Kalena Thomhave

Kalena Thomhave is a writing fellow at the Prospect.

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Recent Articles

Federal Reorganization Plan Is Sleight of Hand to Gut the Safety Net

The plan to consolidate departments may be how Trump plans to corral assistance programs in order to destroy them.

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House on June 21, 2018. O ver a year ago, the now-ousted Steve Bannon declared that a priority of the just-settling-in Trump administration was the “destruction of the administrative state.” Trump’s cabinet appointees, Bannon said, “were selected for a reason and that is the deconstruction.” While Bannon no longer roams the halls of the White House, his legacy persists (one need only look to the white nationalist immigration policies seeping out of the administration). And the destruction of the administrative state continues. Last week, the Trump administration released a plan to consolidate federal agencies and move certain programs to different agencies. While this news may seem innocuous—perhaps nothing more than federal housecleaning—the proposal is likely rooted in a desire to cut social programs. The first clue that social programs may be threatened...

Trump Moves to Curb Federal Employee Labor Protections

Unions representing federal employees are on the chopping block.

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin Wearing a mask that says "silenced," Appollos Baker, with the American Federation of Government Employees, attends a rally in Washington. trickle-downers_54.jpg I f an administration wanted to destroy the power of labor unions, it might first attack unions that are subject to executive orders. President Trump headed in that direction late last Friday, when he signed three executive orders that place new restrictions on federal employee labor unions. The orders , which affect more than two million federal employees, limit employees’ use of “ official time ” (the amount of time a federal employee can use to work on union matters while on the clock) to 25 percent of the work day; revamp the collective bargaining process, and make it easier for managers to fire employees. House Republicans want to cut back on “official time,” which they describe as “union time on the people’s dime” (and was actually the title Republicans used for last week’s House Oversight and...

A Great Deal for Banks, Not So Much for American Jobs

On Thursday, a bill progressives had dubbed the “Bank Lobbyist Act” was signed into law by President Trump after passing the House 258–159 this week. The bill rolls back a number of Dodd-Frank regulations in order to aid a “suffering” banking sector—even though banks have reported record-high profits this year. And while the bill was on the floor in each house, Republican leaders refused to include amendments that would have limited banks’ offshoring of American jobs.

Since the GOP tax reform passed last December, many economists have warned that it will incentivize corporate offshoring—a threat that even the Congressional Budget Office was forced to acknowledge, as I reported in April. Banks are leading the charge to offshore jobs, particularly in their call centers, laying off workers at home in order to hire cheaper, exploitative labor in other countries. The regulatory rollback Republicans passed this week threatens to put this offshoring into overdrive and only continues to put big business before working- and middle-class Americans.

An amendment to the banking bill, proposed by Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren and which ultimately failed, would have made banks that offshore American jobs ineligible for the deregulations. In the House, Democratic Representative Mark Pocan of Wisconsin put forth a similar amendment during debate, but Republican House leaders refused to allow the amendment to be considered.

“Republicans keep passing sweetheart legislation for banks while refusing to allow any debate or votes on provisions to slow down or prevent these banks from shipping more and more American jobs all around the world,” Shane Larson, legislative director for the Communication Workers of America, said in a statement.

A number of Democrats (many of whom have received donations from the banking industry) signed on to the bill, and Republicans hope that this legislation lays the groundwork for further bipartisan gutting of Dodd-Frank—likely without consideration of banks’ disappearing U.S. jobs.

SNAP Work Requirements in Farm Bill Would Increase Hunger, Not Employment

There has been shockingly little discussion about provisions in the House Farm Bill that would drastically alter the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, and cut or eliminate benefits for about two million people. The bill is set to be voted on today (unless the House Freedom Caucus stalls it to prioritize an immigration vote).

SNAP already has work requirements that largely affect adults without children, but Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee, without any Democratic support or input, have moved forward with a bill that contains harsh new requirements for families with children, requiring recipients to diligently document work hours—at least 20 hours per week—every month.

Republicans and Trump administration officials have pointed to two studies of similar reforms in Kansas and Maine as proof that such requirements are effective in helping people find work. But an analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) has found that those studies are misleading because they use incomplete or misleading data. For example, the studies only looked at work rates of adults after they had been kicked off the program for not meeting new work requirements, ignoring the fact that they had worked at comparable rates even before they were sanctioned off the program.

The House bill would “undermine almost two decades of progress in simplifying, streamlining, and modernizing SNAP so it’s easy for families to use,” said Dottie Rosenbaum, senior fellow at CBPP and author of a new report on the Farm Bill, in a call with reporters.

The bill would also reinstate a “benefits cliff,” where families could lose their SNAP benefits as soon as they report higher earnings, pushing economic security further out of reach. Another provision makes it mandatory for mothers on SNAP to pursue unpaid child care, which could pressure domestic abuse survivors to rely on their abusers or leave the program. And these requirements would significantly increase SNAP’s bureaucracy and make the program more expensive and harder to navigate.

A better way to help people find good work would be to create voluntary, intensive job training programs. But these programs are extremely expensive to operate, and the funds on offer in the Republican bill don’t amount to much—just about $360 per person, per year. A good job training program that builds skills and leads to solid employment costs between $7,000 and $14,000 per person, per year, according to Rosenbaum.  

At a May 8 panel on the Farm Bill at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, House Agriculture Committee Chair Mike Conaway claimed that he didn’t want to “force SNAP on anybody who doesn’t want to meet these requirements”—instead, it seems, he’d rather force people who need help off of it. 

SNAP Work Requirements in Farm Bill Would Increase Hunger, Not Employment

There has been shockingly little discussion about provisions in the House Farm Bill that would drastically alter the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, and cut or eliminate benefits for about two million people. The bill is set to be voted on today (unless the House Freedom Caucus stalls it to prioritize an immigration vote).

SNAP already has work requirements that largely affect adults without children, but Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee, without any Democratic support or input, have moved forward with a bill that contains harsh new requirements for families with children, requiring recipients to diligently document work hours—at least 20 hours per week—every month.

Republicans and Trump administration officials have pointed to two studies of similar reforms in Kansas and Maine as proof that such requirements are effective in helping people find work. But an analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) has found that those studies are misleading because they use incomplete or misleading data. For example, the studies only looked at work rates of adults after they had been kicked off the program for not meeting new work requirements, ignoring the fact that they had worked at comparable rates even before they were sanctioned off the program.

The House bill would “undermine almost two decades of progress in simplifying, streamlining, and modernizing SNAP so it’s easy for families to use,” said Dottie Rosenbaum, senior fellow at CBPP and author of a new report on the Farm Bill, in a call with reporters.

The bill would also reinstate a “benefits cliff,” where families could lose their SNAP benefits as soon as they report higher earnings, pushing economic security further out of reach. Another provision makes it mandatory for mothers on SNAP to pursue unpaid child care, which could pressure domestic abuse survivors to rely on their abusers or leave the program. And these requirements would significantly increase SNAP’s bureaucracy and make the program more expensive and harder to navigate.

A better way to help people find good work would be to create voluntary, intensive job training programs. But these programs are extremely expensive to operate, and the funds on offer in the Republican bill don’t amount to much—just about $360 per person, per year. A good job training program that builds skills and leads to solid employment costs between $7,000 and $14,000 per person, per year, according to Rosenbaum.  

At a May 8 panel on the Farm Bill at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, House Agriculture Committee Chair Mike Conaway claimed that he didn’t want to “force SNAP on anybody who doesn’t want to meet these requirements”—instead, it seems, he’d rather force people who need help off of it. 

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