Like Spinal Tap's amp that goes up to 11, Bob Vander Plaats can ratchet up the demagoguery that little bit more than the competition. While other conservatives warn against compromising the Republican Party's core principles, Vander Plaats says Republican moderates make voters want to throw up, like Jesus when confronted with "lukewarm" followers.
While other conservatives back a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage (which would take years to adopt), Vander Plaats promises to stop gays and lesbians from getting married on his first day as governor of Iowa.
While other conservatives warn against a "government takeover" of health care, Vander Plaats isn't just against a new public health insurance plan, he wants to protect Iowans from the tyranny of federal-run Medicare and Medicaid.
Yes, if he has his way,
"We will run our own health care in the state of Iowa," Vander Plaats said. "We will not let the government run our health care for us."
During a telephone interview with Radio Iowa on Monday, Vander Plaats expanded on his idea.
"We're a sovereign state and the federal government is just getting great at controlling us with our money. We need to understand the federal government doesn't have money of its own. It's coming from our citizens. It goes into the federal government and they come back with the controls and what we're seeing is more and more mandates," Vander Plaats said. "In particular on this health care deal, as it gets passed onto the states, it has the possibility of bankrupting the states."
If elected governor, Vander Plaats would advocate taking all the taxes Iowans pay to support Medicare -- and Medicaid - and having the state run both programs.
"If you left the Medicaid and Medicare dollars that you're taking from our citizens within the state of Iowa and let the State of Iowa design its health care delivery system, I think we'd be way better off than what the federal government has currently," Vander Plaats said.
I'm having trouble thinking of a wackier idea floated by a major-party politician in Iowa. (Maybe Chuck Grassley's dream of coal-fired ethanol plants?)
State Representative Chris Rants, the policy wonk in the GOP gubernatorial field, pointed out a few glaring problems with the Vander Plaats proposal:
"I don't think Bob has any idea just how much it would cost to have the state government take over the Medicare system, and all of Medicaid. This idea would almost double the size of our state budget." [...]
According to Kaiser's Statehealthfacts.org, there were 504,944 Iowans on Medicare. The latest report on spending per enrollee is from 2006, with the state average being $6,572 for $3,318,491,968. Iowa's state match totals $1 billion. On average Medicad is a two for one matching program.
"This idea may sound good in a stump speech, but it doesn't work in practice," said Rants. "First, it would bust the state's budget. It would cost $2 Billion for Medicaid and $3.3 Billion for Medicare. Iowans can't afford it, not now, not ever."
"Second, Vander Plaats' plan would put Iowa's tax rate so far above our neighboring states, you might as well turn out the lights now. Bob will have succeeded in doing what Culver couldn't, and that is to completely kill our business climate. Why would any business or person want to pay double the taxes Iowa has now. It just doesn't make any sense," Rants concluded.
Way to be the skunk at the garden party, Rants. Vander Plaats has a vision of sovereignty for Iowans, and all you can say is budget this and business climate that.
Seriously, with a front-runner like Vander Plaats it's no wonder Republican power brokers are desperate to draft Terry Branstad to run for governor.
Speaking of Branstad, former state auditor Richard Johnson is a co-chair of the Vander Plaats campaign. Johnson was auditor during most of Branstad's tenure as governor. He endorsed Fred Grandy in the 1994 GOP gubernatorial primary, citing Branstad's fiscal mismanagement. This could get interesting if Branstad decides to run against Governor Chet Culver.