Kalena Thomhave

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

Recent Articles

Q&A: Sometimes Bureaucracy Is Intentionally Complex

Most people hate filling out complex forms and have trouble figuring out complicated government regulations. Conservatives use this to their advantage—and progressives should too.

screen_shot_2019-02-13_at_2.21.06_pm.png I t’s a universal experience, having to fill out a long and complicated government form. You may have to pay fees to have that form processed or notarized. Too late, you might realize you actually filled out the wrong document. Missing a deadline, the fear of the consequences, and the endless worry compound your stress. Public policy scholars Pamela Herd and Donald P. Moynihan call these experiences and other encounters with rules, regulations, and the bureaucrats who enforce them “administrative burdens.” Using everyday examples like paying taxes and accessing social welfare programs, their new book , Administrative Burden: Policymaking by Other Means , describes the administrative burdens that affect our lives in more ways than we realize, and how politicians can exploit these burdens to subtly and effectively make policy when their legislative attempts fail. Yet there are popular U.S. policies and programs that place few...

Amazon Is Giving Up on New York, and Activists in Nashville and Northern Virginia Are Energized

Like their New York counterparts, organizers in other potential sites of Amazon expansion want a more democratic process that produces more equitable growth.

trickle-downers_54.jpg Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is giving up his helipad—at least, the one planned for New York City. In a stunning move announced Thursday, Amazon is pulling out of its deal to build a second headquarters in New York, as “a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project,” the corporate giant said in a statement. Amazon was to receive roughly $3 billion in tax subsidies in an opaque deal that was approved without input from local residents and local politicians (other than Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill DeBlasio). Amazon’s contest for its second headquarters, which had cities throwing money at the company, resulted in Amazon splitting its decision and choosing two well-established cities on the East Coast, Crystal City (a suburb of Washington, D.C.) and Long Island City, Queens. The company also...

Thanks to Trump, Payday Lenders Will Keep on Merrily Bilking the Poor

The government shutdown reminded us that millions of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck—which payday lenders will only continue to exploit if the CFPB has its way.

trickle-downers_54.jpg The cycle of the payday loan is a well-known horror story. A person needs money, and they need it fast, so they visit a payday lender with names like EZ Cash or Cash Express. They get their money on the spot. The trouble comes later, when it’s time to repay the loan. Most borrowers default on that small-dollar loan, which is how EZ Cash profits—as the loan is renewed or rolled over and the fees rack up. One of the last regulations published under President Obama’s director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Richard Cordray, was a 2017 rule that would have curbed the most-egregious forms of payday lending. The Trump administration on Wednesday proposed to revise that rule—aiming to gut a powerful provision designed to protect borrowers. The oft-cited statistic that the average American doesn’t have the means to come up with $400 in an emergency was thrown into sharp relief over the past month, as federal workers...

Building Worker Solidarity Across Borders

An American company is busting a call center workers’ union in the Philippines, so the U.S. union of call center workers is helping them out.

If you make a call to a customer service agency, say, because you’re having problems with your service provider—Comcast, perhaps, or AT&T—there’s a good chance you’ll be connected to a call center worker in the Philippines. You might not realize the worker is in the Philippines, and you likely don’t know that the Philippines has the largest number of call centers in the world, having taken the mantle from India in 2011. There are actually more than one million call center workers in the Philippines, whose jobs exist because of a complicated web of global outsourcing and offshoring which benefits the bottom lines of multinational corporations. And if you are indeed talking with a Filipino worker, there is also a chance that, on the other end of the line, beyond the headset and the cubicle, workers are organizing to challenge some of the symptoms—low pay, union busting, bad working conditions—of this system of global capitalism. AFTER...

February Food Stamps Are Here Early—That’s Good News and Bad News

It’s not clear that anything is coming any time soon after that. 

The effects of the government shutdown are spreading to affect people beyond the federal workers and contractors who have not been paid for nearly a month. Recently, there was serious concern that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly known as food stamps) benefits wouldn’t be issued for the month of February if the shutdown continued. Some governmental tinkering with appropriation funds has seemed to solve this problem, and most people who receive SNAP across the country received their February benefits early—around January 20. A sigh of relief. “Our motto here at USDA has been to ‘Do Right and Feed Everyone.’ With this solution, we’ve got the ‘Feed Everyone’ part handled,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement . Yet, though people will be able to access their February benefits, there is another shutdown-related domino that could easily topple, and that’s that these benefits are meant to...