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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Housing discrimination bill in limbo amid concerns over federal funding

Nearly six weeks have passed since Republican lawmakers approved a bill prohibiting local governments from banning “source of income” discrimination. Yet Senate File 252 still has not been sent to Governor Kim Reynolds, according to the legislature’s website.

While Iowa’s legislature is in session, the governor has three days to sign or veto any bill that reaches her desk, or it will become law without her signature. The governor’s staff often asks for an extra week or two to review a measure’s contents. But there is no recent precedent for the legislature to sit on a bill for this long.

The governor must eventually act on every bill the legislature passes. The unusual delay has fueled speculation that Reynolds may cast a rare veto of a bill approved by the Republican-controlled House and Senate.

Communications staff for the governor and legislative leaders did not respond to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries about why Senate File 252 has been held up. But signs point to the bill jeopardizing some federal housing funds.

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Governor endorses plan targeting Iowans on public assistance

A longstanding effort by Iowa Senate Republicans to reduce the number of Iowans receiving various forms of public assistance got a quiet boost last week from Governor Kim Reynolds.

For the first time, the governor’s draft human services budget included provisions that would create asset tests for federal food assistance and require the Iowa Department of Human Services to establish a new “eligibility verification system” for Medicaid and several other public assistance programs.

State Senator Jason Schultz has pushed similar legislation for several years running. Each session, Senate Republicans have approved the bills, which died in the House Human Resources Committee (see here and here).

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Re-establishing Democratic governance

Charles Bruner is a longtime advocate for policies that support children and strengthen families. -promoted by Laura Belin

About this essay

I studied political science at the beginning of the 1970s at one of the elitist of universities, Stanford University. My graduate school class, if not all radicals, shared a serious critique of American government and the military-industrial complex, the Vietnam war, the academic privilege and not freedom that embodied the Stanford administration, and the failure for society to listen to youth and follow-through on the vision expressed in the decidedly liberal document, The Port Huron Statement.

I returned to Iowa in 1975 feeling alienated and full of angst at my better understanding of the darker side of American politics. But I had no clue how to contribute to changing it. Fortunately, I found a group of 20-somethings in Iowa – largely through the Community Action Research Group (Iowa’s Public Interest Research Group) – doing that work in the policy field on the environment. They connected me to a job at the Iowa Welfare Association funded by the Compensatory Education and Training Act, the federal jobs program that provided nonprofits with funding to create jobs. It gave me space to learn and grow, as it did for others in my group.

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Trump food program letter: Treat or trick?

Herb Strentz reports on how central Iowa food banks are handling an unprecedented letter from the president in boxes for the needy. -promoted by Laura Belin

Halloween will soon be upon us, and there is a “trick or treat” aspect to a flap involving President Donald Trump. I’m not referring to his planned campaign rally at the Des Moines airport, but to a controversy surrounding aid to our nation’s hungry.

Here’s the deal: Given that COVID-19 has cost farmers much of their commercial market and exacerbated food insecurity for millions of people, the U.S. Department of Agriculture advanced a $4 billion Farmers to Families Food Box Program called the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

Here’s the misdeal: The boxes that program provides to food banks around the nation–and then to food pantries– now include a letter in English and Spanish and adorned by the usual grandiose signature of Donald J. Trump. He takes a measure of credit for the program and writes, “I prioritized sending nutritious food from our farmers to families in need throughout America.”

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Lessons learned from our giving table

Todd Struthers chronicles “what went right, what went wrong, and the lessons we’ve learned running our 4H Giving Table in Waukee.” -promoted by Laura Belin

It started for us on May 26. The idea came from a post by Andy Slavitt, former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Barack Obama. He linked to an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch titled, “After losing loved ones to virus, Maplewood woman makes her yard a lifeline for others.” 

Slavitt occasionally showcases people doing good in these “difficult times,” to quote an overused phrase. The feature was about a cancer survivor named Shana Poole-Jones, who lives in the suburbs of St Louis. She had family who died or had gotten sick with COVID-19, and she had created these grab and go tables where people can drop off or pick up food or toys. 

One thing she said resonated with me: “I realize that I’m a broken person and most of the people who to the table are broken right now. But all the broken pieces pieces come together and make a soft of community to survive this.”

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