Kalena Thomhave

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

Recent Articles

Why Scott Walker’s Welfare Legacy Will Outlast Him

Although Walker was ousted from the governorship by progressive Tony Evers, the state legislature has ensured that Wisconsin will remain a model for abusing the poor.

Democrat Tony Evers was sworn in as the new governor of Wisconsin last week, after he bested Republican incumbent Scott Walker in November’s election. But thanks to an extraordinary session of Wisconsin’s lame-duck Republican legislature last month, Evers will likely have his hands tied if he’d like to pull back some of Walker’s most pernicious reforms, those targeting low-income people and their benefits, such as food assistance and health coverage. Preserving Walker’s welfare legacy was a priority when the state legislature met in early December. As the media widely reported, legislators quickly voted to limit the power of the newly Democratic executive branch, but the details of these post-election laws signed by Walker foretell a difficult future for public assistance programs in the state. In consequence, Wisconsin, even under Evers, will continue to be a “model” for welfare reform, as the state has been for decades. Under Republican...

Reproductive Rights at Risk With or Without Roe

In much of the country, access to abortion has already been blocked by state governments, especially for women in poverty. And if Roe goes, access will be scarcer still. 

This article appears in the Winter 2019 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . Recent discussions of abortion rights have been understandably chock-full of apocalyptic imagery and language. Some protesters at the U.S. Capitol in the Trump era have dressed as handmaids à la The Handmaid’s Tale , Margaret Atwood’s story of an ultra-conservative totalitarian government that compels women to have the children of the wealthy and powerful. After Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court, many—on both the left and right—assumed that Roe v. Wade was soon to fall. “ Roe v. Wade is doomed,”CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin pronounced last June to much media fanfare. But is the apocalypse that will befall us if Roe is overturned the only thing we should be focusing on? Or are we already there in many parts of the country, where access to abortion has been heavily curtailed? The dark forecasts may certainly be borne out. The future...

Who Cares for the Care Workers?

Care workers in the South—disproportionately black women—face limited worker protections and difficult working conditions. But they’re organizing to challenge that legacy.

The care worker’s lot is not an easy one. A typical care worker, says Priscilla Smith, a certified nursing assistant in Durham, North Carolina, must “hop from company to company just to make ends meet,” which generally includes caring for a handful of clients. “If you [care for] someone with a general disability, you may get an hour or two hours of work [a day] at the most, so then you have to find someone else,” she says. “And nine times out of 10 that person is not located in the same part of town [as the other], so it’s hard to make 40 hours [a week].” The absence of adequate worker protections means that care workers may also have to “deal with the disrespect of the family [or] disrespect of the patient,” Smith relates. She has scrubbed baseboards and cleaned ovens because families of patients tell her to, though it’s not in her job duties. If she refuses, however, “they’ll tell you, ‘we can...

Failing to Restrict Food Stamps in the Farm Bill, Trump Takes Another Route

“If at first you don’t succeed, try a less democratic option.”

Two years into this administration, of this we can be certain: When the president doesn’t get what he wants—legislative wins in, say, immigration or health care —he will turn toward other means to ram his agenda through. Consider the case of food stamps. When the farm bill finally passed both the House and Senate last week, the final bill left out House Republicans’ work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly called food stamps), which would have endangered food assistance for millions of people. Not surprisingly, this was a favored provision for President Trump. When the House and Senate meet on the very important Farm Bill – we love our farmers - hopefully they will be able to leave the WORK REQUIREMENTS FOR FOOD STAMPS PROVISION that the House approved. Senate should go to 51 votes! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 2, 2018 The farm bill, instead of, as Trump tweeted, “leav[ing] the WORK...

Work Requirements in Farm Bill Are Off the Table

This week, the House and Senate finally came to an agreement on the farm bill, the legislation that authorizes farm subsidies as well as nutrition programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps. While the previous bill had expired in September, lawmakers came to an impasse over whether to sharply limit food stamp eligibility. In a victory for low-income Americans, the final version contained no such provision. Passing the farm bill, generally a bipartisan endeavor, had hit roadblocks as House Republicans attempted to attach stringent work requirements to SNAP that would have threatened benefits for more than two million low-income people. The Senate version contained no such requirements. The conference committee charged with resolving the two versions released the compromise bill on Monday—and work requirements were not included, in part thanks to the “blue wave” that stripped House Republicans of their bargaining...