Kalena Thomhave

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

Recent Articles

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...

Confronting Politicians with the Reality of Poverty

The Poor People’s Campaign gathered this week in Washington, demanding change from both presidential candidates and members of Congress.

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images
In the gym on the campus of Washington, D.C.’s Trinity Washington University, with bleachers pushed to the side to make room for more than 1,000 attendees, a banner hung from the balcony reading, “Fight poverty, not the poor.” Just outside, more banners and posters, declaring the immorality of poverty, papered the walls of the lobby. This was the setting for the three-day Moral Action Congress of the Poor People’s Campaign, which opened Monday with nine Democratic presidential candidates discussing their plans to address economic inequality, and ended Wednesday as a handful of leaders from the Campaign addressed the House Budget Committee in a hearing on poverty in the United States. Also on Monday, the Campaign released a “moral budget,” published in partnership with the Institute for Policy Studies, which spells out how the federal government would pay for their demands, which include a higher minimum wage and investments in social welfare...

Benefits on the Line

The Trump administration has proposed to adjust how we measure poverty, in an ill-disguised attempt to cut benefit levels.

This article appears in the Summer 2019 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . Detroit resident Walter Travier-EL just got out of prison after serving 48 years. He wants a job, but the state is having issues helping him secure a state ID and a new Social Security card—his old one is long lost. For now, Travier-EL survives on Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly called food stamps), and Medicare. But it’s not enough. Travier-EL wants a chance to improve himself: some savings to put away for a house one day, or some money to help him secure a car, to get to the jobs he’s been offered but so far can’t accept. At the very least, he wants independence. “I was looking for the standard of living, so I can be a taxpayer and not [reliant] on the state,” he tells me. “If you’re going to give me a chance, give me the standard of living.” Those living on the edge...