# Poverty



Cindy Axne should withdraw her racist police bill

Jaylen Cavil and Alejandro Murguia-Ortiz co-authored this commentary. Cavil is a Democratic candidate in Iowa House district 36. Murguia-Ortiz is an independent candidate in Iowa Senate district 17.

Dog whistles have been a feature of U.S. politics for decades. President Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queens,” President Bill Clinton’s “law and order” campaign, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich calling Barack Obama a “food stamps president” are all examples of racist talking points. Politicians use coded language when trying to garner support by triggering racial anxiety. 

Today’s version of the “war on crime”—a reaction to nationwide calls to defund the police and fund communities instead—is no different from the racist wars on drugs and poverty that have led to the incarceration and deaths of millions.

With the introduction of the Invest to Protect Act, U.S. Representative Cindy Axne (D, IA-03) and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley have joined forces to re-employ this dog whistle strategy.

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Build back something

Charles Bruner: Taxes, inflation, and essential services … there’s an obvious solution for Democrats.

President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress have done much to support essential workers and provide economic help to working and retired Americans during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Several of those actions were designed to become permanent: improvements to the child tax credit, investments in child care, and expansion of home and community based services and the direct care workforce.

Established in the American Rescue Plan Act through a process known as reconciliation (which requires only a simple majority vote and therefore could be enacted without Republican support), these policies have proved both popular and effective.

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Iowans facing big cuts to food assistance

Approximately 290,000 Iowans living in some 141,000 households will receive less food assistance beginning in April, due to Governor Kim Reynolds’ decision to declare the COVID-19 state of emergency over.

Leaders of area food pantries are expecting a surge in demand, as Iowans’ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will drop by at least $95 per household, and in some cases by more than 90 percent.

According to the Iowa Hunger Coalition, “The average SNAP benefit for individuals will drop from $2.65 per meal to an estimated $1.52 per meal. Total SNAP benefits issued in the state of Iowa will decrease by an estimated $29.5 million,” a 42.6 percent reduction.

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The myth of school choice

Keegan Jones is a lifelong Iowan and 2013 graduate of Fort Dodge Senior High. He currently works as a financial analyst and consultant.

Against the backdrop of a conservative culture war on schools, Iowa Republican lawmakers are again determined to pass a version of “school choice,” which cleared the state Senate last year but failed to win enough support in the House.

We all remember the days when Iowa was known for having one of the country’s best public school systems. Years of inadequate funding increases that fail to meet schools’ rising operating costs have put additional strain on teachers and degraded the quality of education for our students.  

Governor Kim Reynolds now seeks an overhaul of Iowa’s education system to fix the problems she and her colleagues created. Her latest school choice proposal, Senate Study Bill 3080, is scheduled to be considered in an Iowa Senate subcommittee on February 2.

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Investing in Americans now will pay off for generations

Dr. Anita Fleming-Rife relates her family’s story in making the case for the Build Back Better Act.

In 1966, thanks to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s anti-poverty programs, I attended the Des Moines School of Practical Nursing—a year-long program. Our government invested in me, paying my tuition, buying my books and uniforms, and providing a stipend. 

When I divorced in 1971, I was able to take care of my three young children without government aid. This investment yielded even more dividends. Because I worked with other professionals who saw my hard work ethic, grit, and determination, they encouraged me to go back to school. I did, and I worked two jobs for the first half of my bachelor’s degree. I transferred from the urban center to a college town with three children in tow and completed my B.A. I would later earn an M.A. and PhD.

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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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