Current Date

The Conservative Reader:

Meet Your 2013 Democrat Caucus In The Iowa House: Occupation Breakdown

Meet Your 2013 Democrat Caucus In The Iowa House: Occupation Breakdown

When the inevitable battle with public-sector employees in Iowa begins to rage here in the next few months and every elected Democrat in the state marches in lock-step with union negotiators, the following will help you understand this phenomenon.

Not only does their ideology lend itself to supporting the concept of an organization/government “protecting” people from the free market–it turns out that this cast of Democrat legislators largely are the unions.

Iowa House Democratic Caucus by Occupation

Below is a look at the occupations of the 46 Democratic members of the Iowa House that will be in office the next two years.

Teachers/Principals former and current = 12

Attorneys = 7

Occupation Unclear = 4

Social Work = 2

1 Each of the Following— Realtor, Farmer, Pharmacist, Grants Coordinator, Funeral Home Business, Golf Course Owner, Banker, Accounting Clerk, Head of Non-Profit Organization, (12 more random single occupations not listed here).

Number who have direct/indirect past or current union backgrounds (mostly public-sector) = 21


By far the biggest takeaway here is that of the 42 who had a clear current or former occupation that could be found on their legislative page or campaign website, a whopping 21 of them had direct connections to unions–the vast majority of which were public-sector.  That is a full 50% of the caucus and does not even include Bruce Hunter, a ranking member of the Labor Committee whose wife is the State Political Director of the AFL-CIO, or Anesa Kajtazovic who goes out of her way to mention in her bio that at a young age her father’s experiences in the workforce led her to be “reminded how important union representation can be.”

The second biggest trend is that 12 of the 42 members with clear employment histories are current or former teachers.  This explains why year after year we have a fight in the legislature to increase spending on education by 4% for “allowable growth”–not to mention why firing a teacher is almost unheard of, why there is currently no substantive teacher evaluation, and why there needs to be a Republican push just to ensure that students aren’t passed out of the 3rd grade without being able to read at the proper level, a policy that would seem to be the epitome of common sense.  What is not so easily explained is with such a large number of educators doubling as legislators and a majority of the state budget dedicated to it every year, how are the results embarrassingly insufficient in such a large number of districts.

Revealed above is the gross disproportion of representation that unions have in the General Assembly in comparison to the percentage of Iowa’s workforce that they account for.  As of 2011 Iowa had nearly 1.4 million people in the workforce.  Of this number only 155,000 were in unions (11.2%) and an additional 32,000 were effectively represented by union negotiations while not being listed members, thus bringing the total number of employees directly or indirectly represented by unions to 187,000, or 13.5% of the workforce.  Of note here is that the 1.4 million Iowa workers number actually excludes those self-employed so the percentages represented by unions are actually slightly smaller than those listed above.  Even taking the larger percentages, while only 13.5% of Iowans are either in or governed  by unions, in the Iowa House’s Democratic caucus a full 50% have direct or past connections with unions.

Coming Up

Before the session gavels in I will also do a breakdown of the Republican Caucus by occupation in both Houses (unless one of the Liberal bloggers reading this wants to save me the leg work).  It would be very interesting for comparison purposes and may further explain the massive partisan divide we see year after year–my guess is the top 3 for Republicans in some order are small business owners, lawyers, and farmers.

Later this week we will take a look at 3 specific cases that symbolize this dynamic of union/citizen representation in the House, and next week we will have a breakdown of the occupations of the Democrat Caucus in the Iowa Senate.  This will be followed by a look at the proposals offered by both the unions and the governor and what is likely to unfold on this front next session.








McKinley’s Memo

McKinley’s Memo

Though the third longest session in Iowa history has been over for two weeks, Governor Branstad still has until the end of July to sign or veto any of the legislation that was passed.

While there were some notable and very positive accomplishments, Senate Democrats also stood in the way of a lot of positive progress.

Here are a few accomplishments followed by some of the missed opportunities.

1) Sustainable Budget

We finally are back on the path to long-term fiscal sustainability with a budget that spends less than we take in and funds Iowa’s priorities. Is there more we can cut? Absolutely. But it’s a good start and a real break from the problems of the last four years.

2) Rule & Regulatory Reform

We have begun to change the direction of the state when it comes to onerous rules and regulations that are stagnating job creation. Our 11 city “Re-Open Iowa for Business” tour has yielded some great suggestions and opened a lot of eyes. Stay tuned in a few weeks more information on this as our comprehensive report will be made public.

3) Reorganization of Economic Development Department

This reorganization of Iowa’s economic development department, one of Governor Branstad’s top priorities, will give the state more flexibility as it pursues and recruits entrepreneurs and job creators to Iowa. This reorganization, coupled with helping our existing businesses, will be key to continuing to grow Iowa.

What were some of our missed opportunities because of Senate Democrat obstruction?

1) Property Taxes

In order to make our state more competitive for jobs, we must have lower property taxes – for all classes of property. Unfortunately, the property taxpayers of Iowa will not get the comprehensive tax reform that they deserve. We will continue to work hard to find a bi-partisan solution and make next session the session of true property tax reform.

2) Clean Abundant Energy

In order to grow the economy of the future, we must have adequate, clean and reliable base-load energy. Nuclear energy is one excellent source that would create a lot of good jobs in Iowa. The Iowa House passed legislation to continue to pursue possibility of adding additional reliable base-load energy. The votes existed to pass it in the Iowa Senate in bi-partisan fashion, but Senator Gronstal obstructed a vote.

3) Income Tax Relief

Both individual and corporate income tax reductions would help grow our economy, create jobs and stimulate positive economic activity. Once again, it did not happen this session because of Senate Democratic obstruction but count on us to continue to push forward next session.

4) Collective Bargaining Reform

The Iowa House, with broad support, voted to inject some common sense reforms into the collective bargaining and arbitration processes in Iowa. For the long term fiscal sustainability of the state, we believe there needs to be more equity and fairness in the process. As it stands today, over 80 percent of state employees pay nothing for health insurance and most get lucrative benefit packages and healthy annual salary increases that are out-of-line with the private sector. It is not just the union bosses that should be at the table – the taxpayers deserve a seat at the table too.

5) Education Reform

We must once again make education about the children and discontinue the notion that simply spending more money will equal better student achievement. We need to set high standards and hold everybody accountable for the success and achievement of our students.

6) Late-Term Abortion & Marriage

Because of inaction by Senate Democrats, Iowa could soon become the Midwest Capital for Late-Term Abortions. We had the votes in the Iowa Senate to slam the door on abortionists like Dr. LeRoy Carhart who wanted to come into Council Bluffs and open up a clinic, but Senate Democrats refused to do what needed to be done. On the issue of marriage, Iowans sent a strong message last fall with the ouster of the three Supreme Court Justices. We need to keep the pressure on to give Iowans the statewide vote they deserve on the issue of marriage.

Though we made some positive steps forward, much of what we set out to accomplish not yet been achieved. Senate Democrats obstructed much of our pro-jobs agenda.

That is why we must work hard day in and day out to talk to our family, friends and neighbors about the important issues facing Iowa and continue to press forward with what we know will bring the brightest future for all present and future Iowans.

As always, I welcome hearing from you and can be reached by phone at 515-281-3560 or by e-mail at [email protected]

Still The Gold Standard: Barry Goldwater’s “The Conscience of a Conservative” 50 Years Later

Still The Gold Standard: Barry Goldwater’s “The Conscience of a Conservative” 50 Years Later

“The Conservative also recognizes that the political power on which order is based is a self-aggrandizing force; that its appetite grows with eating. He knows that the utmost vigilance and care are required to keep political power within its bounds.” – Barry Goldwater

Evidenced by the fact that I recently finished re-reading Barry Goldwater’s The Conscience of a Conservative on a kindle—much has changed since it was first published in 1960. However, by the staggering parallels that its content has to the political realities of 2011, one could say that not much has changed at all.

Anyone who chooses to invest the few hours necessary to read this book will become apprised of the historical context in which the political and ideological battles of our generation fit into the course of our Country’s history. Indeed it becomes clear that the rise of the Tea Party is not the first attempt to reconfigure our relationship with government, but is merely the continuation of a movement first given voice to by Barry Goldwater 51 years ago.

Written with eloquent clarity, its importance rivals, and perhaps even trumps, the documents surrounding our Nation’s founding in importance based on its remarkable relevance to our day. While the theory behind the writings of Thomas Jefferson, The Federalist Papers, and Common Sense are inarguably still viable, Goldwater is able to make his case specifically against things that did not exist in the 18th century, but did both in the 1960’s and today. In fact, if you replace the word Communism with Terrorism, the entire list of topics that he addresses—a growing federal government, National debt, the welfare state, The United Nations, the erosion of personal freedoms, and labor unions—all remain the exact flashpoints of our modern day political struggles. Here are just a few of the many examples.

Federal Spending

“Now it would be bad enough if we had simply failed to redeem our promise to reduce spending; the fact, however, is that federal spending has greatly increased during the Republican years. Instead of a $60 billion budget, we are confronted, in fiscal 1961, with a budget of approximately $80 billion.” – Barry Goldwater

It is slightly comical, and certainly sad, to read Goldwater bemoaning the entire federal spending for a year approaching, in his mind, the absurd level of $100 billion. The reaction of his contemporaries to his concerns on spending were much the same fare that we are fed from our political leaders today—a set of recommendations from the Hoover administration claiming that the government could save the taxpayers around $7 billion a year just by eliminating extravagance and waste. Sound familiar?

This was useless lip-service then, just as it is now, and prompted Goldwater to lay down a far different doctrine—“The root evil is that government is engaged in activities in which it has no legitimate business. . . . The only way to curtail spending substantially is to eliminate the programs in which excess spending is consumed. The government must begin to withdraw from a whole series of programs that are outside its Constitutional mandate . . . and all that can be performed by lower levels of government, or by private institutions, or by individuals.”


“Government does not have an unlimited claim on the earnings of individuals. One of the foremost precepts of the natural law is man’s right to the possession and use of his property.” –Barry Goldwater

Unlike today’s Republican who largely pins their argument for lower taxes on the received benefit of spurring economic growth, to Goldwater the issue was far more a moral one. He asks, “How can he be free if the fruits of his labor are not his to dispose of, but are treated, instead, as part of a common pool of public wealth?” Not only does this argument seem superior to the present day Conservative one, so do his other thoughts on the subject.

While acknowledging that every citizen has an obligation to contribute a fair share to the “legitimate functions of government”, he quickly does what politicians on the right nowadays fail to do effectively—tie the size of government’s rightful claim on our money to the definition of “the legitimate functions of government”. Though it seems overly simple, telling a person what they have to gain financially by restricting government is much more effective than making broad Constitutional arguments. One can’t help but think that advocates for eliminating federal agencies, and in general returning to only the expenditures authorized by the enumerated powers, would get much more traction by clearly making the connection that for every function of government that we can do without, you will keep more of your own money.

He also makes it clear that were he alive today he would be leading the charge for the flat tax, by calling our system of graduated tax rates “confiscatory” and “repugnant to my notions of justice”.

The Welfare State

“The effect of Welfarism on freedom will be felt later on—after its beneficiaries have become its victims, after dependence on government has turned into bondage and it is too late to unlock the jail.”-B. Goldwater

Among the most poignant and impassioned arguments Goldwater makes are against the continued creation of the welfare state. Largely due to the fact that when he wrote the book the programs that make up our welfare state were not yet insolvent, massively-unfunded liabilities, the nature of his resistance is mainly on moral grounds and the effect that he envisioned it having on the recipients psyche. Just as it remains today, he predicted that the emotional impulse of voters and the temptation it presents to politicians would combine to make it a deeply entrenched and ever expanding problem.

Though in its infancy at the time, he saw the building of a welfare state not only as a political strategy by the left to move the Country in a Socialist direction, but as a corrosive practice that placed the individual at the mercy of the State. It was his sense that this relationship would, over time, sap the welfare recipient of the sense of personal responsibility required to be anything but dependent.

His position is not that there be no welfare, rather that it be administered either voluntarily from citizen to citizen or through local institutions and governments. Indicating that the political perils of this position were just as present then as they are today he states, “I feel certain that Conservatism is through unless Conservatives can demonstrate and communicate the difference between being concerned with these problems and believing that the federal government is the proper agent for their solution.”

Goldwater 2012

Reading The Conscience of a Conservative is in many ways bitter-sweet. Sweet in that it gives such clear voice to our founders’ ideals, freedom, and Conservatism; but bitter in the realization one is left with that had these battles been fought and won in his time, they would not need refighting now. Perhaps the most important thing the reader takes away from this book is a sobering reminder of how high the stakes are in the upcoming election. Armed with the knowledge of what has transpired from 1960 until now, one shudders to conceive of the consequences of not winning the battle this time around.

In further illustrating how worthwhile and relevant this book remains in 2011, let me close with what Goldwater sees as being the moment that Conservatism will defeat Liberalism:

The turn will come when we entrust the conduct of our affairs to men who understand that their first duty as public officials is to divest themselves of the power they have been given. It will come when Americans, in hundreds of communities throughout the nation, decide to put the man in office who is pledged to enforce the Constitution and restore the Republic. Who will proclaim in a campaign speech: “I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, for I intend to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed in their purpose, or that impose upon the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is “needed” before I have first determined if it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked f
or neglecting my constituents’ “interests”, I shall reply that I was informed their main interest was liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can.

Goldwater in 2012 indeed.

The Current State of the Union(s)

The Current State of the Union(s)


There is a word which is currently stirring much thought and commentary.

With all due solemnity and respect for the people of Japan, I would say that Madison, Wisconsin is the epicenter of an earthquake which is sending tremors into every state capital of our country.

What’s all the hubbub, bub?

In case you have been living in a cave, allow me to enlighten you.  Desperate economic times have apparently called for desperate measures.  State legislatures are looking for ways to cut spending, and they have uncovered a very interesting phenomenon.  Government unions have been very adroit in negotiating excellent financial compensation for their members, including fringe benefits which are outpacing the benefits of many employees in the private sector.

Governors, emboldened by the example of their counterpart in Wisconsin, are attempting to change collective bargaining laws, so, in the very least, unions do not have as much, if any, control over wages and benefits.  Asking government union employees to pay more of their “fair share” of benefits has resulted in millions of dollars of proposed government savings.

Well, you would think that mass murderers have been cornered in the town square, because lynch mobs have formed against “both sides” of this dispute.  Protests have gone on unabated for days.  Teachers obtained false doctor’s notes excusing their absences from school, since some of these states are no-strike states.  Re-call elections have been proposed in multiple states, and no mercy is being shown to bold governors or legislators who chose to leave their jobs and cross state lines for several weeks of – shall we say – “vacation.”  (What’s up with that?!  Both Wisconsinites and Indianans sought “refuge” in Illinois!)

Please allow me to share my experiences with and views about unions.  At their inception, unions served very useful purposes.  Especially during the Industrial Revolution, managers were responsible for horrific abuses of working hours, conditions, pay, and benefits.  Employees formed unions to present united fronts to their bosses, so they could negotiate reasonable conditions.

While I am not naïve – and I know that management abuses do still exist today – those behaviors are very rare, and I believe unions – in the form that they were conceived – have outlived their usefulness.  In an age of shared decision-making, and participative leadership, no manager of a reputable organization could get away with abusive behavior in even the most subtle of forms.  Cries of “foul” regularly ring out, and news outlets are only too happy to capitalize on the crisis d’jour.

I have often wondered about the efficacy of unions during my thirty-plus years as a professional educator.  During my 7 years of teaching, I was miffed by what I believed to have been exorbitant fees and disproportionate percentage of my income to join the local, state, and national unions.  (In case you didn’t know, the National Education Association is the biggest and most powerful union in Washington, D.C.)  I was always threatened with the “need’ for insurance in case I found myself a defendant in litigation, and the administrators were always portrayed as the “bad guys” in these scenarios.

As a teacher, I was also frustrated by the issues taken up by the NEA and Iowa State Education Association.  Why were the delegates to these conventions spending so much time and money discussing the non-education-related dynamics of homosexuality and abortion?!  Even before I was a believer in Jesus Christ, I somehow inherently knew that these topics were superfluous to the school building.  (Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t dismiss these issues.  They are VERY important issues, but the more important issues for EDUCATIONAL unions are those related directly to the EDUCATION of students in classrooms.)

As a part of my Master’s degree program in school administration, I was trained by a Western Illinois University professor in the “art” and “science” of collective bargaining.  Looking back on the content of that course, I can now accurately point out that this was a class on gamesmanship more than determining what was in the best interests of students, educators, and parents.

The relationship between the Pleasant Valley Education Association and administration was the most adversarial in my experience.  Outrageous financial proposals were put on the bargaining table every year.  The teachers asked for too much.  The administration offered too little.  All of this blustering and caucusing did nothing to bring “unity” from either the “union” or the administration.  (I am at least pleased to add that THE BEST union in my working experience has been the Urbandale Education Association, which cooperated well with administration in a non-adversarial model of bargaining in which every penny was put on the table for discussion, and no outrageous proposals drew battle lines.  Also, the UEA did not automatically defend poor teachers who were asked to resign or to complete intensive assistance plans for the improvement of their teaching.)

During my last year of teaching, no one would run for the presidency of the Pleasant Valley union, so I unabashedly ran unopposed as a “let’s get something done together” platform.  I was elected.  If someone had a different platform, they should have run a write-in campaign!  Everyone knew where I stood.  After all, I was the son of a school administrator.  I remember the calls my Dad took at home.  I remember he had the best interests of his staff members in mind.  I remember when he was no longer a member of the union, because the collective bargaining laws of Iowa had precipitated rancor between teachers and principals and the end of union membership for school administrators.

As the PVEA President, I wasn’t exactly the “why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along” leader.  I wanted to fairly represent the teachers, and I was willing to make tough decisions on their behalf.  But I also didn’t want to fall lock-step into a union mentality which always immediately distrusted the intent of administration.  How ironic that one year I was the union president – 1986-1987 – and the very next year – 1987-1988 – I was Associate Principal of Pleasant Valley High School.  Needless to say, I was no longer a member of the PVEA as a school administrator!  And I can imagine that several of my teaching colleagues believed I had “sold out” to the “dark side of administration.”

I am pleased to report that I am now the Superintendent of a non-public school which does not have a union.  To be frank, there are times when I have unintentionally not acted in the best interests of the staff in this school, but there has generally not been a “need” for a union, because I want to intentionally do everything in my power to fairly compensate them for their work and to create working conditions which are favorable to student learning.  As a private school, our school will go out of business if we are not giving a good return on our “customers’” investment, and teachers need to be unencumbered to do their jobs.

But the school must also be unencumbered to end contractual relationships with teachers who are not helping students to learn.  I can honestly say that I have loved 99% of the teachers who have left our school for any number of issues.  While I can love people, I can also, even and especially as a Christian, expect employees to do their very best to honor and glorify God through their work.  We can love each other and still agree that parting ways would be the best course of action for students, parents, administrators, and especially the underperforming or misplaced teachers themselves.  I understand the emotion attached to losing employment, but can’t we also agree that the teachers themselves will be miserable in positions for which they are not suited?

This is all to say that I am not AGAINST unions.  But I am against unreasonable union leaders and managers.  And I am FOR government employees needing to pay a reasonable share of fringe benefits, especially with rising costs of health care.  Union leaders in some of these feuding states have indicated that they have “passed” on negotiating for higher wages to secure these excellent fringe benefits.  That may be true, but I would venture a guess that such an argument is sometimes/often a “white lie”  (aka intellectual dishonesty).

Right now, I am most incensed by the behavior of many (but not all) National Football League players and owners.  One of our school’s parents is a federal negotiator, and he rightly pointed out that greed is at the heart of “millionaires arguing with billionaires.”  And, all along, a family cannot afford to attend an NFL game featuring players who have (obscenely) compared the current situation as “slavery,” thus implying they are “slaves”!  Ah, to be that kind of “slave” who has that kind of talent and earns that kind of money and has the right at any time to walk away from that kind of work!

Unions have garnered a lot of attention lately, haven’t they?  You can no longer be ambivalent.  You’ve got to get into this discussion and game.  Unions are affecting all of us, whether you care to admit it or want to live in a state of denial.

Wisconsin: Not Just Cheeseheads After All

Wisconsin: Not Just Cheeseheads After All

Who would have thought that the state with the first Socialist governor and subsequent Socialist Party candidate for President, Robert LaFollette, would be the first state to actively attempt to bring the public employee unions under control?  What’s next?  Vermont goes Conservative?

So much of life can be equated to the supply and demand theory of economics.  That is, there’s unlimited demand for things, but always a limited supply and when demand outstrips supply, there’s friction.  This concept can be applied to the present fiscal situation that Wisconsin, and all states for that matter, face.  They are out of money.  Tax revenues, that is, supply, have outstripped the demand for services.  The public unions, in fact all unions, have been feeding at the trough of the nation’s largesse for years.  Governors have conceded “rights” (also known as privileges in the real world) to them in an attempt to keep these spoiled brats, for lack of a better term, happy.

But state goverments are struggling to provide basic services, and in order to remain fiscally solvent, something has to give.  Credit Governor Walker with having the cajones (a Texas term for chutzpah), to admit to his state and the rest of the country that this has to stop.

The consequences of what’s playing out in Madison are significant.  Does a special interest group get to dictate how much of the fiscal pie they get to keep?  Or does the duly-elected governor decided how to run his state?  And if the unions fall in Wisconsin, what about all the other states that are stuggling to balance their budget and keep taxes down?  And at what point do the taxpayers, the customers, the folks actually paying the bills, get to decide how much they’re willing to pay for under-performance?  I don’t get to demand a raise if I don’t perform in my job.  How are the unions any different?

I know the union contracts were negotiated in good faith, but the times are different.  A job with fewer benefits is better than no job at all.  The supply of money is limited, and they don’t get to demand more than what there is available.  And the people who actually do the paying should get to call the shots.

I wish you the best, Governor Walker.  To quote Simon and Garfunkel, “…our nation turns it’s lonely eyes to you…”.

    Log in