Kalena Thomhave

Kalena Thomhave is a writing fellow at The American Prospect. Her email is kthomhave@prospect.org.

Recent Articles

The Country’s First Child Allowance (Almost)

California has enacted a groundbreaking budget that makes nearly all low-income families eligible for a child tax credit.

Last week, the California legislature passed a budget that spends billions of dollars to attack poverty in the state. Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom signed it into law, in so doing increasing funding for cash welfare, providing $1.5 billion for affordable housing, and also providing more resources for eviction defense, the state’s Medicaid program, homelessness aid, and myriad other anti-poverty programs. In what Newsom termed “perhaps the most significant anti-poverty initiatives that we’ll be passing this year,” the new budget also more than doubles the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and creates what might be the country’s first child allowance—or at least, the closest thing yet to one. Under the state’s new child tax credit, all families in poverty will receive a $1,000 refundable tax credit for each child under the age of six. The only catch is that families must have at least $1 in earnings to be eligible. “We could...

Live Free or Die—Literally

New Hampshire delayed its Medicaid work requirement deadline, as it seemed that more than two-thirds of recipients’ health coverage would be jeopardized.

Charles Krupa/AP Photo
Republicans in New Hampshire want to implement Medicaid work requirements—but like similar initiatives in a handful of other states, their plan is facing some serious roadblocks. New Hampshire’s program began June 1, but as of yet, only 8,021 of approximately 25,000 Medicaid recipients who would be subject to the requirement—the Medicaid expansion population—have either reported work hours or logged a health or other exemption. As those June numbers were finalized Monday, Republican Governor Chris Sununu quickly reversed positions, signing a Democrat-sponsored bill to delay implementation of the work requirement until the end of September, as it seemed inevitable that a majority of those subject to the work requirement would be in danger of losing their health coverage entirely. The bill will also expand exemptions to those experiencing homelessness and full-time students, reduce the monthly work hours requirement from 100 to 80, and end the program if more...

Without Congressional Input, Trump May Further Widen the Gap Between Rich and Poor

The Trump administration may use inflation indexing measures to give tax cuts for the rich and reduce benefits for the poor.

On the heels of the revelation that the Trump administration is considering changing how the poverty line is adjusted for inflation, which would reduce public benefits for millions, the administration may further use the inflation measure as an excuse to cut taxes for the rich. Last week, Bloomberg reported that Trump officials are once again considering indexing capital gains to inflation, which would in effect function as another tax cut for the wealthy—possibly to the tune of $100 billion to $200 billion over a decade. This, of course, is in addition to the $1.5 trillion in tax cuts from 2017’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. When the administration has failed to pass its policy agenda, it has in the past unilaterally pushed its priorities through by either executive order or rulemaking. And just like the proposal to switch up how the poverty line is measured, the administration does not plan to go through Congress to index capital gains to inflation, but may instead use the...

How the Democratic Candidates Talk about Poverty

Medicare for All and income inequality are gaining traction among the party platform, but the candidates must frame all issues of poverty in terms of basic rights. 

agenda_2020.jpg When Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II, founder of the Moral Monday movement, co-chair of the current Poor People’s Campaign, and one of the most popular faith leaders in the country, asks something of you, you say yes. Especially if you’re running for president. Last week, the Poor People’s Campaign hosted a “Moral Action Congress” to force discussion about the economic instability that is threaded throughout the lives of 140 million Americans. But after two nights of Democratic debates, I’m not sure participation in the Poor People’s Campaign forum affected any of the candidates enough for them to bring their experience with them on stage. But their remarks about Medicare for All and income inequality suggest that the Democratic Party is finding new ways to address poverty in the U.S.—and they can and should go farther. Barber and his co-chair Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis had invited all two-dozen candidates to Trinity...

Banning Private Prisons—and Prisoner Exploitation

Elizabeth Warren’s newest plan goes beyond limiting the private role in mass incarceration, and seeks to prevent corporate abuse of vulnerable inmates.

Ted S. Warren/AP Photo
Last Friday, Senator Elizabeth Warren vowed as president to terminate all federal private prison contracts, and to pressure local and state governments to do the same. “The government has a basic responsibility to keep the people in its care safe—not to use their punishment as an opportunity for profit,” she wrote in a Medium post . Warren’s plan also promises to regulate private companies’ services in prisons and eliminate service fees for prisoners using basic services like phone calls, bank transfers, and health care. This goes beyond what has become an increasingly common call for abolishing private prison management, and attacks the routine exploitation of disproportionately poor inmates and their families. Senator Bernie Sanders introduced the Justice Is Not for Sale Act back in 2015. In a plan not too divergent from Warren’s, the Sanders bill would have banned private prisons and increased oversight of private services operating in prisons...