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Poverty

Study shows long-term benefits of government welfare

by: desmoinesdem

Wed May 14, 2014 at 09:15:00 AM CDT

A new working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research points to significant long-term benefits for children in poverty whose families received cash transfers through the first U.S. government welfare program. Researchers used census, World War II and death records to compare male children of mothers who received help through the federal Mothers' Pension program between 1911 and 1935 to male children whose mothers applied for help but were rejected from the program. You can read the full research paper here (pdf) or access it here. I've posted a few excerpts after the jump.

The main takeaway: "Male children of accepted mothers received one-third more years of schooling, were less likely to be underweight, and had higher income in adulthood than children of rejected mothers." The study did not include female children of early welfare recipients because name changes through marriage make it much harder to track long-term outcomes for girls.  

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A Plea to Liberals to Reconsider Position on Minimum Wage

by: JonMuller

Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 08:49:25 AM CST

(Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest diaries on policy or politics.   - promoted by desmoinesdem)

We liberals have been fighting the wrong battle with the Minimum Wage.  I am not sure whether liberals understand the economics of the minimum wage and choose to ignore them, or whether we just don’t understand basic principles of economics.  I can’t do much about the former, but I can at least shed some light on what actually happens when we raise the minimum wage.

We liberals all share a fundamental belief that government has the power and the resources to improve the standard of living of the poor and the middle class in this country.  Because we have the power and the resources, we have an obligation to take action to do so.  But we should also do no harm in the process, especially to those whose lives we are trying to improve.  The Earned Income Tax Credit is a more efficient way to accomplish our objectives, at a lower cost to society as a whole, with fewer unintended consequences that end up hurting poor people.

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Harkin yes, Grassley no as Senate approves Farm Bill

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 21:12:00 PM CST

The U.S. Senate approved a compromise five-year farm bill this afternoon by 68 votes to 32 (roll call). As occurred in the House of Representatives last week, the farm bill drew substantial support from both caucuses. At the same time, a sizable number of conservative Republicans opposed the bill because of the costs, while some liberal Democrats voted no because of cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps. Iowa's Democratic Senator Tom Harkin voted for ending debate on the farm bill yesterday and for the conference report today. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley voted no on cloture and on final passage.

After the jump I've posted statements from Harkin and Grassley explaining their stance on the farm bill. Click here for details on the contentious provisions of the farm bill. For once I am inclined to agree more with Grassley than with Harkin. In many respects the conference report was a missed opportunity and won't serve the interests of Iowans or Americans generally.

I also sympathize with Grassley's outrage at "a select few members dismantling a provision that was passed by wide, bipartisan majorities in both the House and the Senate." Congressional rules should be changed so that the conference committee can alter only provisions that differed in the House and Senate bills, not consensus language from both versions.  

On the other hand, I suspect Grassley cast this protest vote because he knew his support wasn't required to get the farm bill to President Barack Obama's desk. As disappointing as this legislation is, Iowa's economy truly needs stability and predictability in federal agricultural programs.

UPDATE: Added Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey's comments below.  

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New Farm Bill links, plus Iowa political reaction

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 21:24:52 PM CST

President Barack Obama will finally have an opportunity to sign a five-year Farm Bill into law. The U.S. House approved the conference committee report today by 251 votes to 166, and the U.S. Senate is expected to approve the deal this week. The House roll call shows an unusual partisan split. Iowa's four representatives were all among the 162 Republicans and 89 Democrats who voted for the final deal. But 63 House Republicans and 103 Democrats voted no, a mixture of conservatives who objected to spending in the $956 billion bill and liberals who opposed cuts to nutrition programs.

Although 41 representatives and senators served on the conference committee (including Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Steve King), the four top-ranking members of House and Senate Agriculture Committees hashed out the final details. King's controversial amendment aimed at California's egg regulations was left on the cutting room floor.

After the jump I've posted several takes on the farm bill's key provisions and comments from the Iowa delegation.  

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Where did Miller-Meeks get her "fact" about food stamps and Mountain Dew?

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jan 06, 2014 at 11:08:31 AM CST

In an excellent two-part series on food stamps and the need for food assistance in Iowa, Mike Wiser caught Iowa Department of Public Health Director Mariannette Miller-Meeks in an embarrassing lie:

"The No. 1 food item bought with food stamps in Iowa is Mountain Dew," said Miller-Meeks, director of the Iowa Department of Public Health [in a speech to the World Food Prize Hunger Week symposium in October].

Several in the audience of a few hundred -- an international crowd of academics, journalists and nonprofit types -- shook their heads or smiled with bemusement. Phones came out, tweets were sent.

But what Miller-Meeks said wasn't true.

At least not in any verifiable way. The Iowa Department of Human Services -- the state agency that oversees the food stamp program, correctly called Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP, in Iowa -- doesn't track food purchases down to the brand of soft drink. Asked where she came up with the statistic, Miller-Meeks later said through a spokesperson she "found it online" but couldn't remember where.

Bleeding Heartland has long argued against cutting food assistance for many reasons. The SNAP program addresses real need efficiently and is rarely abused. In addition, government spending on food assistance has tremendous "bang for the buck" compared to most other policies designed to stimulate the economy. I recommend reading the full text of Wiser's latest reports on the rhetoric and reality of the food stamp debate and on reasons private aid agencies are struggling to help all the hungry Iowans.

Today I want to speculate on how a fake "fact" about food stamp purchases landed on Miller-Meeks' radar.

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Branstad, federal officials reach agreement on Medicaid expansion alternative

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Dec 12, 2013 at 20:58:00 PM CST

Governor Terry Branstad announced today that his administration and officials in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have struck a deal over the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan, our state's alternative to a straightforward Medicaid expansion. Earlier this week, federal officials approved most of the proposal but rejected a provision that would have kicked some low-income Iowans off the plan if they failed to pay monthly premiums. Under the tentative agreement, Iowa would still be able to charge premiums to some people who did not meet wellness criteria, but those people would not lose coverage for not paying the premiums. A statement released by the governor's office is after the jump.

Branstad had the option of appealing the HHS decision, and Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen suggested yesterday that Iowa officials should fight for the whole plan state legislators approved in May. Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal argued that the governor should "take the deal" federal officials approved: "It wasn't the whole nine yards, but it was about 8.9 yards. It was most of what we asked for." Commenting on this evening's news, Senate President Pam Jochum said, "Hallelujah. Amen. [...] I can't imagine the governor would have wanted to be held responsible for 55,000-plus people losing coverage come Jan. 1."

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. Charging even small health insurance premiums to people making less than $11,000 a year is stupid in my opinion, but this compromise is better than no coverage for tens of thousands of Iowans.

P.S.- Can't help noticing how just like the messaging from his re-election campaign, the governor's press releases invariably mention Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds whenever possible. I doubt she played any role in these negotiations or the governor's decision not to appeal the HHS decision on the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan.

UPDATE: Added comments from Representative Bruce Braley (D, IA-01) below. Last week he wrote to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius urging the federal government to approve a waiver for Iowa.

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Federal government approves most of Iowa's Medicaid expansion alternative

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 18:39:21 PM CST

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has granted a waiver for Iowa's alternative to the Medicaid expansion foreseen under the 2010 health care reform law. Governor Terry Branstad signed the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan compromise into law in June, and state officials submitted a formal request for a waiver in August. Iowa elected officials from both parties as well as many non-profit organizations with a stake in the outcome had urged Health and Human Services to approve the plan.

However, Governor Terry Branstad may appeal today's decision, because federal officials rejected a provision he insisted on during negotiations with Democrats in the Iowa legislature.

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Paul Ryan's going to need a better message than that (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Nov 18, 2013 at 07:15:00 AM CST

Roughly 800 people came to Altoona on Saturday night to celebrate Governor Terry Branstad's birthday and raise money for his re-election campaign. The featured speaker was House Budget Committee Chair and 2012 Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan. Listening to his remarks at Radio Iowa's website, I didn't hear a serious contender for the presidency in 2016.

Three big things were missing from Ryan's speech.

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Latest farm bill news and Iowa political reaction (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 30, 2013 at 16:20:00 PM CDT

Today members of the U.S. House and Senate began conference committee negotiations on the farm bill. The last five-year farm bill expired in 2012, and the latest extension of most federal farm programs (except for some related to conservation and sustainable agriculture) lapsed on September 30. Two Iowans are on the 41-member conference committee: Democratic Senator Tom Harkin and Republican Representative Steve King (IA-04).

One issue is likely to dominate the Congressional talks: funding levels for nutrition programs, especially the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. This summer, both Harkin and Republican Senator Chuck Grassley voted for the Senate farm bill, which cut SNAP by about $4 billion over 10 years. Iowa's four U.S. House members split along party lines when the House approved a Republican bill with $39 billion in cuts over the same time frame. Keep in mind that regardless of what happens in the farm bill talks, all SNAP recipients--including an estimated 1 million veterans and approximately 421,000 Iowans--will see their food assistance reduced as of November 1. Click here for a detailed report on those cuts, which will occur as extra funding from the 2009 federal stimulus bill runs out.

After the jump I've posted the latest comments about the farm bill from Iowa politicians.

UPDATE: Added King's opening statement from the conference committee meeting below.

SECOND UPDATE: Added new comments from Harkin.

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Latest Iowa Congressional voting, comments on the budget and debt ceiling

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Oct 15, 2013 at 08:10:00 AM CDT

Two weeks into the partial federal government shutdown, U.S. Senate leaders appear close to a deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling while a new joint budget committee negotiates "a replacement for the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration." After the jump I've posted details on last week's Congressional votes related to funding the federal government and preventing a possible default.

Although Iowa is reportedly the state least affected by the shutdown, because we lack national parks and have few military facilities, thousands of Iowans in the National Guard are still without paychecks. Thousands more who receive benefits through the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program will suffer if the shutdown extends into next month, because WIC is only funded through October.

The lack of a new farm bill arguably affects more Iowans directly than the shutdown does. The latest temporary extension of federal farm programs expired on September 30. At the end of this post, I've included some news and comments on efforts to pass a comprehensive farm bill.

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More Iowa Congressional voting and reaction to the government shutdown

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Oct 04, 2013 at 12:19:06 PM CDT

It's time for a new post on how Iowa's representatives in the U.S. House and Senate are handling the ongoing shutdown of non-essential federal government operations. (Click here for details on Congressional votes and Iowa political reaction up to October 1.)

Thousands of Iowans who work for the federal government or serve in the National Guard still have no idea when they'll receive their next paycheck. The best news I've heard all week is that an estimated 66,000 Iowa women and children who receive benefits through the WIC program will get their checks for October, at least.  

Although there has been no progress toward an agreement on a continuing spending resolution, I've noticed one big change in Iowa Congressional voting during the last few days. Whereas Representatives Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) were sticking with most of their fellow Democrats in earlier votes on federal spending, this week both Braley and Loebsack have joined House Republican attempts to fund the federal government in bits and pieces. Follow me after the jump for more details.

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Report on women's status is mixed bag for Iowa

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Sep 27, 2013 at 09:40:00 AM CDT

Iowa's "C+" average in a new report on The State of Women in America masks a large disparity in Iowa's ranking across the three dozen factors measured. Anna Chu and Charles Posner of the Center for American Progress compiled the report released this week. The fact sheet on Iowa is here, and these interactive tables show how Iowa compares to other states overall and on each metric. I've listed the metrics considered in each area after the jump. This page explains in more detail the methodology and data used to measure the states.

The C+ grade for Iowa reflects a ranking of 21st out of 50 states when all factors are considered. Iowa did best in the "health" area, with an A- grade and a ranking of seventh. The percentage of our state's population lacking health insurance is relatively low. Several reproductive rights issues were examined, which means that our state's grade and rank might be far lower if the Iowa Senate had not been under Democratic control these past few years (blocking efforts to restrict access to legal abortion).

In the "economic security" area, Iowa was ranked 32nd and received a D+ grade. Those low marks reflect the gender gap in wages, especially for Iowa women of color, and the lack of any state policy on "paid family, medical, or temporary disability leave."

Iowa's worst marks were in the "leadership" area, where our state got an F and ranked 42nd among the states. Who can be surprised, given our dismal record of electing women to high office? The Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University has an extensive database of reports on women's representation in Iowa government at the local, state, and federal level. The Center for American Progress also noted the fact that "Women hold only 33.3 percent of the managerial jobs in Iowa, despite making up 51 percent of the state's population."

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Ten reasons Latham and King are wrong about food assistance funding

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 14:44:09 PM CDT

The U.S. House voted mostly along party lines on September 19 to cut the leading federal food assistance program by $39 billion over the next decade. Iowa's four representatives split in the expected way: Republicans Tom Latham (IA-03) and Steve King (IA-04) supported the "Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act," while Democrats Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted no. In fact, the roll call shows that not even the bluest Blue Dog Democrat supported this bill.

After the jump I've posted comments on this vote from some of the Iowans in Congress, along with the latest Iowa and national figures on food insecurity and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as "food stamps."

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A few links and two inconvenient truths about obesity in Iowa

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 16:45:55 PM CDT

Public policy has been slow to make a dent in the obesity epidemic, which turns out to be "a lot more deadly than previously thought." But a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control shows that Iowa is one of eighteen states where obesity among low-income preschoolers declined by a statistically significant amount from 2008 through 2011. An estimated 14.4 percent of low-income two- to four-year-olds in Iowa were obese in 2011. Iowa Department of Public Health officials credited several programs with helping to reverse the trend.

Adult obesity is still a major health problem, according to the latest "F as in Fat" report by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Iowa had the twelfth-highest adult obesity rate in the country at 30.4 percent in 2012. The sort-of good news was that for the first time in decades, obesity rates held steady in most states. But it's depressing to see that the adult obesity rate exceeds 20 percent in even the "healthiest" state of Colorado now. As recently as 1991, not a single state had an obesity rate that high.

Speaking to Radio Iowa about the new obesity estimates, Iowa Department of Public Health Director Mariannette Miller-Meeks had sensible advice:

"People don't have to go out and do a programmed physical aerobics program for 30 minutes or an hour or two hours a day. [...] Just eating less, a plant slant to your diet, and trying to get in 30 minutes of exercise a day."

Mark my words: the Iowa Farm Bureau and other groups representing industrial agriculture will go nuts over Dr. Miller-Meeks encouraging Iowans to bring "a plant slant" to their diet, especially if she runs for Congress a third time in Iowa's second district. But here's an inconvenient truth for Big Ag: peer-reviewed research shows that "meat consumption is associated with obesity" in U.S. adults.

Here's the second inconvenient truth: even if everyone ate responsibly and exercised regularly, Americans would be more prone to obesity because of exposure to certain chemicals, such as the endocrine disruptors Bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates, and some organotins used in pesticides. Long-term, low-level exposure to the prevalent herbicide atrazine can cause insulin resistance and obesity too (click here for an explanation of that research in layman's terms).

Three years ago, a White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity called on federal and state agencies to "prioritize research into the effects of possibly obesogenic chemicals." That won't happen in my lifetime, at least not in Iowa.

P.S.- For anyone wondering, Iowa Department of Public Health Medical Director Dr. Patricia Quinlisk warns against ingesting a tapeworm as a weight-loss method.

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State education board rejects rule change on K-12 start dates

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Aug 05, 2013 at 07:20:00 AM CDT

Last week brought a good reminder that state boards and commissions don't always rubber stamp the governor's desired policies. Although Governor Terry Branstad has made clear that he wants to push back the start of the K-12 school year in Iowa, the State Board of Education on August 1 voted five to two against a Department of Education proposed rule change. Background and further details are after the jump.
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Iowa reaction to House passing Farm Bill with no nutrition programs

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jul 12, 2013 at 08:35:00 AM CDT

After last month's embarrassing failure to pass a five-year Farm Bill in the U.S. House, Republicans moved new legislation yesterday that included funding for agricultural programs but excluded the nutrition programs that have been embedded in farm bills for decades.

After Democrats forced a long slog through procedural votes, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act barely passed by 216 votes to 208. Every Democrat present voted against the bill, as did twelve Republicans. The rest of the GOP caucus voted yes, including Representatives Tom Latham (IA-03) and Steve King (IA-04). Last month, King tried but failed to muster sufficient conservative support for a farm bill including big cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (more commonly known as food stamps). Iowa Democrats Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) rejected yesterday's bill. They were among the small group of House Democrats to support the previous version of the farm bill despite cuts in nutrition programs that drove away most of their caucus.

Comments from Senator Tom Harkin and most of Iowa's House delegation are after the jump. I will update this post as needed with more comments from Iowa candidates or elected officials. At this writing, I don't see anything about yesterday's vote on Latham's Congressional website. According to Radio Iowa, Latham "said he was disappointed with the process, but pleased the House was 'at least able to pass the agriculture portion.'"

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Weekend open thread: Changed minds edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jun 30, 2013 at 19:37:00 PM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers?

As Ryan Koopmans first reported at On Brief: Iowa's Appellate Blog, at least one Iowa Supreme Court justice seems to have changed his mind about the unanimous ruling issued last December in a gender discrimination case. The decision drew national media attention after justices determined that the plaintiff, Melissa Nelson, was not discriminated against for being a woman, but fired as "an isolated employment decision based on personal relations." Koopmans wrote this week, "Chief Justice Cady issued an order withdrawing the December opinion and stating that the court would resubmit the case, without oral argument, this Wednesday, June 26.  There's no indication of when the court will issue its new decision [...]."

Nelson's attorney filed a petition to rehear the case soon after the ruling was announced. The Iowa Supreme Court has granted only five requests for re-hearings in the past decade, Jeff Eckhoff reported for the Des Moines Register. Koopmans commented, "I expect that there will be at least one opinion coming out in favor of Melissa Nelson. The question is whether that opinion is the majority or the dissent."

For those sympathetic to Paula Deen, who says she's not a racist and no longer uses "the N-word," I recommend reading what's been alleged in the lawsuit filed against her. Her disturbing behavior goes way beyond using offensive language from time to time. She deserves to lose her Food Network show and her various endorsement contracts. I've disliked Deen ever since she started profiting from a diabetes drug after promoting an unhealthy diet for years. DeWayne Wickham said it well in this column, which I've excerpted after the jump.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome. Congratulations to the Cedar Rapids Gazette's Todd Dorman on 20 years working in journalism.

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The most important student commencement speech you'll ever hear?

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jun 10, 2013 at 07:50:00 AM CDT

Reanna Lewis of Des Moines delivered a brave and moving commencement address at Hoover High School this year. The Sunday Des Moines Register posted the audio of Lewis' speech and published a partial transcript in the paper's June 9 edition. The points she raised are so important that I've transcribed her whole speech after the jump.

How well do you focus on intellectual tasks when you are hungry, stressed out, or exhausted? Lewis spoke frankly about how her family's emotional and financial struggles could have derailed her high school education. Child poverty and food insecurity are huge problems in Iowa. Nothing in the governor's education reform blueprint or the final bill he signed last week will address those problems. Iowa students will not achieve on a world-class level until we improve our social safety net. Teacher training, classroom size, educational philosophy and student assessments can only go so far.

The Register's lead editorial on Sunday pointed out, "Students can't learn if they are hungry or sick. [...] Students who drop out don't necessarily do so because the courses are too difficult or teachers don't have enough time for them. They leave because they are struggling outside school. From funding human services to helping families secure a living wage, Iowa can do more to help these families." Amen to that.

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Iowa Senate rejects Branstad's alternative to Medicaid expansion

by: desmoinesdem

Wed May 01, 2013 at 20:15:00 PM CDT

Less than 24 hours after the Republican-controlled Iowa House approved language to enact Governor Terry Branstad's Healthy Iowa Plan, the Iowa Senate voted on party lines today (26 to 24) to reject the House version of Senate File 296. A conference committee will now attempt to work out a compromise on whether to expand Medicaid to all Iowans earning up to 138 percent of the poverty line, as the 2010 federal health care reform law envisioned.

After the jump I've posted a video of Senate President Pam Jochum speaking on the Senate floor today to contrast Medicaid expansion with the governor's plan. I've also enclosed details on Branstad's highly implausible claim that his plan would cost poor Iowans less out of pocket than expanding Medicaid. Senate Democrats have pointed out that Iowans living in poverty could never afford the co-pays and premiums envisioned in the Healthy Iowa Plan.

Finally, I've added below excerpts from the Iowa Hospital Association's latest blog post explaining why Medicaid expansion is a better choice than the governor's plan.

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Iowa Medicaid expansion news roundup (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 15:35:00 PM CDT

Last week Governor Terry Branstad finally introduced legislation to enact his Healthy Iowa Plan instead of the Medicaid expansion foreseen under the 2010 federal health insurance reform law. Strangely, neither the governor's office nor the Iowa House Republican caucus held a news conference or even posted a press release about House Study Bill 232. The bill arrived at the statehouse on Thursday, April 4, after many legislators had left for the weekend.

So far House and Senate Republicans appear united behind Branstad's approach, while the governor's office strives to counter the obvious case against his plan (costs more, covers less). I've posted arguments for both sides and other news links after the jump.

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