TAKEN: How police departments make millions by seizing property

It fits the pattern. Black men carry the burden of South Carolina’s civil forfeiture program. Almost two-thirds of people targeted by forfeiture are black males, according to TAKEN investigation data analysis. Yet they represent just 13 percent of the general population.

Hilary Shelton, the NAACP Washington bureau director, said the organization worries the racial targeting in South Carolina is even worse than has been reported.

“Civil asset forfeiture, combined with the historic and consistent problems of racial profiling on our highways and byways, becomes very much part of a troubling equation,” he said. “It’s been used in a racially discriminatory manner. The law must be fully reviewed.”

The state has a long history of racial discrimination related to property. 

Civil forfeiture is a vestige of that history, some critics say. It links to an established trend of targeted law enforcement that puts more police in contact with non-whites, an exposure that can lead to civil forfeiture, experts say.

Some departments have built a money-making machine on the backs of this type of targeting.

It starts with where police use forfeiture. It’s happening in every urban environment in South Carolina. There are only six cities in the state with a population over 50,000. All of them frequently use forfeiture.

In smaller towns, only about half the police forces use the tool at all, and most agencies don’t pursue many cases.

The system is designed to be applied at scale. The more forfeiture is used, the more money police have at their disposal for equipment, training and for undercover drug purchases.

Though the racial disparities in the data exist broadly across the state, the decisions that lead to civil forfeiture are situational. It’s a traffic stop, or a drug investigation that leads to a residence, or increased patrols in low-income or historically black neighborhoods.

The TAKEN team used census data to analyze the widest disparities between the number of forfeiture cases with black subjects compared with the number of black residents in an agency’s jurisdiction.

The largest racial gaps? The highest disproportionate targeting of black people came from the Myrtle Beach Police Department, followed by the Lexington County Sheriff’s Office and the Charleston Police Department.

During 2014-2016, there was one black person targeted for forfeiture by Myrtle Beach police for every 50 black residents who live there. If you roughly extrapolated that rate over a generation, one in five black people would have money or goods taken by police in Myrtle Beach at some point over three decades, despite the fact that the city is mostly white.

The city is 69 percent white and just 14 percent black, according to 2014 U.S. Census data.

In Greenville County, black people were targeted for forfeiture at a rate of one per every 587 black residents during our three-year study period.

In comparison, forfeiture affected one white person per every 4,139 white residents in the county. Greenville County is 69 percent white and 19 percent black, according to U.S. Census data.

“It just sort of reinforces an understanding we already knew — that black residents disproportionately come in contact with law enforcement given the way criminal justice policy is oriented in this country,” said Nicole Porter, spokeswoman at The Sentencing Project, a reform advocacy group.

A piece of this policing story is tied to the highway and police behavior and assumptions.

In one case, a Wellford officer pulled over a black man on Interstate 85 for what he said was failure to maintain a lane. When he discovered cash in the car that day in 2012, the officer called in the top Homeland Security agent in Greenville to help seize it. They’d found what police said were “marijuana particles.”

The North Carolina driver, Lee Harris Jr., said it was tobacco. The officers took $7,008 from the glove box.

“I call them pirates,” said Lee Harris Sr., the driver’s father. The elder Harris is a minister and a military veteran who said the money comes from his bank and from documented Social Security and benefits.

Harris said he had left $7,000 in the car when his son went on a trip to Atlanta. He filed a lawsuit, and after a year-and-a-half, he settled. The government kept $2,008 even though Harris’ son was never charged with a crime.

Sometimes police seize cash when the driver is merely ticketed for a minor violation not related to drugs, according to court records.

Ramando Moore was cited for having an open container in Richland County in 2015; he lost $604.

Plexton Denard Hunter was pulled over for a seatbelt violation in 2015 in Richland County and had $541 seized. Tesla Carter, another seatbelt violation, this time in Anderson in 2015. She lost $1,361.

South Carolina agencies with the highest rate of seizure of property from black people


If you’re black and driving in South Carolina, you are more likely to be stopped by police. In 24 states with available race data by traffic stop, the state had the second highest rate of black motorists stopped by state troopers, according to a 2017 study by the Stanford Open Policing Project.

In Greenville County, there were 24 state patrol stops for every 100 black residents of driving age. There were only 15 stops for every 100 white residents in the nine-year study period, according to the project.

Officers have a lower threshold to search black drivers than white drivers, the Stanford research shows, evidenced by data that revealed when officers searched drivers, they found contraband more often on white drivers than black ones.

Yet the scope of action taken by law enforcement and the justice system against black Americans throughout U.S. history makes it easier for an officer to take from a black person than a white person, said Heather Ann Thompson, a criminal justice and African-American history professor at the University of Michigan and author of “Blood in the Water.”

It’s the same reason black people are prosecuted more harshly, are incarcerated more often and for longer sentences and face civil fines and penalties more often than whites. They’re just not as likely to be able to marshal resources to fight back against the justice system, she said.

“It has everything to do with who has access to good defense lawyers and who’s getting pulled over to begin with,” said Thompson, who’s a leading voice in criminal justice reform.

The racial disparity may begin with traffic stops, but it extends well beyond them in South Carolina.


Ella Bromell sits in her home in Conway on Feb. 21, 2018. These days, she rarely leaves her yard — she said she lives in fear of losing her 1,000-square-foot home. She’s endured years of efforts by the city of Conway to seize her house, an attempt to shut down drug dealers by going after Bromell.LAUREN PETRACCA/GREENVILLE NEWS

How often are black people in this state the victim of civil forfeiture when the police encounter doesn’t involve being pulled over in a car?

Excluding known traffic stops, police seized money from black people in two-thirds of all cases compared with one-third for whites, our TAKEN data analysis shows. It’s an even more startling fact when considering South Carolina is 69 percent white.

Ella Bromell, a 72-year-old widow from Conway, twice nearly lost her home, though she’s never been convicted of a crime in her life.

Yet the city of Conway nearly succeeded in seizing her house because they said she didn’t do enough to stop crime happening on the sidewalk and in her yard. Young men were using her lawn as a location to sell drugs at night, according to court records.

The fight between Conway officials and Bromell, who is black, began in 2007 and lasted a decade — culminating in court in 2017 when two judges sided with her and wrote that the city “failed to produce any evidence that the residence was an integral or otherwise fundamental part of illegal drug activity.”

Still, Bromell fears the city will try again, despite the police admission in court that they couldn’t say if she was even aware of a single drug sale around her house.

Conway City Manager Adam Emrick said the city has contemplated future seizures in the case of Bromell or similar property owners.

Losing her home would be the end of her, Bromell said. “I don’t want to go nowhere else.”

More: She gave her friend a ride and lost her wages

Thurmond Brooker, Bromell’s attorney, said the law is being warped without the public even noticing. “It’s being used in a way in which innocent people can have their property taken,” he said. “Little old ladies whose property is being trespassed upon can be victimized for a second time.”

Why are black citizens like Bromell facing forfeiture more often than their white neighbors?

One police official said it’s because there’s more drug crime in the black community.

“We go where we’re called,” Greenville Police Chief Ken Miller said. “We police where people are telling us there are problems. We’re not an agency — and I don’t know a police agency — that tries to balance racially its interdiction of drugs off the street.”

The bulk of the drugs and weapons calls the city receives are in minority communities, Miller said. He said he won’t apologize if police tactics disproportionately engage black men and lead to more seizures.

In Greenville County, the Sheriff’s Office initiated 256 forfeiture cases from 2014-2016, of which 150 involved blacks and 85 involved whites.

Greenville city police had 89 cases. Of those, 53 involved blacks and 22 involved whites.

Miller said the city has spent time and money on racial bias training and is working to better track data on traffic stops.

David Smith, one of the architects of the expanded forfeiture laws enacted in the 1980s to fight the War on Drugs, said it’s a great tool for going after significant criminals. Drug lords. White collar masterminds. But increasingly forfeiture has been co-opted by local police forces to take petty cash on the side of the road, he said.

Grant, the Atlanta musician, said he understands how police work and knew right away he would fight to get his money back, even if it cost him legal fees.

“They knew we were young, and we were black,” Grant said. “They pulled us over, gave us a bogus reason. We didn’t consent to search; they searched anyway.”

Grant’s drug charge was dismissed, and though he had proof that he earned his money legally — show schedules, payment receipts, contracts — it could have taken another two years before he could challenge the forfeiture in court. So Grant chose to settle rather than wait.

The state got $500. He got $7,500 back but had to pay his attorney $2,500.

His case was considered a good outcome.

“We’re the ones being railroaded,” Grant said. “It just speaks volumes to where we are as a people.”

More: For years, a SC city tried to seize a widow’s home. It still might.

More: Atlanta rapper fought the law and won

Enjoying the TAKEN investigation series? Please support local journalism by subscribing to The News.

Have you lost property through civil forfeiture? Or do you have information about the practice we should know? We’d like to hear about it. Or about any investigative tips we could work on. Contact our reporters at taken@greenvillenews.com.

Yeah, No, That Study Doesn’t Debunk Police Racism

Sloppy social science and the mental gymnastics of racism deniers.

Some people will say anything to deny the problem of racism in policing.

These are people who would have found ways to defend Bull Connor in Birmingham too, or Jim Clark and his goons in Selma six decades ago.

One thing about their denials has changed though — they’ve become more sophisticated.

Increasingly, such folks wrap their denial in a patina of respectable “evidence,” whereas, back in the day, they would have just said something about how those n-words were asking for trouble and left it at that.

But bullshit, even when footnoted, is still bullshit.

White racism deniers love ’em some Roland Fryer

My favorites are the white folks who send around the study from a few years ago by Roland Fryer, a Harvard academic, which concluded police were no more likely to use lethal force against Blacks than whites.

They love this one because Fryer is Black.

Apparently, if a Black guy says there’s no racism in policing — or if that’s what they think he’s saying — there must not be.

It’s funny — first, because conservative white people are so quick to latch on to any Black person who they think confirms their nonsense, and second, because they don’t understand what the Fryer study says, why much of it doesn’t support their view, and why the part that does is seriously flawed.

The Fryer study looked at four data sets, mainly focusing on three: stop-and-frisk data from New York City, data from 12 large cities or counties in Texas, Florida, and California, and a special data set from Houston.

The racism deniers focus on the finding that there was no racial disparity in use of lethal force, but before examining the data used to reach that conclusion, it’s worth looking at what the deniers ignore.

Non-lethal force shows clear disparity

Looking at non-lethal force, Fryer relied on stop-and-frisk data from New York for 2003–2013 and found that Black New Yorkers were 53 percent more likely than whites to be met with non-lethal force by the NYPD.

Interestingly, when he controlled for variables like civilian behavior during the stop — did they resist arrest, for instance — or the neighborhood crime rate, not only did this not reduce the disparity, it sometimes increased it.

This means police were using force against African Americans even in cases where they put up less resistance and in parts of town where crime rates were not elevated.

Nonetheless, when Fryer controlled for 125 supposedly non-racial variables, the observed disparity in non-lethal force fell from 53 percent to 17 percent — still significant, albeit less so.

But how is this possible?

If the disparity remained huge even when suspect behavior and neighborhood crime rates were held constant, what variables could have had such a depressive effect on disparity?

We don’t know for sure. The complete list wasn’t provided in Fryer’s paper. But what we do know about them is methodologically troubling.

Consider his controls for “community dangerousness.”

As noted previously, Fryer examined the neighborhood crime rates and actual suspect behavior during encounters because these would predictably increase the likelihood of police use of force.

But remember, neither of these controls reduced the racial disparities and tended to increase them.

So, where did the reductions come from?

According to Fryer, three “precinct effects” cut racial disparities in the use of force by nearly 20 percentage points — more than a third below their initial level. And what were those?

According to Fryer, they were socioeconomic variables often correlated with crime rates: median education levels, median income, and median levels of unemployment in a neighborhood. As Fryer puts it, these are “proxies for dangerousness.”

But why control for “proxies for dangerousness” when you’ve already controlled for neighborhood crime rates and the behavioral dynamics of particular stops?

At that point, Fryer has already controlled for dangerousness and by a more direct method than using socioeconomic proxies to estimate it.

If the crime rate in a neighborhood fails to explain the racial disparity, controlling for variables that are often correlated with a higher crime rate is superfluous. And if actual encounter dynamics failed to explain the racial disparity, controlling for variables that might predict greater resistance by civilians is equally absurd.

Either the person who was stopped resisted or they didn’t. If they had, Fryer would have already controlled for that. If they didn’t, the fact that there are many unemployed high school dropouts living on the block can hardly justify cops throwing someone who isn’t resisting against a wall.

Ultimately, even though he artificially minimizes the problem, Fryer’s data shows Black folks are much more likely to be handled violently by police. And this is so, even when they put up less resistance, comply with all demands, have no weapons, and have committed no crime.

Of course, this finding is ignored by those who point to Fryer’s research as vindication of their racism denial.

Lethal force data shows disparity too — Fryer’s data sets are garbage

When we look at Fryer’s data on lethal force, his conclusions are dubious to the point of being laughable.

First, let’s look at the data set from Houston, which consisted of interactions where officers fired at suspects or specific high-risk arrest scenarios where lethal force would have been most likely.

The Houston data doesn’t disprove racial bias

Here, Fryer discovered no real racial difference in the likelihood that Blacks, as opposed to whites, were shot by police once subjected to a stop or arrest.

But a central flaw in Fryer’s analysis is the suggestion that bias can only be operating if Black people are more likely to be shot by police than whites once both have been stopped.

Although such a position may seem intuitive, it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny for two reasons:

  1. Racism can influence who gets stopped in the first place — and thus, how many encounters there are between cops and Blacks versus cops and whites — and,
  2. Police could be confronting Black folks for more subjective, less legitimate reasons.

If the latter is true, this would naturally reduce the likelihood of those Black people being shot because they weren’t doing anything serious. Thus, there would be less likelihood of a violent reaction by the Black person stopped.

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If I’m Black and you stop me because of racialized suspicion and bias, and our encounter doesn’t result in a shooting — which it shouldn’t since I hadn’t even done anything to justify the stop — you can’t use your lack of deadly force against me as proof of goodwill.

And if police are more likely to stop Black folks in the first place for reasons of bias, then the risk they face in the general population would still be higher.

A hypothetical can demonstrate the point.

Imagine a community where the white-to-black population ratio is 5 to 1 (similar to the U.S.), with 120,000 people: 100,000 whites and 20,000 Blacks.


EXAMPLE: 1/200  vs 1/20000

And imagine that in a given year, police stopped 10,000 Black people (half the Black population) and 5,000 whites (5 percent of white folks). And of the 10,000 Blacks stopped, 100 were shot by police, and of the 5,000 whites stopped, 50 were.

In both cases, the odds of being shot once stopped would be one percent, but 1 in 200 Blacks would have been shot, compared to 1 in 2000 whites.

The question isn’t, “Once whites are stopped, are they as likely as Black people who’ve been stopped to be shot?”

The question is: “Are white people, walking down the street, driving their vehicle, or just living their lives, as likely to be stopped in the first place and then shot as Black people?”

The answer to that is no, and nothing in the Fryer study suggests otherwise.

The 10-city data set is no better

In addition to the special data set culled for him by the Houston PD, Fryer examined a 10-city data set from Florida, Texas, and Los Angeles involving interactions where officers had discharged their weapons.

Since everyone in the data set had been shot at by police, Fryer wasn’t seeking to determine the relative risk of whites or Blacks being shot by cops, but rather, how quickly officers had discharged their weapons.

Did police shoot before or after being attacked by the civilian? Ultimately, Fryer found there was no significant difference based on race.

Perhaps the question of how quickly an officer decided to shoot is an interesting one to explore. Still, it seems far more important to determine the relative risk of being shot as an unarmed Black person compared to an unarmed white person than to narrowly focus on a cop’s reaction time.

Although Fryer suggests it would have been impossible to answer this larger question, other researchers have been more ambitious.

One recent study found that the odds of being Black, unarmed, and shot by police in Los Angeles county (one of the places Fryer examined) are twenty times higher than the odds of being white, unarmed, and shot by police there.

And honestly, what fact do you think would be more important to the average Black person?

  1. When they get shot by cops, unarmed whites are shot just as quickly as unarmed Blacks are, or
  2. Unarmed white people are only one-twentieth as likely as unarmed Blacks to be shot in the first place.

I’ll wait.

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Reaction time differences are a stupid metric in that we shouldn’t expect them to vary all that much, especially in high-risk situations like the ones examined by Fryer. An officer doesn’t have the luxury of much reflecting when a gun is pointed at them, or they’re being attacked, no matter the suspect’s race.

But that hardly means that racial bias wasn’t operating at the point where the person was stopped in the first place.

Nor does it preclude bias regarding whether the officer perceived danger and chose to fire at all.

Imagine a community where police shot 500 black people in a year, 300 of whom were attacking, and 200 of whom were not; and only five whites, three of whom were attacking and two of whom were not. As per Fryer, there would be no racial bias: for both groups, 60 percent of the shootings occurred after the officer was attacked and 40 percent before an attack.

But seriously? Does it seem remotely logical to suggest there isn’t a problem here in terms of greater risk for black people, relative to their share of the population and non-attacking population?

What the facts say, deniers notwithstanding

The facts are these, no matter what liars and fools choose to believe:

  • Black folks killed by police are 2.3 times more likely than whites killed by police to have been unarmed at the time, and whites killed were about 50 percent more likely than black victims to have been shot while attacking the officer or another civilian.
  • Likewise, the rates of police-involved shootings bear little if any relationship to crime rates in the places where those shootings occur. This is why some communities with much higher crime rates have lower rates of police-involved shootings than cities with less serious crime problems.
  • Ultimately, police are just as likely to shoot an unarmed black person as an armed white person in this country.

That’s what matters — not the beliefs of internet trolls looking for any “evidence” to justify their biases and ways to rationalize disparate treatment of Black people.

Not that facts will likely matter to the kinds of folks who make these silly arguments.

But at least you can’t say we never offered a rebuttal to Roland Fryer and his white conservative fan club.

Some of y’all need to find a better mascot.

Roland Fryer is wrong: There is racial bias in shootings by police

2020 update: The specific flaws of Roland Fryer’s paper have now been characterized in two studies (by other scholars, not myself). Knox, Lowe, and Mummolo (2019) reanalyze Fryer’s data to find it understates racial biases. Ross, Winterhalder, and McElreath (2018) do something similar through a statistical simulation.


Roland Fryer, an economics professor at Harvard University, recently published a working paper at NBER on the topic of racial bias in police use of force and police shootings. The paper gained substantial media attention – a write-up of it became the top viewed article on the New York Times website. The most notable part of the study was its finding that there was no evidence of racial bias in police shootings, which Fryer called “the most surprising result of [his] career”. In his analysis of shootings in Houston, Texas, black and Hispanic people were no more likely (and perhaps even less likely) to be shot relative to whites.

Fryer’s analysis is highly flawed, however. It suffers from major theoretical and methodological errors, and he has communicated the results to news media in a way that is misleading. While there have long been problems with the quality of police shootings data, there is still plenty of evidence to support a pattern of systematic, racially discriminatory use of force against black people in the United States.

Breaking down the analysis of police shootings in Houston

There should be no argument that black and Latino people in Houston are much more likely to be shot by police compared to whites. I looked at the same Houston police shooting dataset as Fryer for the years 2005-2015, which I supplemented with census data, and found that black people were over 5 times as likely to be shot relative to whites. Latinos were roughly twice as likely to be shot versus whites.

Fryer was not comparing rates of police shootings by race, however. Instead, his research asked whether these racial differences were the result of “racial bias” rather than merely “statistical discrimination”. Both terms have specific meanings in economics. Statistical discrimination occurs when an individual or institution treats people differently based on racial stereotypes that ‘truly’ reflect the average behavior of a racial group. For instance, if a city’s black drivers are 50% more likely to possess drugs than white drivers, and police officers are 50% more likely to pull over black drivers, economic theory would hold that this discriminatory policing is rational. If, however, police were to pull over black drivers at a rate that disproportionately exceeded their likelihood of drug possession, that would be an irrational behavior representing individual or institutional bias.

Once explained, it is possible to find the idea of “statistical discrimination” just as abhorrent as “racial bias”. One could point out that the drug laws police enforce were passed with racially discriminatory intent, that collectively punishing black people based on “average behavior” is wrong, or that – as a self-fulfilling prophecy – bias can turn into statistical discrimination (if black people’s cars are searched more thoroughly, for instance, it will appear that their rates of drug possession are higher). At the same time, studies assessing the extent of racial bias above and beyond statistical discrimination have been able to secure legal victories for civil rights. An analysis of stop-and-frisk data by Jeffrey Faganwhich found evidence racial bias, was an important part of the court case against the NYPD, and helped secure an injunction against the policy.

Even if one accepts the logic of statistical discrimination versus racial bias, it is an inappropriate choice for a study of police shootings. The method that Fryer employs has, for the most part, been used to study traffic stops and stop-and-frisk practices. In those cases, economic theory holds that police want to maximize the number of arrests for the possession of contraband (such as drugs or weapons) while expending the fewest resources. If they are acting in the most cost-efficient, rational manner, the officers may use racial stereotypes to increase the arrest rate per stop. This theory completely falls apart for police shootings, however, because officers are not trying to rationally maximize the number of shootings. The theory that is supposed to be informing Fryer’s choice of methods is therefore not applicable to this case. He seems somewhat aware of this issue. In his interview with the New York Times, he attributes his ‘surprising’ finding to an issue of “costs, legal and psychological” that happen following a shooting. In what is perhaps a case of cognitive dissonance, he seems to not have reflected on whether the question of cost renders his choice of methods invalid.

Economic theory aside, there is an even more fundamental problem with the Houston police shooting analysis. In a typical study, a researcher will start with a previously defined population where each individual is at risk of a particular outcome. For instance, a population of drivers stopped by police can have one of two outcomes: they can be arrested, or they can be sent on their way. Instead of following this standard approach, Fryer constructs a fictitious population of people who are shot by police and people who are arrested. The problem here is that these two groups (those shot and those arrested) are, in all likelihood, systematically different from one another in ways that cannot be controlled for statistically (UPenn Professor Uri Simonsohn expands on this point here). Fryer acknowledges this limitation in a brief footnote, but understates just how problematic it is. Properly interpreted, the actual result from Fryer’s analysis is that the racial disparity in arrest rates is larger than the racial disparity in police shootings. This is an unsurprising finding, and proves neither a lack of bias nor a lack of systematic discrimination.

Even if the difference in the arrest vs. shooting groups could be accounted for, Fryer tries to control for these differences using variables in police reports, such as if the suspect was described as ‘violently resisting arrest’. There is reason to believe that these police reports themselves are racially biased. An investigation of people charged with assaulting a police officer in Washington, DC found that this charge was applied disproportionately towards black residents even for situations in which no assault actually occurred. This was partly due to an overly broad definition of assault against police in DC law, but the principle – that police are likely to describe black civilians as more threatening – is applicable to other jurisdictions.

I’ll also briefly note that there was another analysis, using data from multiple cities, that looked at racial differences in whether or not civilians attacked officers before they were shot. Fryer himself downplays the credibility of this analysis, because it relied on reports from police who had every incentive to misrepresent the order of events.

Racial inequality in police shootings

Fryer’s study is far from the first to investigate racial bias or discrimination in police shootings. A number of studies have placed officers in shooting simulators, and most have shown a greater propensity for shooting black civilians relative to whites. Other research has found that cities with black mayors and city councilors have lower rates of police shootings than would otherwise be expected. A recent analysis of national data showed wide variation in racial disparities for police shooting rates between counties, and these differences were not associated with racial differences in crime rates. This is just a small sample of the dozens of studies on police killings published since the 1950s, most of which suggests that racial bias is indeed a problem.

It is a failure of journalism that the New York Times heavily promoted this study without seeking critical perspectives from experts in the field. Fryer makes basic methodological errors, overstates the quality of his results, and casually uses the term “racial bias” in a way that is nearly guaranteed to be misinterpreted by anyone who isn’t an economist.

Why Louisiana Stays Poor

With all Louisiana’s wealth in natural resources and industry, WHY DO WE STAY SO POOR?


Wow, as an outsider (not from Louisiana) I’ve visited the state numerous times, and the impression is always the same—shocking poverty and decay. I’ve always thought of Louisiana as an under-developed state that has just been passed-by the 20th & 21st Centuries. To learn that economically, it’s a very wealthy state with huge economic production and growth from which residents are deriving little to no benefit SCREAMS exploitation. This is a clear lesson in the vital importance of taxes and how they are used.


I am a native Louisianaian. If the people would stop electing and re-electing corrupt politicians we could be such a better state. Louisiana is a fantastic state but corruption has ruined us.
I remember working at a hotel when I lived in New Orleans and met a man from there that had moved to Colorado. He told me prior to moving to Colorado he never left Louisiana and thought it was the best state ever. He then said “I got so use to seeing the clean interstates and meeting nice people in Colorado, I came back here to visit 3 years later. I looked around and realized this is a NASTY ass city with no opportunities I can’t believe I stayed here most of my life”. He was happy he left and at that moment I started a plan to leave. I’ve been gone for 4 years and never going back.
The world’s shortest book is entitled “A List of Honest Louisiana Politicians.”
This is why I moved to Texas 16 years ago. EVERY citizen in Louisiana needs to see this. Thank you so much for making this video.
This is absolutely amazing I live in Louisiana and I am one paycheck away from being homeless and corporations get away with murder this absolutely sickens me
“If the wealth of a nation is mostly dug out of the ground, it is a terrible place to live, because a gold mine can run with dying slaves and still produce great treasure.” -CGP_Grey [Rules for Rulers] Corollary: Great places to live are founded on the economic strength of happy productive citizens.
Great video. Another thing to keep in mind is Louisiana has some of the highest sales tax rates in the country, and they are high partly to make up for the lost property tax revenues. Sales taxes hit the poorest the hardest.
I cried watching this. I was born and raised here. I’ve watched my friends and family vote consistently for politicians who sell them out. They worship Industry and Big Oil, they think bending over & letting the big companies have their way is the only path to economic opportunity. I have such a deep connection to this land, such a love and appreciation for it, but I just can’t be here anymore. I can’t watch the thing I love and cherish be ripped apart and torn asunder so greedy politicians and corporations can glean every last drop of wealthy we have.
I’ve lived in Gonzales, Louisiana my entire life. I can count on one hand the times I’ve left the state longer than 48 hours in my 21 years. Honestly until seeing this video I’ve felt very optimistic about living in this state, and have always wanted to come back home anytime I leave. I grew up thinking we were one of the best states because the amount of plants ascension pairsh, and neighboring parishes have to then see/hear all of this. It’s a real slap in the face, and we all deserve better. If it wouldn’t for me honestly not having the means to leave, and how much I love my community I’d leave. The other states I’ve been too not every so I don’t know for sure the people aren’t as kind, nore hospitalitie as us in Louisiana are. My take on all of this is that we as citizens of this great state need to fight for our share of what WE ALL put in with taxes. Let’s not forget the men, and women working the plants who have some pretty dangerous jobs who are nothing but numbers. Finally how about all of us who don’t work in that industry? We have the Devine “privilege” of breathing, smelling, and for some living in such close proximity to them all. For that alone we deserve some sorta system related to Alaska where it’s citizens get a percentage of the revenue in OUR pockets, and more importantly that these multi billion, maybe trillion dollar companies pay AT LEAST a fair share of the property value/profits!!!!
Great video… I went to school in Louisiana, now living in Texas. I’ve always been amazed at the stark contrast in infrastructure… as soon as I cross the border from Texas into Louisiana, the roads are noticeably inferior. I’ve never been able to explain this, since both states have similar natural resources… this video makes sense. Thank you for doing this.
As an immigrant I feel this video resonating with the reasons we leave our counties, it’s not because we are land poor without the beautiful riches nature has to offer but because they are poorly managed and hoarded by a small corrupt few. Louisiana looks more beautiful, and I regret not going out during the reconstruction after Katrina and offering my little grain of sand when I had the chance.
And don’t forget Louisiana’s “cancer alley”, where the rates of cancer are significantly higher than the national average. This is so bad that it was used as a case study in one of my environmental courses for how bad out of control pollution can get.
I’m from western New York and this just stuns me. I thought the disparity and corruption is bad here but it doesn’t hold a candle to this. I hope the people of Louisiana get justice and a properly funded future!
it’s amazing that corporations can be exempt from property tax but that individual’s homes cannot.
My uncle served in the Air Force in Louisiania and absolutely loved that state, but he was shocked by the poverty and the rampant corruption.
This was an outstandingly professionally produced video.
As someone who works in data, great job keeping this data driven and factual and not based on “Feelings”. Its very easy to follow your research and understand a cause and effect relation. I’m not from Louisiana but I’m from another “traditionally poor state” – Michigan and I think some of the problems you face are some of the same ones we also face. I hope your politicians can turn it around.
It wasn’t until I moved away from Louisiana that I realized how bad the situation was there. I love my people, but it is too hard for me to see them taken advantage like this and just roll over for it. All of this wealth rightfully belongs to the people of Louisiana, but they don’t even realize it. Honestly, once my mother passes away, I probably won’t ever return to the state. It’s too heartbreaking for me.
As a foreigner living in the US, I’ve always wondered why the “South” is always so poor. This explains so much. Thank you for explaining this.
So glad to know you exist and are fighting against these inequities with great skill, and showing some results! It gives me hope for the state where family and friends still live. I left Louisiana decades ago for college out of state. I saw how other states operated and never seriously considered returning. I sadly began to see Louisiana a a state operating much like a Central American kleptocracy, but embedded in the US. Even the most corrupt other states had nothing on Louisiana.
This is absolutely terrifying. I honestly wonder if Louisiana’s natural resource infrastructure and tax exemptions are part of the reason why school privatization was pushed so hard in New Orleans after Katrina hit.
I’m German, could care less and stumbled upon this video by accident – but my God did they do a good job in presenting this!!! One of the best visualizations and presentations I’ve ever come across and I work in white color automotive. Congratulations! Hope this had the wanted outcome and the situation has gotten better for the people …
I tend to be one of the last to support a tax increase, and being Louisiana, my initial thought was of corruption and levee funding being diverted. But this is a very solidly argued point that Louisiana went way too far in practically exempting industrial properties from property taxes. Then my next reaction was that there was no way the political fight would be won so I was pleasantly surprised to see the progress shown at the end. Congratulations to you guys for helping to create a significant improvement in public policy! Now I hope the money will be well-spent.
With those property tax exemptions, there’s also the point of them not paying for services and public right of ways that they need to operate. More dense development typically is the only property that returns more than it costs cities to maintain. This means not only are the urban poor subsidizing suburban development, but they’re subsidizing the giant corporations they work for. And they’re not even paid a fair living wage to begin with due to deregulation.
Let me just take a wild guess and say that practically everything has gotten worse and almost nothing has gotten better for Louisiana residents since this video was produced. Get out while (if) you still can. I’ve struggled here my whole life and I’ve finally had enough. I’m selling my possessions and moving away with whatever fits in my beat up 90’s car as soon as I can manage it, and I will never look back.
I’m from Mississippi, a genuinely poor state with poor natural resources and high corruption – not so much on the corporate-political level, but rather internally to our politics. Both sides of the government participate in these practices, and its no wonder that our state remains poor. Whenever I cross over into Louisiana, however, I’m always shocked at how destitute things are. Like this video states, there are so many reasons that Louisiana should be one of the richest states in the United States, and I’ve been aware of them for a long time. It’s baffled me for years that a state so strategically placed and rich in natural resources could possibly be on a level of poverty like Mississippi. Now I know why, and it breaks my heart to see a state that could be so prosperous falling to corruption and poverty that has no business being in it. Unlike Mississippi, there is no excuse for Louisiana to be at the bottom. I sincerely hope this changes.
You think those good ol’ boys on the state board might be getting some kick backs from all those tax exemptions they hand out so freely ?
Having lived in Alaska, where every citizen received a yearly dividend from investment of oil lease fees, this is sickening to hear. Louisiana should be one of the most flush states in the nation if it weren’t for trickle-down economics and tax breaks for the wealthy. The impact of these industries should be beneficial to the area not debilitating. The bottom line is that the people of the state of Louisiana are paying (or losing out on) the taxes that should be spread out to all the consumers. Good luck to all in Louisiana, I hope you finally get this corrected.
“No one will really understand politics until they understand that politicians are not trying to solve our problems. They are trying to solve their own problems – of which getting elected and re-elected are number one and number two. Whatever is number three is far behind.”
OMG, I had no idea how bad this was. I lived in New Orleans, Louisiana for 10 years. I actually left because of lack of opportunities, widespread poverty and lackluster healthcare system. I also knew that my life expectancy would go down drastically if I stayed. I did develop endocrine health issues during and and immediately after living there. It took 10 years to figure out what was wrong with me. My DNA may have been predisposed to these problems, but maybe they may never have come up if I never lived there.
This could also be useful to show to the decision makers in most other states if nothing else to show what not to do.
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