Common Good Iowa

Meet needs -- not whims of rich and powerful

Posted on November 7, 2023 at 3:00 PM by Anne Discher

This is a pivotal time. We’re less than two weeks away from a potential government shutdown. We averted the last potential shutdown just hours before an October 1 deadline, when Congress approved a temporary funding bill.

That funding bill is set to expire on November 17.

So we’re hurtling toward another big deadline. Congressional leaders will need to get a comprehensive spending deal assembled and passed by both chambers — honestly a virtual impossibility at this point — or they will need to approve another temporary spending bill, a Continuing Resolution, to avoid a shutdown. 

Many majority House members are clear about their ultimate aims: big cuts to programs for low-wage households, to Medicaid and ACA Marketplace tax credits that help people get needed health care, and to SNAP, which helps families put food on the table.

The new Speaker says said he wants to establish a “Debt Commission,” which should be understood as a strategy to lay the groundwork for cutting Social Security and Medicare.

Behind the impetus for cuts like these is the desire for new and extended tax cuts favoring the highest earners, who benefited from extraordinary tax cuts during the Trump administration.

This comes at a time of real emergency needs. One is WIC, the Women, Infants and Children program that provides nutrition assistance to pregnant and postpartum women, infants, toddlers and preschoolers. It helps low-wage parents buy formula for their babies.

Because of increased demand and higher food costs, right now WIC faces a major funding shortfall. Without federal action — and action now, not whenever we get a final spending bill — a lot of states are going to have to start turning away pregnant and postpartum women and children. We need WIC funding in the next Continuing Resolution.

Second is child care. Federal pandemic child care aid, which was part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), expired in September. Iowa and other states used those funds to bring needed stability to our child care system. Although the pandemic was especially tough, we know the challenges families face finding and affording child care predate the pandemic. The loss of that ARPA aid puts us in a scary spot. Congress needs to pass $16 billion a year in emergency child care funding to help families afford care and keep providers in business.

We are carefully watching the federal funding debate — in the short and long term — because the stakes are high. To cite just a few examples:

  • One in 7 Iowa families with a full-time worker — over 100,000 families — do not earn enough to meet even a bare-bones family budget on their wages alone.
  • In September, more than 1 in 10 Iowa households reported that they sometimes or often not did not have enough to eat in preceding week.
  • Our nursing homes, hospitals and child care centers are stretched, and, in many rural communities, struggle and sometimes fail to keep their doors open.

A lot of the cut-cut-cut agenda in Washington (and over at the State Capitol) is based in the false idea that expanding opportunities for our nation’s children, families and workers is just too expensive — that we are so strapped that if you win, it means I must lose.

Iowans must challenge this false premise of scarcity, meant to keep us competing with each other instead of pushing for long-term, sustainable solutions.

The fact is we have the resources we need to meet our needs. We can improve our lives, the lives of our neighbors, our children – but only if our leaders have the will to focus on our common needs and aspirations, not lining the pockets of their powerful friends.


Anne Discher is executive director of Common Good Iowa

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