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Recent editorials published in Iowa newspapers

March 18, 2019

Des Moines Register. March 15, 2019

Trump keeps conning Iowa republicans. His budget is only the latest proof.

Iowa Republicans, you were duped by Donald Trump. Flimflammed. Bamboozled.

You should have known it early in 2017 when Trump stocked his Cabinet with anti-ethanol crusaders who did their best to water down government support for Iowa-grown green energy. The administration’s game of hide-and-seek with the Renewable Fuel Standard helped keep corn prices in the basement.

You must have at least had a clue last year when Trump shoved Iowa farmers and livestock producers onto the front lines of a multinational trade war. His action endangered vital export markets worth billions of dollars to Iowa, and his boast that trade wars could be easily won was just more snake oil.

Now, if you don’t know it, you must be a really slow learner. Trump’s proposed budget slashes the agriculture safety net, including $28 billion in cuts to crop insurance and commodity subsidies. It cuts or eliminates many USDA rural development and housing programs. But hey, it invests in broadband, just in case anyone is left in rural Iowa to use a computer.

This latest kick in the teeth comes just months after Trump signed the 2018 farm bill, by the way. A flimflam and a flip-flop!

That should be enough for Iowa farmers, at least, to re-evaluate their political decision-making for 2020. But that’s not all.

Trump promised in his presidential campaign announcement speech, no less, to protect Medicare and Social Security. Iowans who bought that line can be forgiven for not immediately realizing that Trump lies almost every time he opens his mouth. We certainly know that now, however, so the grace period is officially over.

The president’s budget would cut Medicare by a net $575 billion over 10 years. The claim is that the government will save that money by reducing the cost of prescription drug prices — and rooting out waste and fraud, naturally. But in politics, cuts are cuts — or don’t you remember when Trump and other Republicans were slamming Democrats’ Obamacare for “cutting” Medicare by building anticipated cost savings into the budget? Huh.

Then there’s Social Security. If Trump supporters in Iowa don’t care about anything else, they should care about the $25 billion Trump proposes to cut out of Social Security. There’s no dressing this up as a potential savings from efficiency — this simply cuts the benefit. Trump lied to you. His budget proves it.

Republicans profess to support reining in “entitlements” to curb runaway federal deficits and debt. But they usually at least imply they’ll cut only programs that middle-income white people don’t care about. If stiffing Grandma to pay for tax cuts to the wealthy doesn’t raise your blood pressure, this should: Trump’s overall budget does not slow federal spending. Quite the contrary — it continues to explode the national debt and deficit by an estimated $1 trillion a year through 2022.

By the way, Iowa seniors should be squealing about Sen. Joni Ernst’s proposal to let young adults siphon Social Security to pay for family leave. The long-term solvency of the program depends on more money coming in from younger workers, not less. Her plan acknowledges the need to support working parents who may lack access to quality, affordable child care. But using Social Security to pay for other spending goals smashes open that mythological “lock box.” Forget squealing — Republicans should run away shrieking.

Now, anyone who thinks Trump’s budget will actually be approved should check out some prime real estate that may be for sale on Pothole Lake in Des Moines. This budget may be pure fantasy, but it is still a statement of priorities. It’s the most obvious sign yet that this president believes he can keep on treating his Iowa supporters like toilet paper and they’ll keep on believing they’re smelling roses.

And he may be right. The latest Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll shows 81 percent of Republicans approve of the job Trump is doing as president and only 40 percent want to see GOP competition in the 2020 presidential race. Those red MAGA hats must cut off oxygen to the brain.

Sometimes, fraud victims are too embarrassed to admit they’ve been conned. They keep throwing their money away to keep up the appearance that they are in control. Predators depend on that false pride to keep fleecing their victims.

There’s an old saying: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. How many times will Trump keep fooling Iowa Republicans?

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Fort Dodge Messenger. March 14, 2019.

Keeping Iowa’s hogs safe

Hogs raised in Iowa account for more than 30 percent of U.S. hog production. Iowa ranks as the nation’s top hog-producing state. It’s also the top state for pork exports. Those sales abroad are estimated to exceed $1 billion annually.

The pork industry is vitally important to Iowa’s continued prosperity. Hog farming contributes $7.5 billion to our state’s economy each year. An outbreak of serious disease could be a catastrophic development. That’s why it is very good news that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has increased its efforts to keep African swine fever, usually referred to as ASF, from reaching the American heartland.

ASF is a contagious and deadly viral disease. According to the USDA, it is transmitted by contact with the body fluids of infected animals. This dangerous ailment has already spread internationally, having reached China in 2018.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship was recently the host of a two-day USDA exercise that largely focused on African swine fever. The actions federal and state officials are taking to keep this disease away from the United States were outlined. The response plan if the disease reaches Iowa was also addressed.

“The effects of a foreign animal disease outbreak here in Iowa would be devastating for our producers,” Mike Naig, Iowa’s secretary of agriculture, said in a statement released by his office March 7.

Naig praised the preventive efforts already being taken by the USDA. According to information provided by IDALS and the USDA, those measures, which are being taken in coordination with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, include:

. Training and adding beagle teams to reach a total of 179 at key U.S. commercial ports;

. Expanding arrival screenings at key U.S. commercial ports;

. Increasing inspections and enforcement of garbage feeding facilities to ensure fed garbage is cooked properly to prevent potential disease spread;

. Heightening producer awareness and encouraging self-evaluations of on-farm biosecurity procedures;

. Developing testing procedures to screen for the virus in grains, feeds and additives, and swine oral fluid samples;

. Working closely with Canada and Mexico on a North American-coordinated approach to ASF defense and response; and

. Coordinating with the U.S. pork industry leaders to unify efforts to combat ASF introduction.

“We understand the grave concerns about the ASF situation overseas,” Greg Ibach, USDA’s undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, said in a statement released by the department on March 6. “We are committed to working with the swine industry, our producers, other government agencies and neighboring countries.”

The Messenger applauds the prompt action by the USDA and IDALS to keep this threat from wreaking havoc on hog producers. We hope these efforts will have the desired effect. We urge prompt adherence to whatever additional prevention and response recommendations the USDA may issue.

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Sioux City Journal. March 15, 2019

Get extension of SAVE tax done this year

Like last year, extension of the penny Secure an Advanced Vision for Education, or SAVE, tax is halfway to reality at the Iowa Statehouse this year. On Wednesday, the House passed an extension of the tax to 2050.

The school infrastructure tax, which is scheduled to sunset in 2029, passed the House last year, as well, but didn’t get a vote in the Senate. This year, the extension passed the Senate Education Committee and awaits a decision by the Ways and Means Committee. If Ways and Means passes the bill, it will move to floor debate.

“This is one of the most important pieces of legislation that we will pass all session,” said Rep. Jacob Bossman, R-Sioux City. “Not only does this bill provide schools with resources to update aging facilities, improve security, and upgrade classroom technology, it also provides local residents with significant property tax relief. It is a win-win for both schools and taxpayers.”

We agree.

As we have said before in this space, we have an almost proprietary interest in the tax because its roots stretch back more than 20 years to Woodbury County. This county was the first in Iowa to approve a 10-year, local-option sales tax for public school infrastructure (the tax first passed in 1998; county voters approved a 10-year extension in 2005). The tax was supported by Iowans through referendums in individual counties across the state as a local-option sales tax before it became a statewide tax in 2008.

The benefits of this tax speak for themselves in the form of school improvements, including new buildings, throughout Iowa. In Sioux City, revenue from the tax built or is building elementary schools, built middle schools and built science wings at each of the district’s public high schools. Arguably, no district in the state has benefited more from the school infrastructure tax.

Still, more work remains — here and elsewhere. In Sioux City, for example, the need for replacement of more elementary schools and additional improvements to existing high schools or construction of new high schools await decisions (by the time the tax is scheduled to sunset, local public high schools will be nearly 60 years old).

We urge the Senate to join the House and help school districts throughout Iowa plan and bond for critical future infrastructure projects by ending uncertainty about SAVE with this extension to 2050.

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