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Polk County Central Committee Meeting: Once Again Drama Dominates

Polk County Central Committee Meeting: Once Again Drama Dominates

Last night’s Polk County Central Committee meeting was a harbinger for both good and bad things to come for the future of Republicans in Polk County.

The Highlights

Among the several speakers to address the committee were Polk County Sheriff candidate Dan Charleston and Senator Rick Bertrand (pictured at right).  Charleston has been very active in his attempt to unseat his boss Bill McCarthy, who has once again doubled down on his support for spreading controversial traffic cameras throughout Iowa.  His bid to remove McCarthy will not be easy, however, this is an outcome that becomes more possible with McCarthy supporting a hot-button policy that the majority of Iowans reject.  While Conservatives throughout Polk County will be rightly focused on state and Congressional seats in the coming months, it would be a mistake to ignore this race for sheriff.  It can be easily argued that the performance and priorities of law enforcement has an equal impact on citizens at the County level as legislative seats.  All Conservatives who are unaware of this race would be well advised to visit Dan Charleston’s website, were he lays out his positions on several issues (including traffic cameras and illegal immigration).  It is safe to say he would bring a far different mindset to the job–and there is much to like.

While Senator Rick Bertrand was not on the agenda to speak, all in attendance were glad he made the trip.  Speaking for nearly 20 minutes, he got fired up covering topics ranging from his background, his victory in a legal slander case against Iowa Democrats, and the future agenda of Senate Republicans.

Beyond being a gifted and enthusiastic speaker, the real positive to take away from his presence in the Iowa Senate is his potential to bridge the divides that have recently been created by the emergence of a more Libertarian brand of Republican in the party.  I have asked him personally about the prospects of real legislative results from the Conservative movement in the Iowa Legislature–and I assure you he has a plan and will be front and center in achieving it.  In my view, he is one of a handful of current Republican legislators who can effortlessly bridge the gap between the old and new guards in the Republican Party.  In the coming months The Conservative Reader:Iowa will be laying out exactly what this 7 issue action plan is, and will be looking at each in detail.

The Low-Lights

Having been in attendance at the last two Central Committee meetings, there is little doubt left that the drama surrounding last month’s meeting is not going away.  The divide between Chairman McLaughlin (along with other members of the leadership), and co-chair Dave Funk is quickly approaching critical mass.  Several times during the meeting there was open bickering and contention between the two.  This was taking place not in the side or back during down time, but actually during the meeting and at the front of the room.

As of this time I am not taking sides.  Far more important than taking sides is finding some way for this strained situation to be resolved.  Besides risking several political objects that are certainly within reach, this feud is simply embarrassing for all of the new folks who have been energized during the caucus and have made the time consuming decision to get involved.  At this rate the attendance of these meetings will swell only on the grounds of voyeurism, as people will start coming to view a live version of the Jerry Springer Show.  Finding a way to make these meetings a little less bland would be a more than worthy endeavor, however, this is not exactly what I had in mind.

Looking Forward

I will be in attendance at the next meeting, if it is plagued by these same issues than the report you read here following it will be of a far different tone.  At that point critical mass will have unquestionably been reached and a movement to action will have to be initiated.  With so much crucial work to be done in the coming months, continuing in this manner is simply not an option.

 

Finally… Something We Can Agree On

Finally… Something We Can Agree On

The following is an op-ed I wrote some time ago that was edited slightly and then published by the Des Moines Register.  After turning on the television, which was tuned to MTV, while babysitting my young niece and nephew recently I was reminded how unfortunately relevant this piece still is.  The sections which are redacted below are ones that the Register was uncomfortable printing.  This perhaps make the point most poignantly.

 

The following words were spoken on the floor of the U.S senate by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin in the heat of the recent debate on The Fairness Doctrine:

It takes away the authority of the Federal Communications Commission to basically determine that radio and television stations use their Federal licenses in the public interest.  What does this mean?  It means that the FCC can tell a television station it cannot put on a violent movie early on Saturday morning when kids are tuning into cartoons.  It cannot put on something with sexual tones in it at a time when children and family are watching.

Heartwarming isn’t it.   Well it seems Mr. Durbin has not taken a look at his local T.V. menu lately.  On my T.V. menu, here in Ankeny, Iowa, on the very day that Mr. Durbin spoke the above words, this is a sampling of what I found in the after school time slots of 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.

At 3:00 p.m. on MTV (Direct TV channel 331) we have a program called “Sex…With Mom and Dad.”  On today’s episode of this show we meet Natasha, a nineteen year old California girl who is self-described as a “party girl who is not afraid to experiment.”  She tells us that she ********************************************** at fifteen, and is having problems in her relationship with her single father—wait for it . . . —because she slept with one of his co-workers!

At 4:00 p.m., also on MTV (DTV channel 331), we have a show called “Room Raiders” where another nineteen year old girl is going through the bedrooms of three guys to decide who she is going to go out on a date with.  In the first guy’s room we all have a good chuckle when she finds some female oral contraceptives in his night stand.  In the second guy’s room she takes a magnifying glass to his bed sheets to find and then comment on the ********************** she sees.  Fantastic.  So maybe this is not your thing.  Never fear you can also turn over to the gay, lesbian and trans-gendered network LOGO (yes, you do likely have this channel-DTV ch.272), whose midday offering is a 12:30 to 4:30 marathon of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” in which a variety of gay and trans-gendered contestants vie to see who is the best drag queen.

This is but a small sampling of content that parents must be made aware, I could go on ad nauseam with examples but it’s safe to assume the point has been made.  When we dig a little deeper into this we find every one of these shows comes from the same source, a company called Viacom.

Allow me to do the honors and introduce you to one Sumner Redstone.  You likely are unfamiliar with him, but if you have any pre-teen or teenage children he has been trying to familiarize himself with them for years.

You see Mr. Redstone is the owner of Viacom, and thus is singularly responsible for a jaw-dropping amount of immoral garbage, not just in the aforementioned time slots but, unmercifully, around the clock.  Also disturbing is that along with owning CBS, Paramount Pictures, Blockbuster Video (majority stock holder), MTV, MTV 2, VH1, CMT, and the gay, lesbian, trans-gendered LOGO network, Viacom, ironically, also owns Nickelodeon.  Making matters worse is the fact that the stated demographic audience for MTV, MTV 2 and VH1 is 12-34 years of age (yes this is not a misprint, I said 12 years old).  This age group is deemed very valuable to marketers because – you guessed it, they are by nature very impressionable and have a longer future consumer life.

Shining the light on Viacom and these types of shows is long overdue, for only with knowledge can we have action.  I have a feeling the average American parent has no idea that this is going on, that a broadcaster would or could so brazenly put on shows, squarely aimed at their children,  in after school time slots that teachers would get fired for putting on at school.  Though it seems hard to believe I assure you that it is in fact occurring.  Even if it means recording these shows with your DVR, I encourage parents of any aged children, not to take my word for it but to go to these channels (all of which are provided above) and become aware of this content themselves.

It is not my purpose to blame anyone for ignorance on this matter, and to the contrary maybe we all deserve a break on this one.  Looking back at what was on the air when many of us were coming of age is very interesting.  Those currently around the age of 70 had “The Whistling Wizard” and “Howdy Doody,” those around 60 had “The Millionaire” and “American Bandstand,” 50 or so saw shows like “The Beverly Hillbilly’s” and “The Andy Griffin Show,” and if you are between 35-40 you had choices such as “The Love Boat” and “The Jefferson’s.”  Quite a far cry from “Sex…With Mom and Dad,” wouldn’t you say.

Since I suspect most of you parents out there do not condone sexually-charged, immorally bizarre programs being offered up to your children by Viacom and others, and clearly the regulating bodies are not looking out for your “public interest,” I urge all of you to contact your cable providers and, in the least, use your remote control’s parental blocking features.  In many ways this is a unique opportunity.  In a climate that too often finds us deeply divided on one political issue or another, this might be about as close to a shot at consensus as we get. Let us not lose the ability to at least stand up, and stand together when we can.

Finally here is a chance to act in the interest of not only our children, but plain common decency.  Finally, here is something that we don’t get much of these days…something we can agree on.

The post Finally… Something We Can Agree On appeared first on The Conservative Reader.


Breaking News: Effort to Oust McLaughlin Fizzles

Breaking News: Effort to Oust McLaughlin Fizzles

What had promised to be an explosive evening at the Polk County central committee meeting Tuesday night never really materialized.

Throughout the past two days buzz had been growing that an organized effort to unseat McLaughlin as Chairman would take place, and rumors were flying that the person spearheading this undertaking was Rep. Kim Pearson (R-Pleasant Hill).  What is clear following the meeting is that she was never involved at any level, and that the leader of the group aiming to replace the Chairman was in fact precinct 85 resident Craig Bergman.

The only fireworks transpired at the beginning of the meeting when a motion was made to suspend the rules and normal proceedings of the meeting and instead have a vote on removing the Chairman.  What played out was that, by a near three to one margin (91-39), the central committee voted to proceed with the meeting’s business as usual and have the showdown afterward.  Presumably based on the large majority who stood in support of putting off the vote, the contingent on hand to oppose the Chairman realized that they did not have the numbers and chose to stand down on this night.

Perhaps the most memorable and foretelling moment of the night came when Chairman McLaughlin, on mic and standing at the podium, was explaining to a confused group of members that he was not avoiding a vote on his fate.  He summed it up by saying, “if anyone wants to try to ‘send me to the showers’ they are welcome to do that”, which he followed a few seconds later with, “That said, I don’t intend to go to the showers I intend to finish my job.”

Clearly Kevin McLaughlin is not backing away anytime soon, and neither is the sizable sect passionate that his performance as Chairman has not been up to par.  Based on the numbers it is hard to see how this group, in its current size and form, will be able to successfully remove the leadership in the middle of their term.  It is fair to note, however, that while this effort was denied tonight, there has been widespread discontent and rumblings regarding what has been perceived as several organizational shortcomings.

My sense moving forward is that McLaughlin and his team will survive any future attempts to remove him.  The final decider here will ultimately be what it always is–results.  If their performance in November demonstrates success in electing Republicans, particularly Tom Latham, then their style and methods will be vindicated and they will be lauded.  Should they not meet expectations, and should they fail to deliver a number of victories similar to their very successful predecessors–they will be quickly voted out in January.

Conservatives are often fond of saying that results, not good intentions, are what matters.  What we have here is a perfect embodiment of this…as it should be.

Senator Joe Bolkcom’s Political Theater Reveals Utter Disregard For Iowa Taxpayers

Senator Joe Bolkcom’s Political Theater Reveals Utter Disregard For Iowa Taxpayers

Perhaps no issue better illustrates the philosophical divide between left-wing Democrats and right-wing Republicans than the Earned Income Tax Credit.  Here in Iowa a theatrical stunt a few weeks back by ultra-Liberal Iowa City Democrat Senator Joe Bolkcom put the issue front and center.  In the hopes of pressuring Governor Branstad to support a huge increase in the Iowa Earned Income Tax Credit, Pleasantville resident Julie Heck was brought in to symbolize the need for this action by taking part in a press conference before then testifying in front of the Ways and Means Committee.  Ms. Heck is a single mother of three who is currently receiving the Iowa Earned Income Tax credit, and on this day set about making the case that while she is glad to have it—it sure would be nice to get more of our money.

While Democrats were no doubt tickled by both the media exposure and the perceived effectiveness of this spectacle, the realities surrounding her specific situation, including her own stunning words, expose the utter disregard that liberal Democrats have for all Iowa taxpayers.

The Press Conference

In the press conference Ms. Heck says that she is a single mother of three who works full time and attends college full time at Simpson.  She made $33,000 in income last year.  Beyond not paying a penny in Federal income tax, she instead received a $5,279 check from the Federal government which combined $2,279 from the Federal E.I.T.C and another $3,000 from the Federal Child Tax Credit.  Receiving the Federal E.I.T.C  in turn qualified her to receive an additional $160 from the Iowa E.I.T.C.  Without getting into all the numbers, after using a portion of her Federal refund to pay the $410 she owed to the state of Iowa, she ended up not only with a zero dollar income tax burden, but instead was actually paid $4,869 by the government.

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While so much is wrong with this picture, two things are particularly disturbing.  Firstly, instead of being grateful to live in a system that allows her to receive a net profit of $4,869 from the income tax code, she actually had the audacity to sit in front of a microphone and decry the fact that she had to pay any Iowa income taxes at all.  And, remarkably unsatisfied with what she has already received, she wants even more money—it is just unbelievable.

Perhaps the biggest slap in the face here is what she admits to spending some of this refund money on.  At the 3 minute mark of the video posted above, she plainly states that she is using her Federal “refund” money to help pay for her college tuition, and then proceeds to say that some of this money also goes to match the funds her children manage to save throughout the year.

As a taxpayer who over the last two years alone has sent tens of thousands of dollars to the Federal government and several thousand more to the state of Iowa, I find these details outrageous.  Let me be clear, I have no problem paying taxes to help those who are destitute, starving, or un-sheltered.  However, paying for a mother of three who decides that she now wants to attend college full time is a far different matter.

Once any American citizen makes the decision to bring three human lives into the world it is solely their own responsibility to provide for those children by any means necessary.   In this case it clearly means working a second job to provide for her family instead of spending our tax dollars to attend college.  I ask you this, how many hundreds of thousands of Iowans, especially small business owners, send their money into the government each year and afterwards do not have enough left over to afford schooling, or to match their children’s savings?

The Politics and Implications

Finally we have Sen. Bolkcom, the Iowa personification of this entitlement mentality, and the political and financial implications of this situation.  After Ms. Heck’s statement  Sen. Bolkcom threatens (at the 7:20 mark) that until the “earned” income tax credit is brought up from its current 7% to either 13% or 20%, that in his mind all tax relief for Iowans is off the table.  Realize here what this man is actually saying.  That before he entertains any legislation to cut the taxes of Iowans who have been throttled by actually paying high taxes for years—Ms. Heck must first receive an even larger refund.

This attitude and approach are stunning.  Putting on display a woman who makes $33,000 a year, who attends college fulltime, and already receives nearly $5,000 in government money through the tax code to justify almost tripling the Iowa E.I.T.C is beyond insulting.  This clearly shows all taxpayers in Iowa what little respect some have for the contributions we are making to government coffers every year.

Republicans agreed multiple times last year to increase the percentage of the Iowa E.I.T.C, largely as part of a legislative give and take they hoped would result in other tax proposals gaining passage, but the governor twice vetoed the section raising the credit.  In explanation he cited his desire to instead include it in a much larger tax reform bill, though the Senate again last month passed it as a stand alone measure (SF 2161).  The price tag of raising the credit to 20% would cost Iowa taxpayers $49.9 million every year after it fully phased-in in 2016.  This is no doubt a number that seems tiny to Democrats, but is a big deal when you consider that Chief Justice Cady is likely to again be denied an additional $10 million in funding for our judicial system, which has been underfunded for decades.

Once again I stress that the root of my problem here is not so much the issue itself or the price tag of passing the increase.  Above all else, this specific example exposes how we are losing the spirit of defiant self-sufficiency that we once had—and how quickly it is getting replaced with an attitude that instead asks ‘what more can you do for me?’  What is so galling about this is not that the government would offer assistance to people in serious need (they certainly should), but rather how that need is now defined.

While this entire production was likely staged with the sole purpose of raising the guilt level and putting public pressure on Governor Branstad to accept the increase, in reality what it raises is a much larger question:

Has the mentality throughout our state become so collectivist in nature that hard working Iowans are going to be viewed as “heartless” for not wanting to pay adults to go to college and be able to match their children’s piggy bank contributions?

If the answer is yes than Conservatives and Libertarians have a lot more work to do…and Iowans will have a lot more taxes to pay in the future.

Has The Tea Party Wave In Iowa Crested?

Has The Tea Party Wave In Iowa Crested?

The year was 2010.  In Iowa, like in the rest of the Country, a reaction to the obscene growth in size and spending at all levels of government boiled into a loud and visible public movement.  The internet was a buzz, local Tea Party chapters were springing up, and the Iowa Capitol was the site of several well attended rallies expressing the sentiment of less government and lower taxes.  Two years later, it is time to ask the question—what results have come of this?

The short answer at the state level here in Iowa is—not too much so far.

Most will argue that more patience is required—and they are right.  Many will cite a variety of reasons that explain the lack of great action—some valid points to be sure.  Meanwhile, the more optimistic in the movement will point to some victories—and I grant that they have a case.

All this considered, it is hard not to be disappointed with the lack of impact Tea Party ideals have had on Iowa’s legislative process.  Let’s take a brief look at the landscape.

Victories So Far 

Probably the biggest achievement Republicans at the State House can point to is drastically slowing the pace of growth in the annual budget.  It would likely shock most Iowans to know that the total appropriations made by our legislature in the year 2002 was $4.375 billion dollars, less than a decade later (FY 2011) the amount spent had jumped to $5.8 billion, an indefensible increase of 33% in less than a decade.  Though slightly more money has been spent in each of the last few years, getting a handle on this expansion was not necessarily a given, and for this kudos are well deserved.

The problem here of course is baseline budgeting.  The ridiculous increases seen from 2002-2011 have now been built into future budgets—with next year’s expenditure and all projected future years being amounts in excess of $6 billion per year.  The reality is that Iowans, of either political party, who are holding their breath for a significant decrease in their taxes can expect two things—a blue-ish hue followed by a funeral.  The simple fact is that while future tax hikes can be avoided, as long as the legislature is spending over $6 billion a year—your taxes are not significantly going down.

Other victories that can be pointed to will be met by fiscal purists with justifiable skepticism, the formation of the Property Tax Relief Fund and 0% allowable growth for education in 2012.  Time will tell, but the Property Tax Relief Fund may end up being yet another technocratic “victory” in the legislative shell game.  I may be wrong, but I can tell you from experience that digging down into the details of many proposed reforms and tax cuts often end up being more of an exercise in moving money around than anything else.  In terms of the achievement of 0% allowable growth, this was gained in exchange for 2% growth in 2013 and could be completely erased if an already proposed 4% growth rate in 2014 is green lighted.  For the record, approving a 4% increase in education spending would directly cost taxpayers another $196.2 million.

The Reasons

There are many factors that account for this lack of action, and they make it blatantly unfair to directly blame our fiscally Conservative legislators for not achieving sweeping change.

Chief among these is the narrow, but iron fisted, control spend-happy Democrats have in the Iowa Senate.  Pragmatically speaking, one could argue it doesn’t make much sense to propose large initiatives that are effectively dead on arrival in the Senate.  In addition to this it is hard to get movement in these areas when one of the major players, the governor, is not fully on board.  Let’s face it, while he is undoubtedly a strong Republican—he isn’t exactly going to be caffeinating any bodies of water under the cover of darkness any time soon.

Realistically the most valid reason is the predetermined circumstances surrounding this session.  All the oxygen is being consumed by the massively involved efforts left over from last session, which include preventing built-in tax increases, re-structuring mental health services, and a flailing attempt at education reform.  A final thing that deserves mention is that they have been put on defense by having to block a continuing parade of costly bills introduced by the Democrats most Liberal wing.  Stay tuned as The Conservative Reader: Iowa will be posting an analysis of these proposals in the near future.

Some Boldness Would Suffice

I think that most Tea Party supporters in Iowa have, so far, looked at the variety of factors in play and given a pass to the fiscal-hawk wing of our legislature.  Most of us are reasonable in our expectations and we realize that big political results are hard to come by.  That being said, the time to at least start articulating a vision and making the case that real tax cuts will only follow real spending cuts is at hand.  At this point we are not even demanding deliverables—even some boldness would suffice.

An example of this boldness has been displayed recently by Sen. Brad Zaun, and everyone in the movement should take the time to drop him a note of moral support.  Knowing that it would not even survive funnel week, Sen. Zaun proposed a bold bill that contains a future vision of education in Iowa that is worth fighting for.  Directly following this session other Tea Party leaning members would be wise to start following suit.  It is their job to start constructing an agenda and a platform that can eventually cut taxes by cutting spending.

So, has the Tea Party Movement in Iowa crested?

While it is fair to reserve final judgment on this, the lack of real legislative results proves at the minimum it has receded.  As of right now the Tea Party trajectory in Iowa closely resembles the illegal immigration outrage that came to a National boil in early 2008—a huge movement that has delivered small victories along the way before largely fading.

After providing the weight for the water displacement which created the wave in 2010, many fiscally concerned Iowans are standing on the shore in 2012 with only soggy ankles.  I suspect that the political energy needed to make the case statewide for smaller government is still readily available.  What is needed at this point is a tightly formed caucus with a vision supported by pieces of actual legislation.

Without brave and principled leadership this movement cannot be sustained…we will be watching.

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