Louisiana editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
The Advocate on the downside to low gas prices:
News of low gasoline prices typically seems like a mixed blessing in Louisiana. It’s great for drivers, but the falling fuel prices usually mean that crude oil prices have dropped, too.
And when the market signals less demand for petroleum, Louisiana’s economy, so heavily dependent on oil production, is bound to see some consequences.
All of this came to mind this week with a report that Baton Rouge boasts the lowest average gasoline price in the country right now — $2.07 a gallon. The average price for gasoline in the United States is $2.66. That’s 25 cents lower than a year ago.
An abundant supply of gasoline and low crude oil costs factored into the decreased price. Those lower prices are a holiday gift for Louisiana motorists getting in some final travels of the summer this Labor Day weekend. In the longer term, the cheap gas helps the daily bottom line of consumers, especially commuters who count driving as a routine cost of employment.
The lower cost of petroleum these days also underscores why Louisiana needs to continue to diversify its economy. Relying on the ups and downs of any single industry won’t get the state very far down the road to prosperity, even when it’s cheaper to fill up the tank.
The (Lake Charles) American Press on a new measure to get unclaimed savings bond values to citizens:
Those old enough to remember may recall savings bonds being purchased to help finance World War II.
Others may know of savings bonds their grandparents bought for them many years ago. There are some cases, however, where the bonds were either lost at some point or simply forgotten about.
Without the specific information needed to claim the bonds, such as serial numbers or when they were issued, they can’t be cashed. Even worse, U.S. Treasury Department won’t disclose that information.
Things sometimes get misplaced. We are talking decades here. If those bonds were lost, how are people expected to remember such detailed information?
All told, the Treasury has $25 billion in savings bonds that are either gaining interest or have matured over time. One U.S. senator from Louisiana is determined to make sure residents have access to those earnings.
Republican John Kennedy said Louisiana residents make up $337 million of the savings bonds being held by the Treasury. He’s backing legislation, the Unclaimed Savings Bond Act of 2019, to help people get that money in their hands.
“This money — much of it generated through the financial sacrifice of the ‘Greatest Generation’ — shouldn’t sit in the U.S. Treasury,” Kennedy wrote in a guest column for The Advocate. “It should be given to the families who are entitled to it.”
This type of crusade isn’t new for Kennedy. Before his move to the Senate, he served as Louisiana’s treasurer for 17 years. During that time, he said 600,000 people statewide got more than $400 million in unclaimed property.
Kennedy said states do a good job of making sure money gets back to its rightful owners. Searching for unclaimed property in Louisiana is a cinch. Entering the name of an individual or business online is usually all that is needed to bring up a searchable database.
Unclaimed property amounts can vary. Most get small amounts of money, while others’ lives can be forever changed. Kennedy mentioned savings bonds purchased in the 1940s by the Segal sisters of Missouri that grew over time to be worth more than $670,000.
If Kennedy gets his way, records of the more than $300 million in stashed-away bonds would go to Unclaimed Property programs.
The Treasury has held on to these savings bonds for too long. Louisiana residents should be free to access the money generated from them.
The Houma Courier on high maternal death rates in the state:
Put Louisiana at the bottom of yet another in a long list of quality-of-life indicators.
“Unfortunately, in the state of Louisiana, we may be the place in this country that has the highest rate of maternal death,” said Dr. Rebekah Gee, secretary of the state Department of Health. “And that should shock us all.”
Gee’s comments are among those in a story by The Advocate in New Orleans, reprinted on the front page of today’s Courier and Daily Comet. She made them during a daylong summit this week in New Orleans where health officials, lawmakers and activists discussed ways to address the issue.
A look at even the basic numbers is alarming. The U.S. ranks 46th among nations, with a death rate of 21 women for every 100,000 births, according to the latest figures from the World Health Organization. That’s a terrible outcome for a country with America’s resources, one that has grown worse over the past decade.
But Louisiana makes even that ranking look great. In our state, 73 women die for every 100,000 births, about the same rate as North Korea.
The only good news here is that a significant group of officials and stake holders recognizes the problems and appears to be doing something about it.
“If I could find one word to describe maternal mortality in Louisiana, it would be ‘unacceptable,’” Gee said. “We acknowledge it, we recognize it, we own it.”
One idea discussed week includes modeling a system used by Great Britain, which has a maternal death rate among the world’s best at 9 deaths per 100,000 births. Put simply, Britain has put a system in place to address health issues uniformly across the nation’s hospitals and health facilities instead of the hodgepodge that exists across America’s cities, states and medical systems.
Many of these deaths are preventable, and it’s time for Louisiana — and the nation — to get to work preventing them.