Keegan Jones is a lifelong Iowan and 2013 graduate of Fort Dodge Senior High. He currently works as a financial analyst and consultant. -promoted by Laura Belin
I’ve been lucky to travel all over the U.S. and around the globe during my professional career. Every time I tell a stranger I’m from Iowa, I’m confronted with the same question: “Why would anyone want to live in Iowa?”
I often asked my parents the same question when I was growing up, but over time I grew to appreciate being an Iowan and love to brag about our state. Telling people about what it means to be “Iowa nice” and showing off pictures of a beautiful sunset over a cornfield makes it easy to show why Iowa can be great place to live. But convincing someone to move here? That’s another story.
In the hopes of attracting people to move here, I wanted to examine all the compelling reasons why Iowa is a great place to live.
Governor Kim Reynolds and her Republican colleagues often boast that Iowa is ranked high for opportunity. Iowa is doing so well that the governor is cutting off the extra unemployment benefits thousands have been receiving. If you ask either of our U.S. senators, they will tell you there are more high-wage jobs than can be filled, Iowa is business friendly, and the pandemic is over!
Based on that logic, people should be pouring into this state. Yet on the latest census, Iowa ranked 29th for population growth with much of it focused in metro areas. Rural areas are struggling to retain people, and school districts continue to undergo forced consolidation just to stay alive.
Education is a priority for anyone looking for a place to raise a family. Unfortunately, Iowa’s government is on a mission to defund public education. Your public school will likely be understaffed and underfunded. While many hardworking teachers are doing their best to help students strive for success, the legislature is committed to making their jobs more difficult. They will ask you to give your taxpayer dollars to fund private, religious, and charter schools. Underfunded schools for the majority, taxpayer funded private schools for the wealthy.
If you’re looking to attend one of our universities, your research program may be less likely to receive federal grants because the government is considering removing tenure for your professor. Also, the subject matter you’re allowed to be taught and discussions you’re allowed to have may be censored. Accurate depictions of America’s history, race relations, and any type of equality discussion could lead to your school losing its funding. While your public schools and universities are censored by the state government, the private schools funded by your taxpayer dollars have virtually zero oversight.
Safety is also important when considering a new place to live. We all want to be safe and ensure our family is protected. For those concerned about the continued rise in mass shootings and gun violence in this country, Iowa has reversed course and made gun laws more relaxed. Safety is not a top priority here, but if you’re a criminal there’s great news: you can buy any gun you want with no background check, no training, and no permit! The Iowa legislature is committed to making it easier to buy a gun than it is to vote.
While COVID-19 cases were surging, Reynolds overruled local school boards and superintendents and forced schools to return to in person learning. After students flooded back into classrooms, she rejected $95 million in additional federal aid meant to help schools open safely and protect students from the ongoing pandemic. Not only is your safety not a priority here, but the safety of your children is also merely an afterthought to partisanship.
The Iowa GOP insists that there are high paying jobs available here for everyone, but if you’re in need of affordable child care while you work, or your job requires access to high-speed internet, your job search will be difficult. Across Iowa broadband access is limited, and often slow. The Branstad/Reynolds administration has promised to expand broadband access to every corner of the state for the last decade with little result, but rest assured this year they mean it.
If you’re a tech company, our state legislature is aware of your hidden agenda, and may cancel you if you cancel conservatives online. But they also hate cancel culture, so it all just cancels.
It may seem like Iowa isn’t as business friendly as advertised, but don’t fret, Iowa doesn’t hate all businesses! The state government loves large multinational conglomerates, in fact they have far more influence over policy than any individual. Iowa has zero intention of enforcing antitrust laws or really regulating those businesses at all. Feel free to exploit your workers, dump toxic chemicals into our water and let those toxic fumes poor out into the sky.
With all that polluted water and air, you’re going to want to make sure you have quality health care. If you’re lucky enough to have health insurance coverage, that doesn’t guarantee that you will have access to the care you need. Like rural school districts, many rural hospitals are being forced to close or consolidate services for lack of resources.
Finding a hospital that can keep you or a loved one alive could mean driving several hours every time care is needed. The state could intervene and provide support to these small-town hospitals, but Iowa’s government views health care as “nice to have” rather than a human right. Also, funding hospitals might cut into their surplus, and that’s simply unacceptable.
If you’re a woman, you will deal with all the above issues and a litany of other mandated obstacles to get the care that you need. You can be denied birth control by your employer, or even your doctor for “religious reasons.” Planned Parenthood isn’t an option for Iowans using the state’s family planning program, because our legislation made sure to exclude them. That well thought out decision has led to increases in sexually transmitted infections and 25 percent more abortions being performed.
The Republican-controlled legislature, always working toward increasing individual freedom, wants it written into the state constitution that there is no right to an abortion, for any reason.
Not convinced yet? Some other qualities a new resident might enjoy: We have farmers receiving billions in government subsidies and benefiting greatly from immigrant labor who will yell about how immigrants need to “go back to where they came from,” and claim anyone else receiving government benefits is lazy.
Some business owners were happy to accept Paycheck Protection Program loans from the government to stay afloat during the pandemic, but become enraged when their employees ask for a living wage. Directing government funds to corporations is perfectly acceptable, but providing a livable wage and health care are “Marxist ideologies.”
Truly, why would anyone want to move to Iowa? Many former Iowans only come home to visit family. Sadly, that’s no longer an option for thousands of Iowans who lost loved ones to COVID-19 over the last year. Iowa allowed a staggering number of deaths for a state that had every advantage to minimize risk.
Instead, they prioritized the incessant need of the governor to get a gold star from Fox News, and the response was stunningly incompetent. If you dare to make your displeasure with leadership known through protest, you now risk a felony charge along with the continued risk of getting hit by her car.
I still love our state. The fight for the future of Iowa is not over. Our current legislators are focused on finding solutions to problems that do not exist and can’t pass a budget on time, even with large majorities in both chambers. We need leaders focused on expanding health care and child care, investing in education, addressing income inequality, and protecting Iowa’s water and soil. There’s still hope, but without a drastic change in representation at the state and federal level, the “brain drain” of young professionals fleeing Iowa will continue for many years.
Top photo of “Welcome to Iowa” sign by Joseph Sohm is available via Shutterstock.