Nothing to love about food deserts

Nothing to love about food deserts

Gazette Column
Trump administration budget aims to slash SNAP by $213 billion It’s Valentine’s Day, and I hoped to write a column appropriate for a love and indulgence holiday, however contrived. But that’s mentally difficult when new Trump administration proposals promote food deserts and scarcity. On Monday, the administration announced its plan to slash food assistance for low-income families and replace it with a “Blue Apron-type program.” “What we do is propose that for folks who are on food stamps, part — not all, part — of their benefits come in the actual sort of, and I don’t want to steal somebody’s copyright, but a Blue Apron-type program where you actually receive the food instead of receive the cash,” said Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney during a policy briefing. The Trump administration plans to cut…
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Lawmakers hope to buy votes with your tax dollars

Lawmakers hope to buy votes with your tax dollars

Gazette Column
How will it cost taxpayers if the Iowa Legislature approves, and Gov. Kim Reynolds signs, a bill targeting so-called sanctuary communities? Let’s count the ways. The bill, Senate File 481, earned 32 votes and a nod of approval in the Iowa Senate last year. This week, it received a 2-1 vote in a House Public Safety subcommittee — despite law enforcement officials from across the state lobbying and speaking against it. The proposal must still advance through the full committee before it can be brought to the House floor. If approved by the Iowa House without any changes to what the Senate approved last year, it would be sent to the Governor’s Office where it could be signed into law. On Thursday night, the Reynolds-Gregg campaign used the bill as a fundraising plea, falsely…
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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…
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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,…
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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…
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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.”…
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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…
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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…
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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. •…
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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.…
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