Views from across Iowa
The Hawk Eye, Oct. 20
We expect better Let’s hope Congress doesn’t put us on the brink of default again.
Let’s not go through this again.
The partial shutdown of the federal government could have been avoided, save for some extremists who used the budget deadline as a last-ditch effort to stall the Affordable Care Act.
But the health-insurance bill is the law of the land. If Congress wants to do away with it, or modify it, it should do so through the legislative process. Get enough votes to enact the legislation supporters want.
To furlough federal workers and strip services to the American people to make a point that you’re opposed to the other side’s agenda is the wrong approach.
Did House tea party members really think shutting down the government and pushing the nation to the edge of default on its financial obligations was going to force the majority Democrats in the Senate to rescind President Barack Obama’s signature accomplishment?
In the end, they realized it was a futile effort and did the right thing by reopening the government, paying the furloughed workers for the time they were forced from their jobs and raising the debt ceiling to make sure the government could pay its bills.
Our guess is there will be negative ramifications at the ballot box next year for those who tried to hold the government hostage and bring it to the brink of default because they don’t like the health care law.
The American people expect better performance from those we send to Washington — and Des Moines, for that matter — than what we witnessed the past few weeks.
We shouldn’t have to go through this again.
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The Des Moines Register, Oct. 19
No medals for Iowans in shutdown, debt war
Few profiles in courage will be written about members of Congress following the battle over the government shutdown and raising the debt ceiling.
That includes Iowa’s delegation.
Iowans in the House either were sitting on the sidelines or fanning the flames. Iowa’s two senators seemed content to let others fashion the deal that ultimately was accepted.
Three members of Congress from Iowa deserve special mention for their roles in what should be considered a low point in American government.
Sen. Chuck Grassley: Evolving from maverick to extremist?
There was a time when Sen. Chuck Grassley was widely considered a maverick. Not so much anymore. He was one of only 18 senators to vote this week against a bill to reopen government and prevent the country from defaulting on its debt. A conference call with reporters provided some insight into why: He didn’t think it would do great damage to the economy or the nation’s creditworthiness if the deadline was missed to raise the debt ceiling.
What were scores of economists, Iowa business leaders and even other Republicans so worried about this week? Apparently Congress should have simply ignored the warning from Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, who recently told members that investors refusing to lend money to the government could “undermine financial markets and result in significant disruptions to our economy.”
The U.S. government actually hit the debt ceiling in May and has used accounting acrobatics to remain below the limit since then, but Grassley said there was plenty of extra money to pay the bills if Congress didn’t act by Thursday’s deadline. In fact, it’s just not that big of a deal if some bills aren’t paid, according to the senator.
“If the definition of default is not paying your interest on the national debt, it seems to me that it’s just a matter of prioritizing,” Grassley said. “Pay the interest on the national debt, pay a lot of other things common sense says you need to pay, and then 20 percent you won’t be able to fund.”
Well what 20 percent did Grassley think it’s OK not to fund? Perhaps Social Security checks to seniors or Medicare reimbursements to doctors. Perhaps the government doesn’t need to pay investors who bought “risk free” Treasury bonds that are supposed to be the bedrock of not only the American economy, but the entire global financial system.
Instead of a maverick, it seems Iowa’s senior senator is joining the extremists.
Rep. Steve King: Burn down the barn to roast (Obamacare) pig
It’s hardly a surprise Rep. Steve King voted against legislation to end the federal government shutdown and allow the country to pay its bills. Unfortunately, it also isn’t a surprise the Republican from Kiron plans to waste more time opposing a health reform law that has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and is being implemented in every state.
“This battle is not indicative of the entire war, and I intend to continue my efforts to repeal Obamacare,” he told Radio Iowa following the passage of the debt legislation.
In other words, Iowans should expect more of the same from King. He apparently considers himself a warrior in a battle to accomplish the heroic feat of taking health insurance from Iowans. That includes the many located in his congressional district already benefiting from the law.
As King crafts his campaign for next year’s election, he should consider some new slogans to encompass his values. Perhaps “Vote for me and I’ll work to get you uninsured” or “Let me keep my government job so I can bash the government” or “Send me back to Washington so I can continue to embarrass Iowa.”
It’s been several years since the Register’s editorial board acknowledged its mistake in endorsing King for Congress. It’s time for Iowans in the 4th District to acknowledge the mistake of continuing to vote for him and refuse to do so in November 2014.
It is clear he has no intention of being a serious lawmaker who represents Iowa or works to improve the country.
Rep. Tom Latham: Too little, too late.
Iowans haven’t heard a lot about Rep. Tom Latham during his first nine terms in office. He didn’t go on talk radio to bad-mouth immigrants or accuse President Obama of trying to “pull the plug on Grandma” with the health care reform law. But his cautious conservatism means he hasn’t been a vocal advocate of working across the aisle on significant legislation.
Latham coasted to re-election every two years until redistricting threw him into the same district with Steve King. So he moved to Clive, defeated veteran Democrat Leonard Boswell and now represents a district closely divided by party registrations that was also carried by President Obama.
Recognizing the political makeup of his new district, Latham pledged to represent “all Iowans in the district.”
Apparently he didn’t mean poor Iowans or uninsured Iowans, considering his votes the past year on everything from food stamps to health care.
But on Wednesday night, he broke ranks with Rep. Steve King and sided with his friend, House Speaker John Boehner, to cast a vote ending the government shutdown and temporarily raising the debt limit.
That vote was a choice between “the lesser of two evils,” which he characterized as irresponsible default versus “the fatal shortcomings” of the Affordable Care Act. Though Latham ultimately came to the right choice, it was late in coming.
Had Latham stepped up and called on his fellow Republican moderates to ignore the unreasonable demands of a small group of GOP extremists, the shutdown and debt ceiling cliffhanger might have been averted.
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The Messenger, Oct. 17
This doesn’t make sense
No one ought to go through the devastation suffered by hundreds of thousands of people in the Gulf States when Hurricane Katrina hit there in August 2005. Most Americans were happy to see their tax money go to help those who lost belongings, homes and businesses in the storm.
But there ought to be a limit – and, call us cynical if you like – it probably should be something less than eight years.
About $872 million in federal funding meant to help residents of Mississippi recover from Katrina has yet to be spent, The Associated Press reported. And about one-fourth of the funding is earmarked not for recovery, but for economic development. Some of it is to be spent many miles away from the hurricane destruction zone.
One $8 million project is a new parking garage near the Mississippi State University football stadium - more than 200 miles from the gulf coast.
Mississippi officials maintain economic development will create jobs for some Katrina victims. They and officials in other states hit by disasters add that it sometimes takes time to plan and implement such projects.
But eight years? One-fourth of the money to economic development? Some of it to make life easier for university football fans far from the disaster zone?
Clearly, federal officials and members of Congress need to take another look at how disaster relief money is handed out.
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Quad-City Times, Oct. 16
World Food Prize courts controversy
Organizers of the World Food Prize not only invited controversy to the annual Des Moines event last week; they gave it a place of honor at the head table.
The 26th annual prize was awarded to a trio of genetic engineering researchers credited with improving worldwide food production by altering genetic qualities that improve crop disease and insect resistance.
Along with the award came a week of seminars and forums intended to bring a torrid discussion of genetically modified food to our nation’s most productive grain-producing state.
On Monday, the sides squared off at a Des Moines Register-sponsored forum. Iowa State professor Gary Munkvold defended GMO crops for production and economic gains. Steven Druker, representing the Alliance for Bio-Integrity, condemned the same crops for presenting a potential health threat to humans. “They should all be taken off the shelves,” he said.
The prize was founded by 1970 Nobel Prize winner Norman E. Borlaug, a Cresco native who combined his Iowa farm experience with graduate research in plant pathology to increase ag productivity worldwide
We commend World Food Prize organizers for bringing this debate home to Iowa, home of essential research, related ag industry and thousands of farmers for whom this debate is not rhetorical. The GMO debate is as much about market manipulation as it is about science and nutrition. This year’s recognition of genetic scientists assured controversy and Prize organizers didn’t shy away.
They invited GMO opponents into the discussion, knowing that meant a showdown. Those opponents responded ardently, with a week of protests and vigils by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and its Occupy the World Food Prize strategy.
That strategy unabashedly links world hunger relief to commercial food production. In addition to honoring the geneticists, the group bestowed its Field Research prize to Kenyan scientist Dr. Charity Kawira Mutegi, whose work curbed fatal grain contaminants in her home country.
Only in Iowa at the World Food Prize would African farmers sit on a panel with the CEO of Dupont to discuss global food security.
By courting controversy and encouraging collaboration, the World Food Prize keeps Iowa at the center of global food debates, assuring that one of the world’s chief food producers also can serve as its conscience.