Jacobs runs for Senate
Mark Jacobs is a retired CEO who worked at a power company, and he believes his business background is what Iowa voters are looking for when they elect a new senator in 2014.
Jacobs is running as a Republican to replace outgoing Democratic Senator Tom Harkin, who has served in the Senate since 1985. Jacobs has never held political office before, and was most recently employed in Houston as the CEO of Reliant Energy. Upon retiring a few years ago, he moved back to Iowa to be with his extended family.
Soon after moving back Jacobs founded a nonprofit organization called “Reaching Higher Iowa” to raise awareness of the need for improvement in Iowa public education. Last spring, Jacobs came out of retirement briefly to teach a business strategy class to graduating seniors at Iowa State Uni-versity.
Jacobs said Iowans are looking for an outsider who has a track record of getting things done.
“I’ve heard from people all over the state that there is a yearning for a fresh perspective,” he said. “People are frustrated with the dysfunction in Washington. They’re fed-up with false choices between keeping the government open and reforming health care, or between reaffirming the full faith and credit of our government and enacting sensible spending reductions.”
One of the things he is focusing on in the campaign is creating better job opportunities in the state. He is particularly interested in creating jobs while making the country energy independent.
“Increased energy production in North America can add thousands of new jobs,” he said. “It can help keep energy prices low, which promotes growth in other sectors.”
Jacobs hopes to open more federal lands and waters to business exploration. He said technology has come such a long way in recent decades that companies are able to extract resources in an environmentally responsible manner.
The senatorial candidate said he was in favor of some government support for ethanol, but did not think the subsidies for it should be renewed.
“I’m a big supporter of renewable energy, and ethanol is an important part of that,” he said. “I support opening new markets for ethanol. It’s a great example of a technology that received help to get started but has now been weaned off from subsidies. It’s a technology that stands on its own today.”
Jacobs said all energies must some day stand on their own. He said he did not think the ethanol industry needed its subsidy anymore since it is able to compete against the petroleum industry without it.
He does support the mandatory ethanol blend in gasoline on the grounds it gives ethanol fair market access.
“The problem we have is the petroleum industry controls a lot of the distribution channels where you buy your gas, and they would rather not sell a competing product unless they were forced.”
On the issue of health care, he said the government should focus on controlling costs. He thought the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare,” needed to be scrapped and for the Senate and House to come up with a totally different plan.
“Obamacare is hurting families,” he said. “It has caused reduced work hours, lost wages and higher employee contributions. In some cases, it has resulted in the outright cancellation of policies.”
Jacobs said he agrees with the notion that all Americans should have access to affordable health care, including those with pre-existing conditions. However, he said it does not address the problem of rising health care costs.
“It doubles down on the idea that we’re going to use the government to force insurance companies to negotiate reimbursement rates with providers,” he said. “That hasn’t worked and it’s why we’ve seen the cost escalation in health care. What we need to do is tackle costs at the provider level, and we can do that by introducing consumer choice and price transparency, which is used in other industries such as telecommunications.”
Jacobs has stressed the importance of vocational training for young people. He said 81 percent of the jobs in the state require post-secondary education. In many cases, businesses are offering positions they can’t fill because they can’t find the workers with the appropriate skill-set.
He recently toured a manufacturing plant in Bettendorf that was offering welding jobs for $30 an hour and still couldn’t find people to fill those positions.
“In my experience running Reliant Energy, we struggled to find skilled labor for good-paying jobs,” he said. “We need to make sure the vocational schools have the tools they need to train the workforce of the future. We should support individuals who want to better themselves to gain a better job.”