A State Central Committee member's thoughts on Troy Price resigning

Shawn Harmsen represents the second Congressional district on the Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee and chaired the February 3 caucus in Iowa City precinct 6, where a little more than 500 people participated. He first posted these thoughts on Facebook on February 12. The views expressed are his own and do not represent the SCC or any of its other members. -promoted by Laura Belin

Some will be cheering today’s news. I am not one of those people. My opinion may not be popular or fashionable right now, but it is an opinion formed through years of firsthand observations and secondhand reports.

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Lots of links for a snowy day

Many Iowans will be leaving work or school early today, or perhaps not going in at all, as the season’s first big winter blast rolls in. Here’s plenty of reading to keep you busy if you are stuck at home.

Global news first: The United National Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen opened yesterday. To follow news from the proceedings, I’m reading the team of Mother Jones bloggers in Copenhagen. The Open Left blog will also post regular updates from Natasha Chart and Friends of the Earth staff who are on the ground. If you prefer a mainstream media perspective, check out The Climate Pool on Facebook, which is a collaboration among major news organizations.

Also on Monday, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson signed off on two findings that will pave the way to regulate carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act. This action follows from a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA. More background and details can be found on the EPA’s site. Environment Iowa explains the significance of the EPA’s action here. An expert panel surveyed by Grist disagreed on whether the EPA’s “endangerment finding” would affect the Copenhagen talks.

The most important reason I oppose the current draft bills on climate change kicking around Congress is that they would revoke the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide. Chris Bowers explains why that would be disastrous here.

Uganda is considering a horrific law that would subject homosexuals to long prison terms or even the death penalty. One Iowa is collecting signatures on a petition to Senator Chuck Grassley, asking him to speak out against this law. Grassley’s never going to be a gay rights advocate, but he should agree that criminalizing homosexuality is wrong. Grassley is involved with “The Family,” which is connected to the proposed bill in Uganda.

On the economic front, President Obama is expected to announce plans to use about $200 billion allocated for the Wall Street bailout to fund a jobs bill Congress will consider soon.. The Hill previewed some of the measures that may end up in that bill.

Some economists who met with Governor Chet Culver yesterday think Iowa has already reached the bottom of this recession. I hope they are right, but either way, policy-makers should listen to their ideas for reforming Iowa’s budget process. I’ll write a separate post on this important development soon. Here is the short take:

The state could base its spending on a multi-year average, such as the previous three years, or five years or seven years, said Jon Muller, president of Muller Consulting Inc., a public policy and business development consulting firm based in Des Moines.

“The way it’s always worked, when times are really good, we increase spending and we cut taxes,” Muller said. “And when times are bad, there’s pressure to increase taxes and decrease spending. And that all happens when the demand for government is at its highest,” Muller said.

The multi-year idea would flip, he said.

“In good times you would be squirreling money at way a little at a time. And in bad times, you could continue to increase spending to service the growing demands of a recession.”

It would require state lawmakers to not touch the reserves, even in times of plenty. But it would also reduce the need to tap into reserves just to get by during rainy days, the advisers said.

Regarding budget cuts, the Newton Independent reports here on a “plan to reorganize the Iowa Department of Human Services operations under two deputy directors, six rather than nine divisions, five rather than eight service areas, more part-time offices and the elimination of 78 currently vacant positions” (hat tip to Iowa Independent). Click this link for more details about the proposed restructuring.

On the political front, John Deeth analyzes possible changes the Democratic National Committee is considering for the presidential nomination process. Jerome Armstrong had a good idea the DNC won’t implement: ban caucuses everywhere but Iowa. No other state derives the party-building benefits of caucuses, but just about every state that uses caucuses for presidential selection has lower voter participation than would occur in a primary.

I haven’t written much on health care reform lately, because recent developments are so depressing. Our best hope was using the budget reconciliation process to pass a strong bill in the Senate with 51 votes (or 50 plus Joe Biden). Now that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has taken reconciliation off the table, we’re left with a variety of bad compromises to get to 60 votes in the Senate. I am not convinced the final product will be any improvement over the status quo. It will certainly be worse for millions of Americans required to buy overpriced private health insurance. If there’s a quicker way to neutralize the Democrats’ advantage with young voters, I don’t know what it is.

Speaking of health care reform, Steve Benen wrote a good piece about Grassley’s latest grandstanding on the issue.

Speaking of things that are depressing, John Lennon was shot dead 29 years ago today.  Daily Kos user noweasels remembers him and that night. Although Paul’s always been my favorite Beatle, I love a lot of John’s work too. Here’s one of his all-time best:

Share any relevant thoughts or your own favorite Lennon songs in the comments.

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Why Iowa Needs to Be First

Iowa should not pick the next president. I don't think my opinion should matter more than those in other states. However, I do think Iowa and New Hampshire should go first because they are small states that are won on the ground with retail politics. If Iowa and New Hampshire weren't first, then Joe Biden and Chris Dodd would not be in the race and maybe even Bill Richardson and campaigns would be won with TV ads, large donor fundraisers, and even more mud throwing.

You don't need a ton of money to do well in Iowa, just look at Mike Huckabee's performace at the Ames Straw Poll. Huckabee had less than half a million dollars on hand at the end of the July. In some states, one TV ad costs more money than Huckabee has. Huckabee is still able to gain traction in the race because Iowa is first.

I see Iowa's job to narrow the field down. Let everyone and their brother/sister/mailman campaign in Iowa. We will attend the events at the coffee shops and in the city parks and ask the tough questions. Those that can't make it through this game of retail politics and meet the people face to face will drop out and those that can, will move on to the other states.

What needs to happen is to spread the nominating calendar out. Back in '68 things didn't get heated up until May and June. Now we will have this thing decided by early February. Whomever comes out on top will then get pummeled by the Republican Noise machine for 6 months before the convention. That is not good the democratic process or for the Democratic Party.

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New Richardson Ad Calls On Congress to "Stand Up"

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson’s campaign went on the air in Iowa with a new TV ad calling for an end to the war in Iraq and calling on Congress to “stand up” to President Bush.

As I type, the US Senate is currently voting on cloture for the Levin-Reed Amendment.  On this cloture petition, 18 Senators had signed their names.  Now a vote is taking place.  Bill Richardson  is right.

He’s calling for all US troops out of Iraq and he wants it done now.  It is a vigilant position and one that may even be politically dangerous for him to some degree, but it is the right one.  The American people want this war ended and Bill Richardson will do that.  He may not be the only candidate, but he’s the first to say it so bluntly and forcefully in an ad.

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