Economic justice for all


John Cooper saw a woman get out of her car before Thanksgiving and head toward McAnthony Window Food Pantry at St. Anthony Parish in Davenport where he works as pastoral associate and business manager. He offered the woman a turkey, one of 70 birds someone generously donated to McAnthony Window, which provides food for the hungry. She looked at John and said, “I just lost my job and my family is dealing with illness. I have never come to a food pantry before. My kids and I were praying last night for our having enough food to celebrate Thanksgiving. This turkey is an answer to prayer.”

Her family struggled to make ends meet because of a perfect storm of misfortune. Cooper shared this story in the parish’s e-newsletter on Jan. 14 after the donor of the turkeys, a young man who wanted to help people in need, donated more meat. Three days earlier, on Jan. 11, Gov. Kim Reynolds delivered her Condition of the State Address to the Iowa General Assembly. She proposes a 4% flat-rate state income tax, implemented gradually over four years; tighter restrictions on the state’s safety net, such as lowering unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 16 weeks; and adding a new asset test for food stamp benefits. She, along with majority leadership in the Legislature, hope the tighter rules will improve the state’s worker shortage.

“There are many reasons for the worker shortage, but we need to recognize that, in some cases, it’s because the government has taken away the need or desire to work. The safety net has become a hammock,” Gov. Reynolds said.

Among the proposed bills to tighten requirements is HSB 508, which would require an asset test more restrictive than the state’s current system for determining eligibility for food stamps. Someone with meager savings ($2,500 maximum), or who lives in a household with more than one vehicle ($4,650), could become ineligible for food stamps. “This legislation would impose additional barriers and hurdles for Iowans seeking food assistance and exclude Iowans from receiving SNAP (food stamps) while their hunger persists,” says Natalie Veldhouse, policy advocate for Common Good Iowa.


The Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) opposes HSB 508 because “it changes the status quo in Iowa by eliminating ‘categorical eligibility,’ and putting in a new asset test that is set very low. Most people need a car to get to work, particularly in rural areas, and we want all people to work,” says Tom Chapman, the ICC’s executive director.

Imposing new penalties for people thrown out of work is counterproductive. We need to make work pay. “Progress on child-care assistance for a small number of families last session needs a strong follow-up to increase access to more families so they can afford to take jobs that, absent the aid, will not pay enough,” says Mike Owen, deputy director of Common Good Iowa.

Our state has a $1.2 billion surplus and nearly $1 billion in reserve funds, due in part to federal pandemic funds. Some of that excess should go toward services and programs that give hope and sustenance to families like the woman who turned to McAnthony Window for her hungry family.

Iowa’s Catholic bishops have identified two basic moral principles that should govern collection and distribution of taxes:

• Practice distributive justice wisely, so that all people can share in the benefits of life in society, for example, education, protection of the environment and defense. Give special concern to the poor and vulnerable who cannot provide themselves with what they need to live in dignity.

• Practice contributive justice. Taxpayers cooperate with the government to contribute to the common good by paying their fair share of taxes. A just and equitable system of taxation ensures that everyone contributes to society according to his or her ability to pay.

We ought to ask ourselves:

• How would the legislation affect low-income wage earners and the state’s ability to help care for the poor?

• How would it raise adequate revenue to protect the common good?

• How would it help strengthen families?

• How does the state earned income tax credit affect what lower-income wage earners pay?

We are all children of the same God called to meet our collective family’s needs. Take action by:

• Contacting your legislator if you feel strongly about an issue. The easiest way to do that is to put in your address at You can email a message directly from there.

• Making financial contributions to your local food pantry. Pantries are able to buy food very cheaply through food banks, so your dollar goes much further.

• Engaging in legislative policy advocacy that affects SNAP and food-insecure Iowans by joining the Iowa Hunger Coalition’s newsletter ( The IHC sends out action alerts that detail current bills, talking points and contact information for legislators. IHC will hold a virtual Day of Action on Feb. 9.

• Praying for the Iowa Legislature to make decisions that benefit the common good.

• Practicing gratitude, like Timothy Havenhill, the McAnthony Window donor who says, “It is up to those who make it to help others make it.”

Barb Arland-Fye, Editor

Support The Catholic Messenger’s mission to inform, educate and inspire the faithful of the Diocese of Davenport – and beyond! Subscribe to the print and/or e-edition, or make a one-time donation, today!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted on