For years, I’ve been hearing about how Louisiana has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation. According to Eric Johnson, testifying before the Subcommittee on Oversight of the House Committee on Ways and Means in May 2002, the region of Orleans and Jefferson Parish has a staggeringly high poverty rate of 54%!
But after Katrina, I’ve been hearing about how important New Orleans is to the national economy: how it is the country’s largest shipping port and responsible for a significant fraction of the nation’s oil refining capability as well. So here’s my question: if Louisiana is so important to the national economy, why is it so fucking poor?
Or is it really poor at all? Perhaps it is not poor, and the wealth is simply distributed in an extremely uneven fashion. I discovered recently that according to the US Department of Labor at dol.gov, Louisiana is one of six states that has no minimum wage law. Assuming the DOL is not in error, this does not sound like a state which is particularly interested in helping the poor work their way out of poverty. Of course, a minimum wage hardly guarantees that anyone will climb out of poverty, but the total lack of a minimum wage reveals a certain cavalier attitude about the poor, does it not?
Of course, if someone can explain how Louisiana can be so important to the national economy while simultaneously being one of the country’s most impoverished states, be my guest. I freely admit that I am not an expert on the American economy, so perhaps there is something I have overlooked. It does certainly seem incongruous on the surface, though.