Catholic nuns to Cindy Axne: Tax the rich

Sister Jeanie and Sister Elaine Hagedorn, who co-authored this post, are Catholic sisters with the Congregation of the Humility of Mary. They live in Des Moines and are longtime advocates for Catholic social justice with groups like NETWORK.

No matter where we come from or what we look like, Iowans believe that working families deserve a fair shot. All work has value, and all working people have rights, from farmworkers in vibrant rural towns to factory workers in our bustling cities. But for too long, a greedy few corporations and CEOs have rigged the game in Iowa and across the world, taking from working people to make sure that a powerful few can get rich off the profit that working Iowans, particularly Black and Brown working Iowans, produce.

For years, wages in Iowa have stagnated for everyone, and the racial wealth gap has exacerbated inequalities embedded in our economic system. In particular, Black, Brown, and Indigenous workers have been pushed to the economic margins by systemic inequality in our tax code. Meanwhile, the climate crisis continues to put all Iowa families at risk as storms like the 2020 derecho devastate working neighborhoods.

As Catholic nuns with decades of ministry experience in Iowa, we have worked closely with those most impacted by Iowa’s inequities. Union workers, immigrant communities, hungry children, and houseless families have turned to social services, religious communities, and mutual aid efforts because of our state and federal government’s misplaced priorities.

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More evidence cutting jobless benefits didn't boost Iowa's economy

The latest Iowa employment statistics “are disappointing,” Iowa State University economist Dave Swenson tweeted on September 17 after the U.S. Department of Labor released new figures for August. Swenson noted, “Total employed and total labor force are down, unemployment levels rose slightly, and unemployment rate is unchanged” at 4.1 percent. Meanwhile, Payroll nonfarm jobs declined.

Governor Kim Reynolds’ decision to cut off pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits in June (three months early) “to goose the economy turned out to be a dud,” in Swenson’s view.

A growing body of research supports that conclusion.

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"No uptick in employment" in states ending pandemic benefits

Census survey data indicates that there was “no uptick in employment” in the twelve states that cut residents off from federal pandemic-related unemployment benefits in mid-June. However, residents of those states were more likely to report it was “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult” to pay for usual household expenses, compared to surveys conducted before the unemployment programs ended. 

Arindrajit Dube, an economics professor at UMass Amherst, published his findings on July 18.

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Job searches down in first states to end pandemic unemployment

Job searches are lower in states that were first to cut off federal pandemic-related unemployment benefits, compared to states that have continued to participate in those federal programs, according to analysis by Jed Kolko, the chief economist for the online jobs site Indeed.

Governor Kim Reynolds announced on May 11 that Iowans would cease to be able to collect the pandemic-related unemployment, effective June 12, putting Iowa among the first four states to end their participation in the federal programs. Tens of thousands of jobless Iowans were receiving a total of more than $30 million a week through the three discontinued programs. Iowa business groups and Republican politicians applauded the move, saying the extra unemployment benefits were holding back the economy by keeping people out of the workforce.

Kolko regularly tracks online job searches and found last month that “job search activity on Indeed increased, relative to the national trend, in states that announced they would end federal UI benefits prematurely.” However, “This increase was temporary, vanishing by the eighth day after the announcement. In the second week after the announcement, the state’s share of national clicks was no higher than it was during the late-April baseline.”

Kolko wrote on June 22 (emphasis added),

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Upside Down week for Iowa Republicans in Congress

In the natural order of things, members of Congress brag about the federal assistance they fought to obtain for their constituents.

The Republicans who represent Iowa in the U.S. House and Senate turned that formula on its head this week. Every one cheered the news that tens of thousands of Iowans will soon lose the federal government support they depend on.

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