Could have supported interest deduction cap

Could have supported interest deduction cap

Gazette Column
One piece of the Trump administration and U.S. House Republican proposed federal tax overhaul I agreed with appears to have already fallen amid an onslaught of the lobbyist horde. The White House budget proposal called for a lowered cap on the home mortgage interest deduction. House Republicans agreed and included the lesser cap in their proposal alongside a requirement that the deduction be limited to primary residences. Members of the Senate were immediately confronted by real estate lobbyists, so the lowered cap, estimated to produce up to $300 billion in revenue during the next decade, is not part of the smaller chamber’s plan. Before any readers choke on their Saturday morning coffee, let me explain that I’m not completely against the mortgage interest deduction, or the type of behavior it’s intended…
Read More
Education can boost economy

Education can boost economy

Gazette Column
Too many college students experience homelessness, food insecurity There’s a reason food banks have been established at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and more than 500 other college campuses since 2010. Student hunger. Last month researchers and policymakers met for a second annual “Real College” conference, which focused on college food and housing insecurity. They came to discuss disturbing trends outlined in a March 2017 report, “Hungry and Homeless in College,” and explore possible solutions. The report was a much more robust offering of findings first outlined in December 2015 as part of “Hungry to Learn.” Both reports are from Wisconsin Hope Lab, the nation’s only translational research lab seeking ways to make college affordable. It was founded by Sara Goldrick-Rab, currently a professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University. “Since 2008,…
Read More
Iowa must raise the bar for immigrant families

Iowa must raise the bar for immigrant families

Gazette Column
A new national report makes clear that children of color and children living in immigrant families face persistent challenges that Iowa and other states aren’t adequately addressing. The report, “2017 Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children,” was released last week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. It details how such challenges are creating opportunity gaps, especially for African-American and Latino children in Iowa. “Iowans are used to seeing their state appear high in national rankings. But the reality is that Iowa’s environment for children — for children in every racial and ethnic group — is at best in the middle of the pack,” said Anne Discher, interim executive director of the Child and Family Policy Center, which supports the Casey Foundation’s Kids Count initiative in Iowa. “For…
Read More
Hopeful past presidents speak out

Hopeful past presidents speak out

Gazette Column
President George W. Bush set down his paintbrushes this week to issue a very public assessment of U.S. politics. Let’s hope everyone was listening. “Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them,” Bush said at the George W. Bush Institute in New York City on Thursday. I doubt I would have believed anyone who told me back in 2003 that I’d one day praise Bush for his eloquence at the podium, but here we are. The sins of a few garbled idioms or made-up words pale in comparison to what Bush calls out as “casual cruelty” and “outright fabrication.”…
Read More
Food is critical part of academic achievement

Food is critical part of academic achievement

Gazette Column
Researchers have long highlighted links between academic achievement and food, noting that hunger eventually manifests as cognitive issues. Newer studies show such negative outcomes aren’t problems that appear years down the road. Hunger negatively impacts a child’s ability to learn and achieve, increases the likelihood of behavioral issues and slows development of social skills. Multiple studies indicate hungry children grow into adults who are less likely to reach their full potential. It’s why the nation invests in nutritious school meals and provides food assistance to the most vulnerable. It’s also why communities support food pantries and other food programs to bridge local gaps. But a newer study completed by scholars at the University of South Carolina and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh shows the detrimental effects of hunger are not only devastating, but…
Read More
Suggestions go beyond Appalachia

Suggestions go beyond Appalachia

Gazette Column
Economic recommendations for Appalachia unveiled by a nonprofit and four U.S. senators this week could benefit the whole of rural America, if they garner a champion. The Appalachian region includes all of West Virginia and portions of 12 more states, spanning from upper Mississippi to lower New York. It’s generally an area that’s coping with multiple and nuanced economic and cultural issues including shifting workforce priorities and the opioid epidemic. In May the nonprofit Bipartisan Policy Center began work with U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA), David Perdue (R-GA), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) to establish a task force to develop recommendations for overcoming economic strife and isolation in four topic areas: education and workforce, entrepreneurship and job creation, energy and infrastructure, and rural health. On Wednesday the group…
Read More
American culture, not Congress, is changing

American culture, not Congress, is changing

Gazette Column
New cultural research shows bumpy paths forward for both dominant political parties and better explains why economics wasn’t the sole booster of Donald Trump’s rise to the White House. It also proves most Americans are right: Washington, D.C., and state legislatures are out of step with their constituents, just not for the reasons many think. The 2016 American Values Atlas, an annual survey conducted by Public Religion Research Institute, was released last week with some very interesting findings on America’s shifting culture. A few key points: • The share of Americans who identify as white and Christian no longer constitutes a national majority. • White Christians now make up only 43 percent of the U.S. population, a steep decline from four decades ago when the demographic was at 80 percent. •…
Read More
Parallel messaging gave GOP Statehouse control

Parallel messaging gave GOP Statehouse control

Gazette Column
Have casual conversations with Iowans and a pattern emerges of the ways the national 2016 election narrative did and did not apply to the Statehouse. Since November I’ve been quietly talking to people around Iowa. I’ve reached out to farmers and small town residents I met during research on rural communities, as well as urban dwellers I met through discussions on public transit and affordable housing. As a general rule these aren’t folks who’d be labeled as political activists. That is, they vote, but don’t shake signs outside Congressional offices or hold court with the county central committee. They live in the present, focused on taking their kids to activities, worried about their mortgage and expending energy on careers or higher education. Nearly all political nuance is lost on them.…
Read More
Disability isn’t so easy, even for the desperate

Disability isn’t so easy, even for the desperate

Gazette Blog
As much as I need to stop thinking about the Washington Post story on Social Security disability benefits reprinted in The Gazette on Sunday, I’m having trouble letting it go. As the youngest child of elderly parents — my mother went to the doctor for concerns about menopause only to discover she was pregnant with me — I grew up on Social Security dependent benefits. So, in addition to my parents’ Social Security retirement checks, our family received a little more than $200 each month earmarked for me. In order to better make ends meet, my father and mother worked odd jobs. Until bone cancer made it impossible, my mother took in sewing projects. My dad mowed lawns and did handyman or mechanic work when he could find it. During…
Read More
Jobs and housing go hand-in-hand

Jobs and housing go hand-in-hand

Gazette Column
Two news items caught my eye last week — one a human interest piece, the other a business announcement. Yet at their heart, they pointed to the same need. Gazette business reporter George C. Ford detailed plans by an Alliant Energy subsidiary to launch a 1,300-acre mega commercial and industrial park near The Eastern Iowa Airport. The development, made possible by an agreement to sell family farm lands, would benefit from the state’s first certified super park development, also nearby and being developed by the airport, and a first-of-its-kind freight and logistics hub planned by the Iowa Department of Transportation. The mega park known as Big Cedar, the transportation hub and complementary super park received praise from state officials, who dubbed the projects as critical economic drivers for the region…
Read More