Culver orders 10 percent budget cut (updated)

Oct 08, 2009

The Regents universities

This is going to play hell with the Regents.  We’re already halfway through fall semester and the schedule for winter/spring is finalized.  Laying off faculty and canceling classes will cause chaos in Iowa City, Ames, and Cedar Falls.  I have to wonder what dimension of reality an ex-high school football coach like Culver lives in, if he thinks that this won’t produce immense resentment, even outright anger, among the people who are the hardcore base he needs if he wants to get reelected a year from now.  I know that I personally feel dramatically less interest in his political future this afternoon than I felt yesterday, before he pulled this stunt.

Previewing the Vander Plaats case against Branstad

Oct 21, 2009

You're right about Branstad & the electorate

Branstad last ran for office in 1994.  That makes in 16 years (in 2010) since he faced Iowa voters.  Those voters are far less Republican and far less rural than they were in his last run.  Even Grassley faces this problem, since Iowa’s electoral landscape has shifted noticeably since his last run a mere six years ago.  A lot of Iowa voters won’t even remember Branstad as governor.  The election will be close, but that’ll be because Culver’s base voters stay home, disillusioned over his inept administration, not because Branstad rides a tsunami of nostalgia or latent Republicanism to victory.

Where does our state need good candidates to run? (An open question)

Oct 28, 2009


I would love to see a real Democrat primary Chet Culver.  Ol’ Hoss seems more determined to present himself as the Other Terry Branstad than as someone determined to preserve the state infrastructure.  If the Flat Earth wing of the GOP destroys itself in an eight- or nine-way primary next year, and Branstad emerges as the nominee by virtue of being the only candidate who’s not thoroughly insane, Hoss is going to have a very hard time selling himself to an electorate stung by massive cutbacks in vital state services, when Branstad isn’t associated in the electorate’s now well-aged memory with any such pain.  They’re going to look at Hoss and Branstad and think, you know, the only difference between them is about 120 lbs.

Where does our state need good candidates to run? (An open question)

Oct 28, 2009

Somebody who's willing to level with people

Back during the dot-com boom of the late ’90s, the GOP cut taxes every time the state ran a surplus.  The end result was a revenue stream that’s only adequate in boom times.  Whenever there’s a burp, you have to sacrifice a bit more of the public service infrastructure to Grover Norquist.  Democrats took back the legislature but seem to live in such fear of the ghost of Ronald Reagan, or the wrath of Chris Rantz, that they’re incapable of rebuilding the state’s revenue structure.  Culver invoked the magic words “fiscal conservatism”, the mantra of the Democrat-Republican-wannabe in justifying his across-the-board cuts.  It’s swell that he’s willing to put those $400 million-plus tax credit giveaways to business on the table, but putting them on the table is a far cry from calling for their repeal.

As to what he should have done:  Democrats at both the state and national levels have done a pathetic job of educating the American people about what their tax dollars actually pay for.  They seem to have conceded the debate to Ronald Reagan’s ghost, whose litany of mythical welfare queens driving Cadillacs poisoned people’s minds about taxes (oops … I mean “tax-and-spend” … sorry).  He could’ve pointed out that Republicans all over the country led the charge to strip state governments of the ability to run deficits in times like these, when government expenditures can mean the difference between hard times and disaster.  He could’ve pointed out that increasing our state income taxes enough to restore the revenue stream to a necessary level, or even just to cover this shortfall, involves trivial amounts of money.  I gross $63.5k a year; increasing my state income taxes 10 percent would cost me about $20 more a month.  Whatever Chris Rantz says, $20 a month isn’t going to bankrupt anyone making my income.  But instead, Hoss was determined to depict himself as some sort of sugar-free Republican, a “fiscal conservative”.

So what I would like is a Democrat who’s willing to stand up in front of the public and say that the GOP has worked hard and long to destroy the state government’s ability to fund important government services, like public safety and education, and to brainwash all of us about what our taxes actually buy us, which is safe streets and education leading to a better future for our kids.  And I would like that Democrat to point out that our state taxes don’t amount to grand theft of our take-home pay; the amounts involved are small, especially in comparison to what we, and our children, and our communities, get in return.  But Chet Culver isn’t that Democrat.  I gave him a lot of money, and worked hard for him, back in 2006, under the impression that he was that kind of Democrat, but clearly I was mistaken.  I won’t be mistaken again, at least not about him.

Where does our state need good candidates to run? (An open question)

Oct 28, 2009

You're right

There isn’t any quick way to implement any tax increases.  Here at UNI, spending is being cut, by about $8.5m, though the details remain to be defined.

And I emphatically agree that the Democratic majorities in the Legislature bear substantial responsibility, with Culver, for this situation.  And I’ve conveyed exactly that point to both my Democratic House member, and my Democratic Senator, with whom I’m friends, and to whom I have given both large sums of money in past election cycles, and large amounts of time.  I told them that, sorry, but I’ve given like Croesus and worked like a mule to support you in some very difficult election cycles, but now that I need you, where are you?  They know that there will be no donations from me, and no volunteer time, until they show support for the public infrastructure.

This is the only leverage we have over them, and I see no reason not to use it.  I think it’s called “politics”.

Talk about missing the big picture

Nov 03, 2009

Expect the GOP to double-down in 2010

Since the 1990s, the Iowa GOP has morphed into Victor Frankenstein’s Creature, but without the Creature’s charm or wit.  They really do buy the nonsense that the reason they lost so badly last year was that they weren’t conservative enough, that they didn’t beat the drums of anti-intellectualism and religious and racial bigotry loud and hard enough.  The Tea Bagger win in the bye-election in NY-23 today is going to be read by GOP base activists as a national tectonic shift, even though no one but a Republican has been elected from that district since U.S. Grant was still living in Galena.  As with the Tea Baggers and Dede Scozzafava, the New Model Iowa GOP will never make room for people who have a warm spot in their hearts for someone like Jim Leach.  But frankly, the worst thing that could happen to them would be to win.  That was actually the hidden lesson of the Bush years.  Suddenly all the mindless bumper-sticker slogans and shouted bits of hatred have to be turned into governing, and since Reality holds all the cards higher than a two, they fail miserably, and publicly.  Each one of those failures seals the doom of the GOP with greater certainty.

The one advantage they have is that the Democrats have so little backbone that they’d rather play it safe by going all Grover Norquist and slashing government than by taking a hard-eyed look at the state’s fiscal structure and changing it, and the GOP-written rule that govern it, so that Iowa collects revenues adequate to its needs and has the ability to run deficits in those times when the GOP has destroyed the economy and driven the nation to the brink of a depression.  People get very frightened and frustrated as a consequence, and that may drive them to vote for Tea Baggers as the only way of voicing their discontent.

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