Kalena Thomhave

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

Recent Articles

The SNAP Crisis at Farmers Markets Across the Country

SNAP benefits may not be accepted at many farmers markets this summer. If so, both farmers and low-income people will lose.

It’s a sunny Friday afternoon in the North Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh, where the North Side farmers market sets up each week. As shoppers mill about to music that’s wafting over from a nearby festival, a long line has formed at the tent operated by Just Harvest, a local anti-hunger nonprofit. Surrounded by a couple dozen vendors selling fresh produce, baked goods, cheeses, jams, and jellies, Just Harvest staff assist recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, previously called food stamps) so that they’ll be able to use their SNAP benefits to buy any fresh food item at the market. But farmers’ business at the North Side market and other such markets across Pittsburgh—and the thousands of SNAP participants that buy from them—are currently threatened by an Agriculture Department contracting decision. Because of a change in government contracting, a tech company whose software is used to process more than a third of SNAP...

Nebraska Voters Could Decide to Expand Medicaid

While many Republican governors have refused to expand Medicaid, some conservative-led states may have to resign themselves to letting direct democracy decide the question, thanks to the efforts of advocacy groups across the country. 

In Nebraska last week, advocacy group Insure the Good Life announced that it had received the number of required signatures for a November ballot initiative that will put it to the voters whether to expand access to Medicaid for 90,000 low-income Nebraskans. The group collected 133,000 signatures, almost 60 percent more than the approximately 85,000 necessary. Insure the Good Life is supported by several Nebraska groups, but is mostly funded by the Washington, D.C.-based Fairness Project, a group working to get Medicaid expansion on the ballot in states across the country. 

Similar efforts backed by the Fairness Project are underway in Idaho and Utah. Idaho, like Nebraska, still needs to validate petition signatures; the expansion measure will appear on the ballot in Utah this fall.

But even if a state’s voters decide to expand health care, that doesn’t mean the state government will necessarily respect the vote. In Maine, about 60 percent of voters elected to expand Medicaid, but Republican Governor Paul LePage is steadfastly refusing to allow the expansion—even in the face of a state judge’s order to stop stalling and to comply with the outcome of the popular vote.

While Nebraska Republican Governor Pete Ricketts’s re-election campaign spokesperson said that the expansion decision “ultimately rests with Nebraska voters,” the state legislature’s cooperation is even less certain. Medicaid expansion has failed repeatedly over the past six years in the Nebraska Legislature, and two Republican state senators have already sued to block the measure from appearing on the ballot.

The efforts to get Medicaid expansion on state ballots is an example of increased progressive grassroots action in conservative-led states, from canvassing for thousands of signatures to raising awareness about how expansion would bring federal dollars into Nebraska and provide health coverage to the poor.

Marea Bishop, an advocate for Insure the Good Life’s petition drive, wrote an op-ed in the Omaha World-Herald describing how her health condition keeps her from holding steady work and her own inability to afford health insurance. 

“Our communities can no longer wait while our Nebraska lawmakers fail to solve this public health problem,” she wrote. “We can do what our lawmakers have chosen not to do: to give our neighbors, our co-workers, our fellow Nebraskans a chance at a healthier life.”

How Justice Kennedy’s Retirement Could Lead to an Increase in Housing Discrimination

Kennedy was the swing vote on a case that affirmed the Fair Housing Act protects against discrimination even if it isn’t explicit.

trickle-downers_54.jpg Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement has pushed a number of significant issues to the forefront of discussion, since his more right-wing replacement could join the rest of the conservatives on the Court to overturn such landmark decisions as Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges . One case of particular importance on which Kennedy provided the swing vote involves curbing discrimination—even if it’s subtle discrimination—in housing policy. 2015’s Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. confirmed that the government can use “ disparate impact ” as means to prove discrimination in housing, which is how the Fair Housing Act had been interpreted since its inception in 1968. Disparate impact is the idea that discrimination can occur based on race or another protected class even if it’s not explicitly written into policy. For example, even if a policy itself is neutral,...

Could Pro-Choice Advocacy Sway Susan Collins?

Public pressure influenced the Maine Republican’s vote against repealing the ACA. Could that same pressure convince her to protect Roe v. Wade?

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Is it any surprise that soon after Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement announcement, the internet was flooded with discussion about Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska? These two senators, among the last Republican moderates now in office, consider themselves pro-choice. And since Justice Kennedy has been the swing conservative justice who has supported Roe v. Wade , his retirement means that Collins and Murkowski will be seeing a lot of pressure in the coming months after President “ I am putting pro-life justices on the court ” Trump nominates his pick to fill the court vacancy. Is there any chance that the pressure from pro-choice forces could at all be effective, particularly for Collins, who may be the likelier of the two to vote “no”? The evidence is not inspiring. Collins has a history of voting for Trump’s judicial appointments, including Justice Neil Gorsuch. And her spokesperson recently indicated that Collins...

The Idle Poor and the Idle Rich

Republicans attack the welfare system because they say the poor need to work, but they reduced the incentive of the rich to work by gutting the estate tax.

I N A SPEECH LAST NOVEMBER , before the GOP’s tax reform became law, President Trump told a crowd in Missouri, “I know people that work three jobs and they live next to somebody who doesn’t work at all. And the person who is not working at all and has no intention of working at all is making more money and doing better than the person that’s working his or her ass off.” This imaginary person next door, presumably, was living off of welfare benefits, and that’s why welfare reform was needed. But consider another person living off government benefits—in the form of tax breaks. That person may not work much, or not at all, but typically has far more money than someone working three jobs. As much as Trump and the Republicans malign the much-exaggerated idle poor, their tax reform is a major boost for the idle rich . Those who benefit from inherited wealth need not do anything to earn their windfall—just be born into the right family. People...