Two Iowa metros on list of ten "worst cities for black Americans"

The Des Moines metro area has made plenty of "best places" lists during the last five years, but Chamber of Commerce types won’t be bragging about the top ten ranking that appeared last week. After examining "the disparities between white and black Americans in several economic and social measures" across the country, Thomas C. Frohlich and Sam Stebbins of the 24/7 Wall St. website "identified the 10 worst cities for black Americans." The authors noted, "Four of the cities with the worst racial inequality are in Illinois, two are in Iowa, and all are in the Midwest."

Follow me after the jump to learn why the Des Moines metro area ranked ninth and the Waterloo/Cedar Falls metro area tenth on this list.

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Desmund Adams first Democrat running in IA-03: Five themes of his campaign

This morning, business owner Desmund Adams became the first Democratic candidate in Iowa’s third Congressional district. His campaign is on the web here as well as on Facebook and Twitter. State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad attended the event and confirmed to me that he will support Adams for Congress. Former State Senator and gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch was there too and told me he is "encouraging" Adams to run.

I enclose below more background on Adams and five themes from his remarks today, along with details on first-term Representative David Young’s record in those areas.

Leaders in both parties expect IA-03 to be competitive in 2016. Young is on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s target list and in the National Republican Congressional Committee’s incumbent protection program. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office indicate that 150,925 active registered Democrats, 162,921 Republicans, and 162,161 no-party voters live in IA-03. The district covers sixteen counties in central and southwest Iowa. About two-thirds of the Democrats and more than half of all registered voters reside in Polk County, containing Des Moines and most of its suburbs.

I hope to see a competitive Democratic primary, which would help raise the eventual nominee’s profile and likely sharpen his or her skills on the stump. Other potential candidates include State Senator Matt McCoy, former Governor Chet Culver, and Jim Mowrer, the 2014 Democratic nominee against Steve King in IA-04. Since Young’s 2014 opponent Staci Appel ruled out a repeat Congressional bid, I have not heard of any Democratic women actively considering this race, but if one emerges, the EMILY’s List political action committee may get involved on her behalf.  

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IA-02: First Loebsack and Miller-Meeks debate live-blog and discussion thread (updated)

Four-term Democratic incumbent Dave Loebsack and his three-time Republican challenger Mariannette Miller-Meeks are debating in Iowa City tonight, starting at 7 pm. Iowa Public TV is live-streaming the event here. I’ll post updates after the jump.

Any comments about the race in Iowa’s second Congressional district are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: The archived video is now available at IPTV’s site. My comments are below.  

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Weekend open thread: Cost of doing nothing edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.

Sunday’s Des Moines Register includes a good feature by Lauren Mills of and the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism. She lays out how payday lenders are “burying Iowans” in debt. Iowa Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Joe Bolkcom pointed out that the payday lending business model depends on “locking people into this cycle of debt.” Previous research has indicated that payday lenders cost Iowa consumers about $36 million per year. Mills reports that this industry spends heavily on campaign contributions and lobbying the Iowa legislature. Lobbyists talk a good game about jobs and helping people who need cash for emergency expenses. But think how many more jobs could be created if Iowans living paycheck to paycheck had $36 million more to spend on goods and services, rather than on outlandish “loan shark rates.”

Mills reports that legislation to regulate interest rates charged by payday lenders has been stalled. Bolkcom said Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal won’t bring up the bill unless it can pass the Republican-controlled Iowa House. House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer called that a “convenient excuse” for the Senate not to act. I haven’t noticed her or any other House Republicans acknowledging this problem, though.

The best chance for Iowa lawmakers to address payday lending was during the period when Democrats controlled “the trifecta.” In 2007, the Iowa House and Senate approved, and Governor Chet Culver signed, a bill capping interest rates on car title loans. (Such legislation had been stalled for years when Republicans controlled the Iowa House, although it attracted bipartisan support in both chambers in 2007.) Three years later, Bolkcom and then Iowa House Democrat Janet Petersen made a major push to pass a similar interest rate cap on payday lenders. However, industry lobbyists warned that such a law would put payday lenders out of business, as had happened with car title lenders. A wide range of organizations supported the payday lending reform, including the Iowa Attorney General’s office, the Iowa Catholic Conference, the Child and Family Policy Center, and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. But ultimately, the House version of that bill died when conservadem State Representative Mike Reasoner sided with two Republicans to kill it in subcommittee.

Some Iowa local governments, most recently in Waterloo, have passed zoning rules to try to prevent payday lenders from targeting low-income neighborhoods. But state regulations are the only realistic way to stop the cycle of debt perpetuated by lenders who keep borrowers coming back for more high-interest loans and cash advances. Iowans on the edge are paying the price for the legislature’s failure to act years ago.

Study shows long-term benefits of government welfare

A new working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research points to significant long-term benefits for children in poverty whose families received cash transfers through the first U.S. government welfare program. Researchers used census, World War II and death records to compare male children of mothers who received help through the federal Mothers’ Pension program between 1911 and 1935 to male children whose mothers applied for help but were rejected from the program. You can read the full research paper here (pdf) or access it here. I’ve posted a few excerpts after the jump.

The main takeaway: “Male children of accepted mothers received one-third more years of schooling, were less likely to be underweight, and had higher income in adulthood than children of rejected mothers.” The study did not include female children of early welfare recipients because name changes through marriage make it much harder to track long-term outcomes for girls.  

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A Plea to Liberals to Reconsider Position on Minimum Wage

(Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest diaries on policy or politics.   - promoted by desmoinesdem)

We liberals have been fighting the wrong battle with the Minimum Wage.  I am not sure whether liberals understand the economics of the minimum wage and choose to ignore them, or whether we just don’t understand basic principles of economics.  I can’t do much about the former, but I can at least shed some light on what actually happens when we raise the minimum wage.

We liberals all share a fundamental belief that government has the power and the resources to improve the standard of living of the poor and the middle class in this country.  Because we have the power and the resources, we have an obligation to take action to do so.  But we should also do no harm in the process, especially to those whose lives we are trying to improve.  The Earned Income Tax Credit is a more efficient way to accomplish our objectives, at a lower cost to society as a whole, with fewer unintended consequences that end up hurting poor people.

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