how the hell do our LABI-bought, packaged, and owned legislators think a single mom and two or three kids can subsist on $7.25 an hour?

We have the nation’s fifth highest unemployment rate (5.1 percent), the second lowest GDP growth, and the third highest poverty rate (19.7 percent).

Ah, but the 2019 regular session convenes at noon on April 8. The booze will flow again, sumptuous food will abound in Baton Rouge’s finest restaurants and deals can be made.

Of course, campaign contributions may not be made during the session, but not to worry; all that will be taken care well in advance of the fall of the gavel to open the session.

It’s Louisiana and we’re number by-gawd 50 and we worked hard to get there.

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H24/7 WALL STREET, that independent service that publishes a multitude of surveys each day, has published a list of 38 metropolitan areas in the U.S. which have the highest poverty rates.

Four Louisiana metro areas made the list, ranging from 10th to 37th poorest.

New Orleans was not on the list, most likely because the affluent parishes of Jefferson and St. Tammany are included in the greater metropolitan area of the Crescent City.

The rankings are based on latest data released in September by the U.S. Census Bureau, the 24/7 Wall Street survey noted. And while poverty is on a general decline in the U.S. with 13.4 percent of Americans living below the poverty line, all four of the Louisiana metropolitan areas included in the list had poverty rates that exceeded 20 percent, as did 38 of the 382 metro areas reviewed in the U.S.

Seventeen of those 38 areas were in Texas and Georgia (5 metro areas each), Louisiana (4) and West Virginia (3). Texas had three cities ranked as the worst areas with McAllen, Texas ranked worst in the nation with a poverty rate of 30 percent, an unemployment rate in the highest 10 percent at 7.4 percent and a median household income of $37,106, also among the worst 10 percent.

All four Louisiana metropolitan areas—Monroe, Shreveport-Bossier, Hammond, and Alexandria—had unemployment rates that ranked among the highest 25 percent and three—Monroe, Shreveport-Bossier, and Alexandria—had median household incomes ranked among the worst 10 percent.

Monroe was the 10th poorest metro area in the nation, followed by Shreveport-Bossier (11th), Hammond (30th), and Alexandria (37th).

While the national unemployment rate was 4.4 percent in 2017, Monroe had a jobless rate of 5.3 percent, followed by Shreveport-Bossier (5.5 percent) and Alexandria and Hammond (5.7 percent).

To review the complete list, go HERE.

Louisiana followed the trend of having a high poverty rate that coincides with low educational attainment and a large share of available jobs in low-paying sectors.

It’s a familiar story for the state that seems to have become locked into an unbreakable pattern of low positives and high negatives. Elected officials, meanwhile, continue to ignore the factors that keep its citizens among the lowest paid, unhealthiest, and worst educated in the nation.

And whenever efforts are exerted toward reversing the trend, there are always certain self-serving or bought-and-paid-for legislators standing by to block those efforts and lobbyists with different agendas who will wine and dine the lawmakers.

Even more disheartening, we continue to re-elect them.

Whoever said we get the government we deserve…..nailed it.

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Conrad Appel must have the attention span of a moth.

Appel is the Republican state senator from Metairie whose political leanings are slightly to the right of Rush Limbaugh and maybe, just maybe, a tad left of Alex Jones. But then, that’s the nature of elected officials who ooze out of David Duke’s stomping grounds (see Steve Scalise).

You may recall that he’s also the one who, back in November 2010, just seven days before Louisiana, Indiana and Oregon adopted the Discovery Education Science Techbook being offered by Discovery Communications, purchased Discovery Communications stock and made a QUICK KILLING.

As Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, he was in a unique position to realize the value of Discovery Communications was primed for a significant increase, so he shelled out between $5,000 and $24,999, according to his financial report filed with the State Ethics Board.

That stock opened at $40.96 per share on Nov. 30, 2010, the day of his purchase and by Jan. 2, 2014, it hit $90.21 per share.

Insider trading? All I know is that on the day of his purchase—again, just seven days before three states announced a major investment in the Discovery Education Science Techbook, more than 7.5 million shares of Discovery Communication stock were traded. The next highest day was Aug. 1, 2011, when 3.1 million shares were traded. Normally, trading volume ran between 1.1 million and 1.9 million shares, according to a monthly review from December 2010 through March 2014. It sure looks like somebody knew something in advance.

So, why am I dredging up this old story again?

Well, Appel has penned a GUEST COLUMN on The Hayride blog in which he admonishes me (and everyone else) that we should, by golly, show a little respect to the creep who presently occupies the Oval Office.

I’m not picking a fight with The Hayride. They have their agenda and I have mine, a right that each of us possesses as free Americans. And while I may disagree with their positions—and most times, I do—I would never deprive them of their right to voice them, just as I’m certain they would do nothing to stifle mine. That’s the way it’s supposed to work in this country.

But for someone like Appel, who attacked a witness in a Trumpian-like profanity-laced tirade during a legislative committee hearing earlier this year, to presume to tell me whom I should respect is beyond the pale and quite frankly, it makes my blood boil just a bit. His utter contempt for that African-American witness, by the way, shone through like a lighthouse beacon on a clear night.

I can respect the office, but why would I respect the man who occupies it seems incapable of respecting anyone or anything, including the very office itself?

Appel calls Trump the “leader of our nation” and “the very symbol of our great Republic.”

Seriously? You’re going to go with that? If he is truly the “symbol” of our country, then we’re in far more trouble than I ever imagined. This is a man who is most accurately described as a pathological liar—on his best day. He lies about the size of his inauguration crowd, about how big his tax cut was (REAL TAX PICTURE: it was pretty big for the wealthy, but nowhere near the biggest tax cut in history, as he boasted), about how North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat, about what a great leader Putin is, about his knowledge of payoff money to a porn star….and on and on ad nauseam. He has single-handedly created an entire new cottage industry: fact checking.

You name it, he’s lied about it.

Sorry, Appel, that doesn’t warrant my respect.

He’s a man who insulted John McCain during the 2016 campaign, saying he only admired those who didn’t get captured. Pretty safe, since there wasn’t much chance of Trump’s being captured, what with all those bone spurs. And even following McCain’s death, this blustering ass couldn’t even bring himself to pay the late senator a modicum of respect.

He’s a man who boasted about assaulting women.

That doesn’t earn my respect. Ever.

He’s a man who mimicked a physically handicapped reporter and who encouraged his adoring, frothing-at-the-mouth followers to physically attack protesters at one of his rallies.

Sorry, Appel, that doesn’t warrant anyone’s respect.

He’s a man who called the press the enemy of the American people.

The only ones to do that previously were people like Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin, and…well, you get the picture—despots who cemented their hold on power by diminishing the influence of the only independent governmental watchdog: the press.

Let me pose a question to you Appel (you don’t like it for newscasters to refer to the president as simply “Trump,” so I’ll try it out on you): When, during the entire eight years of the Obama administration, did you show Obama one scintilla of respect? He was a president who, like every president, had his failures but who, in eight years, did not have a single member of his administration indicted. He inherited yet another expensive, unwinnable war and he assumed office just as the horrible recession of 2008 was kicking in (thanks to an out-of-control banking industry that Trump has again loosed upon us). But when he left office, the stock market, as I recall, was doing pretty well, employment was up—all despite his having to fight a Republican congress every step of the way. Yet, he was pilloried and vilified for no other reason than his skin was darker than yours. There, I said it. Barack Obama is hated by Republicans because he is black. You can deny it all you like, but that won’t change the facts.

So, did you ever once, in all those eight years, say one good thing about Obama? Ever? One time?

Didn’t think so.

So, spare me your holier-than-thou judgmental posturing because you think I’m being nasty by not respecting a spoiled, bigoted bully who you so obviously admire but who, given the chance, would spoon with Putin.

And Appel, you say protesters “think it’s cool” to kneel during the national anthem. But fact is, you just don’t get it. The kneeling was never done to be cool. Only a damned fool would think that. Nor was it done to dishonor the country or the flag. In fact, it has nothing to do with the flag; it has everything to do with growing evidence of a police state where blacks are fair game for bad cops who like to run up the score. Yes, there are many, many good cops. I know that. And there are blacks who disobey the law—just like there are whites who disobey the law. But sometime, when you can come down out of your ivory tower, senator, run the numbers on the blacks who are shot by cops as opposed to the number of whites committing similar offenses but who somehow don’t get shot.

If Trump is really so offended at players kneeling for the anthem, instead of calling for their firing, why doesn’t he call upon the patriotism of the TV networks that broadcast the games? Sure, it’ll hurt them financially, because there’s big bucks in NFL broadcasts, but Trump should suggest that as a show of patriotism, the networks who carry the games will simply cease doing so the moment a player kneels. Just don’t show the games. That’ll get the attention of players, owners, and fans alike and would go a long way in making Trump’s case for….

Oh, wait. Sorry, I forgot. Fox is one of the networks carrying the games.

Never mind.

I guess that idea is worth about the same as a degree from Trump University.

I don’t suppose you have any of that stock…

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Sometimes with local politics, you need a program, an organizational chart, a genealogical diagram, and perhaps even DNA data to keep up with who’s allied with whom and who’s got a vendetta against whom.

So much has been written about Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal that when another local courthouse politician finds himself in trouble, it’s natural to assume that Ackal’s name would come up somewhere in the mix.

After all, Ackal has been indicted and acquitted and there’s talk that the name on his office door may be changed from “Sheriff” to “Defendant.” The sheriff’s department has paid out judgments or settlements that equate to $23,000 per month for every month of his 10-year tenure ($2.8 million total), and that doesn’t even include the $600,000 settlement with the family of Victor White III, the 22-year-old who authorities said got hold of a gun and fatally shot himself in the chest—while his hands were cuffed behind his back.

Nor does it include the lawsuit just filed against Ackal and three of his deputies. The plaintiff, Rickey Roche, claims the deputies beat him and planted drugs on him during a retaliatory traffic stop following an altercation between Roche and one of the deputies. (Nary a word has been written by the local paper about this lawsuit, by the way.)

More on that later, but first the confusion surrounding the June 8 indictment of Iberia Clerk of Court Michael Thibodeaux by M. Bofill Duhé, the local district attorney who loves to indict people on BOGUS CHARGES.

The indictment on 14 criminal counts of perjury, racketeering, malfeasance, theft of advance court costs, filing false/altered public records was handed down by M. Bofill on the basis of an admittedly nasty INVESTIGATIVE AUDIT.

But the fact that the indictment came a full 20 months after the release of the October 2016 audit should raise eyebrows. And considering a blindfolded man could turn around three times and spit and most probably hit a legislative audit report at least as serious as this one which produced not even a slap on the wrist, and you really start wondering about the local political affiliations.

Among other things, the state audit said that from May 2013 to May 2016, the clerk’s office “improperly retained $314,495 in unused advance court costs that state law required to be refunded to the persons who originally deposited those monies. Of this amount, the Clerk of Court transferred $218,021 from the advance deposit bank account (advance deposit fund) to the Clerk of Court’s salary fund bank account (salary fund) to pay Clerk of Court salaries and other expenses. The remaining $96,924 represents monies currently in the Clerk of Court’s advance deposit fund that should be returned to the persons who made the original deposits.”

The misuse, misapplication, mismanagement and/or the misappropriation of more than $300,000 is a serious offense, one which should never be taken lightly and the DA’s office took the appropriate action in pursuing its own legal investigation once the audit came to light.

But the question must be asked: where was the DA’s office when prisoners were being abused and killed while in custody of Sheriff Louis Ackal? Yes, Ackal was indicted, but it was a federal indictment. Duhé was nowhere to be found.

But here’s Thibodeaux’s cardinal sin: Ryan Huval was an employee of the clerk’s office and Thibodeaux terminated him. The official reasons are not known and Thibodeaux is prohibited from discussing it because of privacy issues.

But the reasons, whether justified or not, don’t matter. Ryan Huval is the son of Ricky Huval.

Ricky Huval is the parish assessor and he was not happy with his son’s firing. And Ricky Huval and District Attorney M. Bofill Duhé are tight.

As a sidebar, unconfirmed rumor has it that certain property belonging to one Michael Thibodeaux might also have been reassessed by Huval’s office.

So, for a change, a local political story in Iberia Parish does not involve Sheriff Ackal.

But then, he has all he can handle with that latest lawsuit by Roche who says that after his confrontation with Lt. Col. Gerald Savoy the sheriff’s office targeted Roche with surveillance and pulled his vehicle over without probable cause. He says he was kicked, punched, choked and beaten with a baton and flashlight by then-deputies Byron Lasalle, Jason Comeaux, and Wade Bergeron and that they planted drugs on him.

All four deputies eventually were indicted for prisoner abuse, entered guilty pleas and testified against Ackal, who was acquitted.

Bergeron was sentenced to 48 months in prison while Comeaux received sentences of 40 and 30 months, Lasalle got 54 months on each of three counts to run concurrently, and Savoy was sentenced to 87 months in federal prison.

All this is not to claim either that Thibodeaux is guilty or that he’s as pure as the driven snow, but it is rather curious that Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal was never indicted by Duhé’s office for some of the transgressions he was accused of—little things like turning vicious dogs loose on defenseless prisoners or forcing prisoners to simulate oral sex with deputies’ nightsticks.

Here are a few other lowlights of the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office, as itemized in a letter to then U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch by U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond of New Orleans, none of which attracted the diligence of Duhé’s office:

  • In 2005, a former inmate alleged that deputies beat him so badly when he was booked into jail that he had to spend two weeks in a hospital.
  • In 2008, a man alleged that a deputy beat him so badly during an arrest that he coughed up blood and then a muzzle was put over his mouth. The man later settled a suit with the Sheriff’s Office for $50,000.
  • In 2009, Michael Jones, a 43-year-old man who suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, died in the jail after an altercation with then-Warden Frank Ellis and then-lieutenant Wesley Hayes. This year, a judge ruled that two Sheriff’s Office employees were responsible for Jones’ death. The judgment in the case totaled $61,000.
  • In 2009, former inmate Curtis Ozenne alleged that officers began a contraband sweep by forcing him to remain in the “Muslim praying position” for nearly three hours. Mr. Ozenne alleged he was kicked in the mouth multiple times, threatened with police dogs and then his head was shaved. In his complaint, Mr. Ozenne also alleged that Sheriff Ackal threatened him with a dog and watched as an officer struck him with a baton for smiling. Mr. Ozenne’s suit against the Sheriff’s Office was later settled for $15,000.
  • In 2009, Robert Sonnier, a 62-year-old mentally ill man, died as the result of a fatal blow delivered by an IPSO Deputy in the course of a physical altercation. After Mr. Sonnier was unable to receive a psychological evaluation authorized by his wife, he was left in a wheelchair to stew in his own waste for several hours. He eventually became agitated which led to altercations with Deputies that resulted in Sonnier being pepper sprayed twice and eventually leading to the fatal blow.
  • In 2012, Marcus Robicheaux, an inmate at Iberia Parish Jail, was pulled from a wall and thrown to the ground as IPSO correctional officers ran a contraband sweep. A deputy’s dog then attacked Mr. Robicheaux, biting his legs, arms and torso, as the deputy stomped and kicked the prone inmate. The whole three-minute incident was captured on video from the jail’s surveillance cameras.
  • In 2014, Victor White III died as the result of a fatal gunshot wound while handcuffed in the backseat of an IPSO car. The sheriff’s deputies who arrested Mr. Victor (sic) alleged that he wouldn’t leave the car and became “uncooperative.” They say he pulled out a handgun, while his hands were cuffed behind his back, and shot himself in the back. However, the full coroner’s report indicated that Mr. White had died from a single shot to his right chest, contradicting the initial police statement that he had shot himself in the back.

But Duhé was right there when Ackal needed him to help shut up a New Iberia black man who initiated a recall petition after the Victor White shooting.

On July 8, 2016, Broussard was rear-ended by a hit-and-run driver In Lafayette Parish who minutes later collided head-on with an 18-wheeler and was killed in adjacent Iberia Parish.

Yet it was Broussard who was indicted on a charge of manslaughter by an Iberia Parish grand jury on March 19, 2017, just nine days before the seven deputies were sentenced.

So just how did Broussard find himself in Ackal’s crosshairs? On July 1, a week before the auto accident, Broussard committed the unpardonable sin when he became the impetus behind a recall of Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal.

Broussard, an African-American, was one of the organizers of The Justice for Victor White III Foundation which filed a petition on July 1 to force a recall election. White was the 22-year-old who died of a gunshot wound while in the back seat of a sheriff deputy’s patrol car in March 2014. The official report said the gunshot was self-inflicted. The coroner’s report said he was shot in the front with the bullet entering his right chest and exiting under his left armpit. White’s hands were cuffed behind his back at the time.

Ackal, of course, skated on that issue and was later indicted, tried and acquitted on federal charges involving beating prisoners and turning dogs loose on prisoners, as well. But when you’ve got retired federal judge and family member Richard Haik helping with the defense, you tend to land on your feet.

But hey, Ackal also didn’t fire Ryan Huval.

 

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Conrad Appel has a short memory.

Appel, the Republican state senator from Metairie, is the same one who made a killing investing in the stock of Discovery Education just before the Senate Education Committee which he chaired at the time adopted the company’s Science TECHBOOK as a digital core instructional resource for elementary and middle school science instruction.

The states of Indiana and Oregon also adopted the program about the same time and the company’s stock went from $40.96 a share at the time of his purchase on Nov. 30, 2010, to $90.21 a share on Jan. 2, 2014, a period of just over three years. More than 7.5 million shares of Discovery Communications stock were traded on the day of Appel’s purchase. The next highest volume was 3.1 million shares on Aug. 1, 2011. Daily trading volume generally ran between 1.1 million and 1.9 million shares in the three-plus-year-period from December 2010 to March 2014.

Okay, that’s old news that LouisianaVoice has reported before, so what’s the big deal?

Nothing much, except that now Appel, apparently in attempt to emulate Bobby Jindal, is penning op-ed columns for The Hayride, a conservative blog. This not a criticism of The Hayride. They believe in what they write just as I believe in what I post, which certainly is a right I would never deny them. And LouisianaVoice also has guest columnists, so, understand that this not a slam on The Hayride.

But in his COLUMN, Appel opens by saying he has been engaged in the past week in “rather heated debate” over undocumented immigration. Funny, we thought he was trying to find a solution to Louisiana’s budgetary problems.

Nevertheless, Appel goes on to say that Louisiana’s weak economy is incapable of absorbing an influx of undocumented immigrants. He does give a nod to the indisputable fact that without that influx of Hispanic workers following Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans would never have recovered in the time it did.

He notes that the workers “flocked in” to form the labor force that rebuilt the region because, he says, jobs were plentiful. But here is a curious cop-out by Appel in his column: “A side question is why the natives didn’t return to assume those jobs but that is a subject for someone else.”

No, Senator, it certainly is NOT a question for “someone else.” As an elected state senator, it is precisely your duty to address that issue head-on, not weasel out of it with some half-baked excuse.

But in case you need a reminder, here’s a major reason, and you can file this away for future use:

The largely African-American male population that fled New Orleans in the wake of Katrina did not return to claim those jobs because they were unqualified to do the work. The Hispanics who “flocked in” were, in fact, skilled laborers, trained in carpentry, roofing, bricklaying, and concrete finishing. They were already trained in contrast to New Orleans blacks who historically have been written off by the power structure—white and black power structure, it should be noted—that considered them of no value other than on election day.

Of course, Appel represents lily-white Metairie in Jefferson Parish, so he would find it difficult to emphasize with the plight of people of color. But here’s an example that stands out as symbolic of the way in which the power structure I alluded to earlier games the system to its own advantage and to the disadvantage of what it considers the bottom feeders.

Following Katrina, FEMA issued 81,241 blue roof tarps (10-feet-by-10-feet). An Austin, Texas, contractor said he charged $300 to cover a 2000-square-foot roof. That equates to 20 tarps, or a buck-fifty per tarp.

FEMA contracted with the Shaw Group of Baton Rouge to place the tarps for $175 per 10-by-10 tarp, or $3500 for that same 2,000-square-foot house–more than 11 times what the Austin contractor charged.

But it gets better. Shaw apparently had no employees qualified to place the tarps, so it subcontracted with a company called A-1 Construction at a cost of $75 per tarp. That’s a profit of $100 per tarp for Shaw, whose employees never touched a tarp.

But wait. A-1 subbed its work out to Westcon Construction at $30 a square (tarp) for a profit of $45 per square—again, without ever touching a tarp.

Westcon then hired the actual workers who placed the tarps at a cost of $2 a square, or a profit of $28 per tarp for Westcon.

If Shaw had contracted to place all 81,000 tarps, the company would have pocketed more than $8.1 million without ever lifting a finger. A-1 cashed in for more than $3.6 million and never broke a sweat while Westcon made a more modest $2.27 million after paying its workers. Of course, those figures don’t take into consideration taxes and insurance paid by the companies. But still….combined profits of nearly $14 million?

By contrast the workers who actually placed the tarps received $162,000 to be divided between however many workers were hired to do the work.

Can you say profiteering?

Anyone care to bet against the chances that those workers who actually placed the tarps were Hispanic? After all, 45 percent of the recovery workforce was comprised of Latinos, about half of whom were undocumented. Of that 45 percent, 43 percent were from Mexico, 32 percent from Honduras, 9 percent from Nicaragua, and 8 percent from El Salvador.

And here’s the real kicker, just in case Appel ever cares to do a little research on the subject. Many of those ended up as victims of WAGE THEFT at the hands of unscrupulous contractors who vanished without paying the workers.

So, yes, Sen. Appel, there is a problem but to say the economy of this state can’t afford an influx of undocumented immigrants is just a tad hypocritical, given the fact that the Legislature that was so complicit in abetting Bobby Jindal as he tanked the state’s treasury couldn’t seem to get its act together until it had carried the state to the very edge of the metaphorical fiscal cliff. Until you as a body can act responsibly in addressing our teetering state economy, you shouldn’t cast stones—in anyone’s direction.

Especially when many of the undocumented workers who did “flock in” were never paid for the work they did in restoring New Orleans.

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