This is part 1 of a 2 part interview.Â Â Part 2Â dealsÂ with Obama care, education reform, illegal immigration, the Tea Party, and other topics.Â It can be linked to at the conclusion of this installment, or by clicking here.
With a 68% increase in population since 2000, and Bloomberg reporting it is now the fastest growing city in Iowa, there is no doubt that Ankeny is rapidly expanding.
As population over the last few years has shifted to Ankeny, so too has the ideological focus of the Republican Party shifted to the right.Â Just how far right this Des Moines suburb, and longtime Republican stronghold, has moved politically will go a long way in determining who wins the Republican primary to represent Iowaâ€™s House District 37.
This impending barometer has been put in play by the candidacy of Tea Party Republican Stacey Rogers, who will be one of at least four Republicans seeking this house districtâ€™s nomination.Â I recently sat down with Ms. Rogers to discuss her political resume, her ideology, and how she would like to influence the future of HD 37.
Though she was born in Colorado, Ms. Rogersâ€™ parents grew up on family farms down the road from each other near State Center, and in an ironic twist her mom actually attended high school with fellow HD 37 candidate John Landon.Â These roots caused her to return to Iowa during the summers as she was growing up, before eventually leading her to come back to our state for law school. After graduating in three years from Colorado State University she headed back for good and enrolled at the University of Iowa School of Law.
Her time attending law school at the University of Iowa pushed her into the world of politics, a push initialized by being exposed to and surrounded by a level of left wing ideology that took her by surprise.Â Having decided to politically engage, she applied and was granted the opportunity to spend a summer working in Arizona for one of the most esteemed Conservative think tanks in the Countryâ€”The Goldwater Institute.
In addition to this she has worked as a staffer for Iowa State Senator Mark Chelgren (R-Ottumwa), became active in The Iowa Tea Party, and recently served as Republican Graig Blockâ€™s campaign manager in his successful re-election bid to the Ankeny City Council.Â She is currently practicing law for the Ankeny based firm Block, Lamberti & Gocke, P.C.
Paramount to gaining an understanding of a candidate is learning how they see their district, where they stand on local issues, and how they analyze their districtâ€™s role in the larger state-wide picture.Â Ms. Rogers has strong views on all three.
When asked about the districtâ€™s positive attributes, she pointed to its unique geographic make-up, â€œThis district has some of Ankeny in it but it also has some rural areas in it, it really is a great sample of Iowa.Â The good thing about Ankeny is that it is growing but it still has that extremely small town feel where everybody knows their neighbor.â€
On an economic level she commented that, â€œFor the most part, and compared to the way the economy is going overall, Ankeny is doing really, really well.â€Â Weighing in on the reason for the districtâ€™s Republican leanings and general weariness of ever-increasing taxes she noted, â€œEspecially in the northern part of Ankeny, the people are largely living in new housing developments and they clearly worked hard for that money, and they worked for it recently.â€
Also making her list of positives is the relative high quality of the school system, something she largely attributes to the areaâ€™s residents, â€œProbably the greatest difference between Ankeny schools and the schools in Des Moines is the amount of parental involvement.â€
The school district and community involvement are both things that have been front and center recently as the cityâ€™s school board has made the somewhat controversial decision to split the town by simultaneously building two brand new high schools.Â Though not under the jurisdiction of the seat she is running for, Ankeny residents would no doubt be curious as to where she stood on this hot-button issue:
â€œEventually two high schools were going to be a necessity; the questionable spending was that they somehow needed two identical high schools at the same time.Â I would have been against the second high school from the beginning but at this point you really canâ€™t un-ring that bell.Â That whole debacle just exposed this community to debt and the threat of more debt that could threaten its status as an engine of economic growth and development right now, because people are not necessarily going to want to continue moving to Ankeny if there is that threat of more bonding.â€
While noting the need to heal the rift between more moderate Republicans and the Tea Party, she views this seat as having a particular function in the larger statewide picture:
â€œWhoever gets elected to this seat is going to have the opportunity to use this seat as a bully pulpit.Â We need to make sure we elect a Conservative that understands the importance of this seat, and that they have a chance to be the voice of the true Conservative position.Â Somebody under the golden dome needs to draw the line in the sand about what that position really is, and I think too often what happens is that the Republicans who are interested in â€˜good governanceâ€™ offer the compromise solution up front and give up a lot of ground in that approach.â€
Issues From Last Session
Even though Republicans controlled two of the three segments of government last session, you can count Ms. Rogers among the large contingent of Conservatives unhappy with the resulting state budget.
At the heart of this displeasure is what she saw as a tactical error by the Governor in structuring our outlays, â€œI think our budget this year could have been much lower, and that we sacrificed a lot to the idea of two year budgeting.â€
Instead of insisting on a two year budget, and eventually bartering in order to achieve it, she would have taken an alternate approach:
Â â€œ0% allowable growth was still an increase in funding for schools because it was fully funded, something that the Democrats never didâ€”and we still gave up the 2% allowable growth in the second year in order to get the two year budget.Â I would much rather of had the fight about allowable growth again next year because I think people started waking up to the fact that we are actually giving the schools more money by fully funding them.â€
Commercial Property Taxes
The overwhelming evidence and the inescapable mushrooming nature of Iowaâ€™s commercial property tax code resulted in a political rarity last sessionâ€”partial bi-partisan agreement.Â The fact that nationally Iowa ranks in the top 10 in every type of property tax levied on commercial and industrial property, and that The Tax Foundation rated Iowa as the 45th worst business tax climate in the Country, led to all three players in our state government laying tax reform proposals on the table.
On the Republican side were competing proposals from the Governor and the House of Representatives.Â The Governorâ€™s plan would have ultimately taken a bigger bite out of the bill currently paid by Iowa businesses and would have been the one a Rep. Rogers would have embraced, â€œI would probably have supported the Governorâ€™s plan.Â It went deeper and I think that if you are going to do property tax reform then you need to do it all the way, and I think that his plan was a tougher stand than the House Republicans.â€
To read this articles conclusion, dealing with pending issues facing Iowa and analysis of this race, click here for part 2.
Photo Courtesy of Dave Davidson, whose work can be found at prezography.com
The Des Moines Registerâ€™s Editorial on Monday, June 27, 2011 was titled â€œSteep budget cuts now could harm economyâ€.
Summary â€“ The Registerâ€™s Editorial group pointed us once again to the â€œnonpartisan fiscal agencyâ€, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).Â Â They quoted the CBOâ€™s â€œdire warning about unsustainable federal deficitsâ€, but cautioned that the report also â€œwarned that steep cuts right now could make the nationâ€™s fiscal condition even worse by kicking the legs out from under the economyâ€.Â Â Also on June 27th, The Wall Street Journalâ€™s front page led off with an article titled â€œDebt Hamstrings Recoveryâ€.Â Â The WSJâ€™s Tom Lauricella notes â€œAround the globe, the inability of governments and households to reduce their debt continues to cast a shadow over Western economiesâ€â€¦â€Unlike the aftermath of typical recessions, simply lowering interest rates hasnâ€™t been enough to get growth back on trackâ€¦Quite the opposite has been the caseâ€¦Â The lowered cost of borrowing has enabled individuals and government to delay taking measures to change the way they spend and save.â€
Comment on the DSM Registerâ€™s Selective Reporting â€“ I have noticed a pattern of inconsistency in the DSM Registerâ€™s and WSJâ€™s reporting.Â Â Many featured articles in the WSJ, arguably a far more competent source of economic analysis than Gannettâ€™s network, are minimized or never presented in the DSM Register.Â In addition to the â€œDebt Hamstringâ€ analysis, another recent example would be the study released by management consultant McKinsey.Â They surveyed 1,300 companies and found that one third (1/3) of them will â€œdefinitelyâ€ or â€œprobablyâ€ stop offering health insurance after 2014. Â Since candidate Obama guaranteed us that we would be able to keep our current insurance, this seems like a worthwhile piece of news.Â If the DSM Register featured it, I must have overlooked it.Â I wonder if the nonpartisan CBO is aware of it?
Analysis of the â€œSpend Now, Save Later Strategyâ€Â -Â If we were in the position of China,Â over $3 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, I would not have a big issue with spending some of those reserves to shore up a short term slump in the economy.Â Â However Government debt as a % of GDP has increased from 30% in the early 2000â€™s to 35% by the end of the Bush presidency (increasing under both Republican and Democrat congresses).Â During the Pelosi-Reid-Obama era, that % is now approaching 60%.Â Â Meanwhile consumer debt and mortgage debt has more than doubled since 2000 (from $10 to about $20 trillion combined).Â Given the state of our debt, any increase in interest rates (almost a certainty the way the Fed has increased the money supply) will quickly multiply the consequences of our excessive debt.Â Â Â For my entire adult life I have heard politicians claim that we will â€œsave later, when the economy is strongerâ€.Â That day never comes.Â The Clinton-Gingrich era budgets were a nice anomaly but were not based on sustainable structural changes.Â The Register is wrong.Â We must cut government spending substantially and quickly.
 WSJ 27 June 2011, Debt Hamstrings Recovery
 WSJ, 26 June 2011, â€œChina Pledges Continued Support for European Debtâ€
Yes, the chickens are coming home to roost.Â All of a sudden, the man who had all the answers three years ago has none.Â He was calm, cool and collected.Â He convinced the American citizenry that he could solve all of the countryâ€™s problems, and that it was critical that we abandon the â€œfailed policies of the last eight yearsâ€.
We are 17 months away from the next presidential election and the economy is definitely slowing.Â Aggregate demand for goods and services is weakening.Â And unless President Obama changes course on legislation enacted in the last two years, we are likely to enter yet another recession.Â He wonâ€™t, though, and it will prove to be his undoing.
Conservative pundits and Republican presidential candidates are licking their chops.Â The Presidentâ€™s economic policies are failing.Â People vote with their wallets.Â Â They know Socialism doesnâ€™t work.Â Should the economy slow further, it would not surprise me to see other Democrats, sensing opportunity, toy with a Presidential run of their own.Â Even Anthony Weinerâ€™s troubles arenâ€™t enough to take the spotlight off the economy.Â (Perhaps the President should appoint Representative Weiner to the post of Social Media czar.)
Unfortunately, we predicted extended economic weakness two years ago.Â It was easy to spot.Â We had lived through the Carter Administration.Â Those who donâ€™t understand history are doomed to repeat it.Â Over-regulation chokes off economic growth.Â Businesses and individuals thrive on certainty.Â The health-care legislation, Dodd-Frank, and impending tax increases (unless the Bush tax cuts are extended further), coupled with out-of-control government spending and astronomical deficits have created the uncertainty.Â Employment is declining.Â Unemployment is increasing.Â The stock market, that predictor of future corporate earnings, is falling.Â Oil, gas, and other commodity prices are high.Â Aggregate demand is suffering.
This is Obamaâ€™s legacy.Â He can no longer blame anyone else.Â And we predicted it.
The Following piece is the 2nd installment of an ongoing series here at The Conservative Reader. â€œAmerican Gladiatorsâ€ is a recurring feature focusing on the defining political issue of our generation: the crucial battle over Federal spending and the debt and deficit it creates.
A favorite saying of both political parties these days is that â€œelections have consequencesâ€â€”2010 proved that so do primaries. For Republicans no past event has had a bigger impact on the eventual major players and the shape of the fiscal debateâ€™s battlefield than the primaries preceding the 2010 mid-term elections.
Though history now, you may recall at that time an internal debate was raging amongst Republicans. Many influential Conservative thinkers, including Charles Krauthammer, joined a large number of high ranking members of the Republican establishment in warning against selecting â€œunconventionalâ€, mostly Tea Party backed, candidates to compete against Democrats in liberal leaning districts.
Though admittedly unappealing, this camp made the case that in selected states it would be wiser to support more moderate Republicans who had a greater chance of winning in traditional Democratic strong holds. They particularly took issue with Christine Oâ€™ Donnell in Delaware, Linda McMahon in Connecticut, and Sharon Angle in Nevada, all of whom went on to win their primaries but lose in the general election.
While the stand was principled, harnessing a populist movement is difficult, and there is no guarantee a more main stream Republican would have won, it is fair to at least consider this rejection of political pragmatism as an over reach by the Tea Partyâ€¦ and one that had painful consequences.
Working without anesthesia, Dr. Hindsight unmercifully reopens the wounds when one considers how much better Republicans would be positioned with just four more Senate seats. Having a majority in this body to go along with the one already had in the House would have provided Republicans a massive strategic advantage. Specifically, it would have allowed them to not only pass unified bills on spending cuts and the budget, but to bypass the Senate buffer the President currently enjoys and send the bills directly to his desk. Removing this Senate buffer would have enabled Republicans to repeatedly, and at will, draw him out on targeted issues. Imagine a scenario in which every week he was forced to either agree and sign a bill, or veto it and go on record resisting specific cuts.
Any Democratic strategist would tell you that either of these actions would be vastly damaging to his re-election bid. Should he sign, his base would trample themselves in disgusted exodus, while a veto would leave him constantly defending unpopular expenditures, and require him to personally counter-offer with specific proposals (not his strong suit). Such extended exposure on vulnerable ground would have in essence reworded the old political axiom â€œsunlight is the best disinfectantâ€ into â€œsunlight is the best infectantâ€.
In spite of these lost opportunities, snapping out of the past and returning to the present finds Republicans still in very good shape. Though it includes a few head scratchers, the polling data on long term budget issues strongly favors the GOP position. The best news is provided by the findings on the debateâ€™s two most fundamental questions: Are budget deficits and the National debt widely perceived as problems? And, do people feel that success from Republican plans is fundamentally possible?
As to the first, a CBS News Poll (March 18-21,2011-m.o.e=+-3) found that 68% of respondents felt that the budget deficit was a â€œserious problemâ€, while another 26% termed it â€œsomewhat seriousâ€. Only 5% thought it was â€œnot too seriousâ€.
While beyond promising, perhaps the better news comes from a Bloomberg National Poll (March 4-7, 2011-m.o.e=+-3.1) which asked â€œDo you think it is, or is not possible to bring down the deficit substantially without raising taxes?â€ The results reveal a clear path to victory. 61% felt that it is possible, while only 37% thought it was not. This is critical because not raising taxes is both the exact approach taken by all the Republican plans, as well as one of the main criticisms leveled against them by opponents.
While it is true historically that the particulars of a proposal are less popular than its concept, starting with numbers this high leaves room for weathering the inevitable loss of points forthcoming now that specifics of the plans have been revealed. If the caustic attacks on the plans as being â€œextremeâ€ are able to be zeroed out by the number of converted skeptics, there likely would still be ample room to compromise with Democrats on some points, which for passage in 2012 is an absolute must.
While looking back at what could have been is painful, the opportunity to win is still very much within reach. Given that the Tea Party is solely responsible for the fact that we are even having this debate, it is hard to criticize it. That being said, it is wise to note the times that the movementâ€™s fierce purism creates a double-edged sword.
We will never know if different Republican primary candidates would have resulted in a Senate majority, but we do know that winning on an issue this big will require both strategy and some compromise. Going forward it will be fascinating to see to what extent the Tea Party tolerates each to be in play, if at all.
Sometimes the most nuanced political analysis is worthless and the whole issue comes down to a simple question. This appears to be just such an issue and the question that victory hinges on is: â€œDo the American people believe that remaining on the current path will end in a financial disaster?â€
For the reasons given above, if I was looking at this and was a gambling manâ€”that faint sound you hear would be my chipsâ€¦smoothly sliding across felt.
It was a steamy 98 degrees in Atlanta. It was clearly too hot for me to be out running at the local high school trackâ€¦but there I was. I was not alone, however. Occupying Lane 4 was a guy who I would guess was born somewhere immediately after WWII. But my track-mates age was not the interesting part of the story. The interesting fact was that the man was clad in a long-sleeved sweatshirt. Yes, and it even had a Nike SWOOSH on it. I thought to sweaty self, â€œThis has to be the most bizarre thing I have seen all week!â€ However, upon a few moments of reflection, I concluded it wasnâ€™t even close to the top of the Weekâ€™s-Most-Bizarre List.
My first cataloguing thought was that the Massachusetts tornado was the most bizarre thing that happened this week; but I concluded it only scored 8.0 on the 10 point scale. After all, the weather has been crazy this year. Then it occurred to me that â€œWeinergateâ€ was about as weird as it gets. And it did involve the Honorable US Representative Anthony Weiner from New Yorkâ€¦making it a natural candidate, by definition. Â Many of us would have been more comforted by simply hearing him say â€œThat is not mine.â€ as opposed to â€œIt was pranksters.â€ But even allowing for a couple of additional Anthony Wiener style points, he only merited 9.0 on the Bizarre Scale.
I then gave passing consideration to Barack Obamaâ€™s honoring of our fallen war heroes with an â€œ18 flag tributeâ€ at the local golf club on Memorial Day. And that might have been a winner had the event in any way stuck out from his normal complete lack of respect for people who actually believe in what America stands for. While scoring an impressive 9.5, the Presidentâ€™s behavior still fell short of this weekâ€™s winner.
The winner for the most bizarre thing that happened this week, with a score of 9.7, was Clintonâ€™s former Secretary of Labor, Professor Robert Reich, from (of all bizarre places) Cal Berkeley.
In an article in (of all bizarre places) the San Francisco Chronicle, he is quoted:
In response to slow economic growth: â€œRight now we need more public spending in order to get people back to work. And we need a new Works Progress Administration to get the long-term unemployed back to work.â€
In response to declining home prices: â€œThat means most Americans have to save big-time if theyâ€™re going to be able to retire or even send the kids to college. As a result, consumer spending will stay anemic and unemployment will remain high â€“ unless Washington fills the gap.â€
And he teaches our children this stuffâ€¦
So if the federal government is currently spending $1.5 trillion more than it receives (an annual deficit representing nearly ten percent of the entire economy), that is not enough government stimuli? What amount might be enough, Mr. Reich? (In the good professorâ€™s defense, he does likely make the highly nuanced distinction between normal unproductive and wasteful federal government spending and targeted unproductive and wasteful federal government spending.)
And what gap is it that Washington needs to fill? I guess this assumes that irrespective of how poorly the economy is managed, and unrelated to how little money consumers have to spend, that the government can just step in and â€œcreate an economy.â€ Does he really not understand the notion of rational investment and the resultant productivity increases that singularly drive economic growth? Is his whole world just one very large social and political abstraction for Mr. Reich? Whatever it is, it is truly bizarre.
Apparently, this is the thinking of people like Mr. Reich: If something isnâ€™t working, has never worked, and will very likely never work, and yet you believe in it very stronglyâ€¦just do more of it. If you do not find yourself tortured enough by running outdoors in temperatures of nearly 100 degrees, slap on a sweatshirt! The underlying logic embedded in both of these scenarios is both beautifully and brutally consistent.
For his remarkable jeremiad, Professor Reich is credited with a score of 9.7, and is the winner of the â€œMost Bizarre Thing of the Weekâ€ Award. Well done, and congratulations, Bob!