# Economic Policy

Exploring Paul McKinley's fantasy world (part 2, w/poll)

Last week I highlighted the half-truths and misleading arguments that underpin Iowa Senate minority leader Paul McKinley’s case against Democratic governance in Iowa. I wasn’t planning to revisit the Republican leader’s fantasy world until I read the July 16 edition of his weekly e-mail blast. McKinley claims to offer five “big ideas” to “make Iowa again a state where jobs and prosperity can flourish.”

His premise is absurd when you consider that CNBC just ranked Iowa in the top 10 states for doing business (again), and number one in terms of the cost of doing business. Many of McKinley’s specific claims don’t stand up to scrutiny either, so follow me after the jump. There’s also a poll at the end of this post.

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Grassley backs Republican filibuster, killing jobs bill

The Senate version of a bill designed to create jobs, support state budgets and extend various tax credits and benefit programs failed to overcome a Republican filibuster yesterday. Tom Harkin was among 56 members of the Democratic caucus who voted for the cloture motion (which would end debate on the bill), but Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut voted with all the Republicans present, including Chuck Grassley, to kill the bill (roll call here). Joan McCarter observed that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

voted yes, without changing his vote, signaling that this iteration of the bill is indeed dead.

Reid followed the vote by attempting to pass the emergency provisions of the bill, the “doc fix,” unemployment benefits extension, and FMAP as well as the homebuyer tax credit, as separate bills under unanimous consent. McConnell objected to each, so we’re stuck in further limbo.

Extending unemployment benefits should be a no-brainer when the percentage of unemployed Americans who have been out of work for more than six months is higher “than at any time since the government began keeping track in 1948.” Without the “doc fix,” medical providers’ reimbursements for Medicare patients stand to drop about 20 percent. FMAP stands for Federal Medical Assistance Percentage funding, relating to federal government reimbursements for part of each state’s Medicaid spending. The 2009 stimulus bill temporarily raised FMAP payments for states during the recession, with larger increases going to states with higher unemployment rates. Failing to extend this provision will put state budgets under further strain for the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years.

Republicans who blocked this bill claim we should not be adding to the federal deficit. A spokesman for GOP enabler Ben Nelson laid out his views here. Ezra Klein pointed out a few glaring problems with the analysis: the federal budget can’t start approaching balance with unemployment at 9 percent, polls show Americans are much more concerned about jobs than the deficit, and the current rate of economic recovery is “far, far too slow to really dent unemployment.” Meanwhile, the same senators who claim to oppose adding to the deficit also oppose rolling back tax cuts or tax loopholes for the wealthy in order to pay for extending unemployed benefits, state fiscal aid and tax credits.

I share John Aravosis’ view that it was a terrible mistake for President Barack Obama to talk tough about reducing the deficit earlier this year. As Aravosis writes,

[T]he President didn’t want to blame Bush and the GOP for the deficit, and he didn’t want to sufficiently defend the stimulus and explain to people that they had a choice between a Great Depression and a bigger deficit. […] If the public understood that the deficit was a) mostly caused by Bush, and b) not nearly as important as staving off a Depression and creating jobs, the GOP would be facing far more pressure not to launch these filibusters at all.

Perhaps no jobs bill passed this week would alter the economy enough to affect the November elections, but if we accept current unemployment levels and don’t pass additional fiscal aid to the states, the economy may still be very weak leading up to the 2012 election.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread. From where I’m sitting, the case for Harkin’s filibuster reform proposal has never looked stronger.

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Republicans find candidate for Iowa House district 16

When the filing deadline for Iowa candidates passed in March, many Democrats were shocked that no Republican tried to qualify for the ballot in House district 16. The district in Iowa’s northeast corner covers all of Allamakee County and most of Winnishiek County, including Decorah, site of Luther College. Click here to download a district map (pdf file). Republican Chuck Gipp represented this district for 18 years before retiring in 2008. Although the area has been trending toward Democrats for some time, Republicans still have a slight voter registration advantage. As of the beginning of June 2010, there were 6127 registered Democrats in House district 16, 6819 Republicans and 7737 no-party voters.

This week, someone finally stepped up to challenge freshman State Representative John Beard. More details about that Republican and an early look at the House district 16 race are after the jump.

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The impact of Reaganomics, amped up by Bush

Between 1984 and 2007, “The gap between the wealth possessed by white and black families grew more than four times larger,” in part because of tax cuts and policies that favored high-income groups. Researchers from the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University also found in a new report that the average middle-income white family was able to accumulate more wealth (assets minus debts) than the average high-income African-American family: “Consumers of color face a gauntlet of barriers – in credit, housing and taxes – that dramatically reduce the chances of economic mobility.”

The growing wealth gap between the races in the U.S. is the focus of the new report, which you can download here. Other researchers have found equally damning evidence of the widening gap between the very rich and everyone else. This graph shows how “the top 10 per cent of income earners in the US took home an ever more outsized share of the total national income starting at the end of the 1970s.” From the World War II era to the early 1980s, the “top 10 percent took 30-35 per cent of total national income,” but by 2007 that figure had grown to about 50 percent–a level not seen since just before the Great Depression.

Ronald Reagan’s fiscal policies started this trend, but George W. Bush accelerated it with his enormous tax cuts for the highest earners. During Bush’s presidency, “The share of the nation’s income flowing to the top 1 percent of households increased sharply, from 16.9 percent in 2002 to 23.5 percent in 2007 – a larger share than at any point since 1928.” In addition, approximately “Two-thirds of the nation’s total income gains from 2002 to 2007 flowed to the top 1 percent of U.S. households […].”  

This enormous wealth gap is invisible to the Reagan-worshippers who now dominate the Republican Party. For them, any attempt to increase working-class wages is a “job-killer,” and tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the well-off are the solution to every problem. Look at how the Republican candidates for Iowa governor balk at spending $42 million to send more than 12,000 kids to pre-school but brag about plans to cut corporate taxes by $80 million to $160 million. Their priorities would be laughable if the real-world consequences were not so tragic.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

Senate to extend unemployment benefits, but Grassley votes no (again)

The U.S. Senate defeated a Republican attempt to filibuster another month-long extension of unemployment benefits yesterday by a vote of 60 to 34. Four Republicans voted with all of the Democrats present on the cloture motion, but Iowa’s Senator Chuck Grassley supported the filibuster, as did most of his fellow Republicans (roll call here). Senator Tom Harkin was absent but would have voted to overcome the filibuster.

Republicans claim they simply want the unemployment benefits to be “paid for” (though they never objected when supplemental spending for the war in Iraq, or tax cuts for the wealthy, added to the deficit). Senator Chuck Schumer of New York countered,

“Unemployment extensions have always been considered emergency spending, and there’s a reason for that. […] Unemployment insurance is a form of stimulus, but offsetting the extension of this program would negate the stimulative impact. It would be robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

Governor Chet Culver had written to the entire Iowa delegation in Congress urging them to pass the benefits extension. Unlike Grassley, our governor understands how important these benefits are as economic stimulus:

The nonpartisan Iowa Fiscal Partnership released a study earlier this year showing the economic impacts of stimulus spending for unemployment benefits. Analysts found that direct spending for unemployment insurance included in the federal stimulus, along with ripple effects from that spending, produced $501.7 million increased economic activity and $112.1 million in income in 2009, creating or saving 3,727 jobs.

For the current year, the researchers also found direct and indirect benefits but in lower amounts, $314.6 million activity, $68.6 million income and 2,258 jobs.

So extending unemployment benefits doesn’t just help the jobless and their families, it helps businesses in virtually every community. The bad news is that the bill the Senate is poised to pass this week is not retroactive, meaning that unemployed Americans whose benefits expired on April 5 won’t get back the money they would have received this month had the Senate passed this bill before the Easter recess. It was a big mistake for Democrats to go home without taking care of this business in March.

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Is Larry Summers on the way out?

The Atlantic’s Joshua Green thinks so:

I think Summers is going to leave sooner rather than later, possibly before the mid-term elections, and if not then, soon afterward.

Why? Because Summers is frustrated by his role, and his colleagues are clearly frustrated with him. Alexis Simendinger had a devastating item in last week’s National Journal suggesting that Summers’s “legendary self-regard” and “ego the size of the national debt” had gotten out of control. Some of Summers’s frustration no doubt stems from his wanting to be Treasury secretary. When that plum went to Geithner, Summers cast his eye on the Fed chairmanship and agreed to bide his time until Ben Bernanke’s term ended at the NEC–a staff position well below his old job as Clinton’s Treasury secretary. Most administration officials tactfully avoid pointing this out, because Summers has a fragile ego. But that’s why Joe Biden is so great. “How many former Secretaries of the Treasury would come in not as Secretary of the Treasury?” Biden blurted out to the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza last fall.

But Summers didn’t get the Fed job either. Apparently that didn’t sit well. Administration insiders told Simendinger that Summers demanded a series of perks as compensation, including cabinet status, golf dates with the president, and a personal car and driver. In the “No Drama” Obama administration, such behavior stands out.  […]

Summers always seemed a bad fit for NEC director because the job entails dispassionately presenting the president with the counsel of his competing economic advisers. Summers doesn’t do “dispassionate” and he didn’t want to limit himself to fielding others’ advice–he had plenty of his own to offer. In other words, he was supposed to be the referee, but he also wanted to play power forward.

Summers was one of President Obama’s worst appointments, in my opinion, but I wouldn’t expect the president to reshuffle his economic team unless a mostly-jobless recovery continues, or the worst-case scenario of a douple-dip recession develops. Anyway, Summers’ departure wouldn’t herald a real change in economic policy if Green is right about Timothy Geithner being “ever more secure at Treasury.”

What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers?

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Unemployment benefits will run out for many today

Although the March jobs report was encouraging, the unemployment rate and the number of long-term unemployed are still at historically high levels. Unfortunately, unemployment benefits for about 200,000 Americans will run out soon because Congress adjourned for its Easter recess before resolving an dispute over extending those and other benefits. The Hill reports:

The interruption in benefits will last two weeks at a minimum, according to Judy Conti of the National Employment Law Project (NELP), since lawmakers return from spring break on April 12.

As the two-week recess began, Congress was at an impasse over how to extend the emergency unemployment insurance program and other expiring provisions, including increased COBRA health insurance subsidies for the unemployed, the Medicare doctor payment rate and federal flood insurance.

Senate Republicans said the $9.3 billion, 30-day extension preferred by Democrats should be paid for, while Democrats said the bill’s cost didn’t need to be offset because the program was “emergency spending.”

Under the jobless benefits program that ends Monday, Americans out of work are eligible for up to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits. The program, aimed at helping jobless Americans stay afloat when new jobs aren’t readily available, gives an unemployed worker more than the 26 weeks of unemployment insurance normally available. But with the program ending, those out of work for as few as six months will see an interruption in their benefit checks.

I love how Republicans who approved every blank check for war in Iraq and every tax cut for the top 1 percent now demand that unemployment benefits be “paid for.” I don’t expect them to hold up action on unemployment benefits forever, but even if Democrats are able to apply extensions retroactively later this month, a lot of families will experience real hardship in the meantime. Democrats should not have adjourned for Easter before dealing with this issue. I hope they pass a bill to extend the benefits until the end of the year, so these battles won’t recur every month.

In an April 2 statement regarding the latest jobs report, Senator Tom Harkin outlined additional steps needed to help people looking for work:

“First, Congress must overcome the obstructionism that is holding up an extension of unemployment insurance.  This critical safety net expires Monday and will leave nearly 38,000 Americans and 1,200 Iowans without benefits they need while they look for work.  In addition, we must take immediate action to prevent job losses among our nation’s teachers – to protect the quality of education – and we need to pass job creating legislation.  When Congress returns, I intend to move immediately on those efforts.”

UPDATE: Mike Lillis has more on benefits expiring and next steps in the Senate.

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Grassley votes no again as Senate sends small jobs bill to Obama

The U.S. Senate gave final approval to a small jobs bill today by a vote of 68-29. Eleven Republicans and the Senate’s two independents joined 55 Democrats (including Iowa’s Tom Harkin) to pass the bill. The only Democrat to vote no was Ben Nelson of Nebraska (roll call here). The motion to invoke cloture on this jobs bill passed the Senate on Monday by a 60-31 vote, with six Republicans voting with all Democrats but Ben Nelson (roll call here). Senator Chuck Grassley voted with the Republicans who tried to filibuster the bill on Monday and with those who opposed the bill today. From the Washington Post:

The centerpiece of the bill is a new program giving companies a break from paying Social Security taxes for the remainder of 2010 on any new workers they hire who had been unemployed for at least 60 days. Employers would also get a $1,000 tax credit for each of those workers who stays on the payroll for at least one year.

Aside from that program, the measure includes a one-year extension of the law governing federal transportation funding, and would transfer $20 billion into the highway trust fund. The bill also extends a tax break allowing companies to write off equipment purchases, and expands the Build America Bonds program, which helps state and local governments secure financing for infrastructure projects.

Last month the Senate approved a similar jobs measure; Grassley voted no at that time as well. After the House made minor changes to the legislation, the bill had to clear the Senate again before going to the president’s desk.

Most House Democrats support a larger job-creation bill with more money for infrastructure projects, but there may not be 60 votes in the Senate for such a measure.

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Iowans split on party lines as House passes scaled-back jobs bill

The House of Representatives approved a jobs bill today containing about $15 billion in tax incentives and a $20 billion allocation from the Highway Trust Fund to support infrastructure projects. (The Senate had approved the legislation on February 24.) Iowa Democrats Bruce Braley (IA-01), Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Leonard Boswell (IA-03) voted for the bill, while Iowa Republicans Tom Latham (IA-04) and Steve King (IA-05) voted against it (roll call here). Six Republicans joined 211 Democrats in supporting the bill, while 35 Democrats opposed it along with most of the GOP caucus. The Democratic opponents were mostly members of either the Progressive Caucus or the Congressional Black Caucus:

Congressman [Raul] Grijalva, one of the leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, had dismissed the tax-credit focused bill as not “dealing with job creation.” […] The CBC’s position during the month long debate on the $15 billion jobs tax credit package was fairly straightforward – CBC members don’t want to back a bill that was composed of tax breaks for business which they don’t believe will necessarily create jobs when other job-creating programs the CBC supports, such a summer youth jobs program, face an uncertain future in the Senate.

Braley had introduced a separate bill last month containing language similar to part of the jobs bill approved today:

Braley’s language in the HIRE Act provides small business owners with greater incentives to hire workers for long-term positions, providing $1,000 in additional tax incentives for businesses that retain employees for 52 consecutive weeks. The payroll tax cut provides greater incentive for employers to move quickly to hire new workers because the credit expires at the end of the year.  The sooner employees are hired, the more time small business owners have to benefit from the credit.

The [Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment] Act also includes the following provisions:

o       Tax cuts to spur new investment by small businesses to help them expand and hire more workers

o       Extension of the Highway Trust Fund allowing for tens of billions of dollars in infrastructure investment

o       Provisions — modeled after the Build America Bonds program – to make it easier for states to borrow for infrastructure projects, such as school construction and energy projects

Earlier this week, Republican Senator Jim Bunning ended his filibuster of a bill including a temporary extension of unemployment benefits and other measures. The Senate then approved the bill by a 78 to 19 vote. Both Democrat Tom Harkin and Republican Chuck Grassley voted for the bill. However, Grassley defended Bunning’s efforts to demand that the bill be paid for, while Harkin said Bunning had abused Senate procedures in blocking the bill for several days. I do agree with one point Grassley raised: the unemployment benefits should have been included in the jobs bill the Senate approved on February 24.

Obama signed the bill right away on March 3. Not only did that extend unemployment and COBRA benefits, it also allowed furloughed Department of Transportation workers to come back to work and prevented a big cut in Medicare payments to physicians from going into effect.

Speaking of jobs-related legislation, Roxanne Conlin’s campaign blasted Grassley this week for announcing that some Dubuque workers are eligible for a retraining program that he voted against. After the jump you can read the press release, which includes background information on the program and Grassley’s voting record.  

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Appliance Rebate Fiasco

(Someone had better fix this problem quickly. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

I thought that the appliance rebate was going to make some good headlines for Gov. Culver.  But it looks like it is going down as a fiasco.  The program was supposed to start at 8:00AM today, but by 8:10, the website was already down.  

It only had the message: "The service is unavailable."  

 The phone lines are also jammed.  Most of the time I don't even get a busy signal, it just leaves me hanging, listening to static.  Has anyone else tried to get a rebate yet?

UPDATE from desmoinesdem: The $2.8 million in stimulus money for these rebates in Iowa was exhausted in one day. Representative Bruce Braley has urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “to include funding for clean energy appliance rebate programs in any jobs legislation considered by the House.”

Long-term unemployed pay the price for Senate dysfunction

As long-term unemployment continues to rise, unemployment benefits for many Americans will run out tonight because the U.S. Senate failed to pass a bill extending the benefits late last week. An estimated 1.2 million Americans, including about 75,000 Iowans, stand to lose unemployment benefits during the month of March if Congress does not act. For reasons I don’t understand, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid left the benefits extension out of the jobs bill approved by the Senate on February 24.

The following day, the House of Representatives approved a separate bill containing a one-month extension of unemployment benefits, federal subsidies for people on COBRA health insurance plans, current Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors, and a few other programs. Democrats tried to bring this bill up for a Senate vote right away, but retiring Republican Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky repeatedly objected to motions for unanimous consent. Democrats promised to keep filing motions until Bunning broke down, but instead they adjourned near midnight on Thursday night.

Democrats have been slamming Bunning in public statements and e-mail blasts. Here’s an example from Senator Tom Harkin’s office on Friday:

“We need to act quickly to extend the safety net and make sure laid-off workers have access to unemployment benefits through the end of the year, at least,” said Harkin.  “It is heartbreaking to see political games being played with the lives of hardworking people who are struggling to find a job, particularly when there has been strong bipartisan support in the past to extend unemployment benefits and other vital safety net programs.  

“Unfortunately this is emblematic of the larger issue plaguing the Senate today: abuse of Senate procedure.  We saw it in November as well.  While Senate Republicans play games, families are sitting around their kitchen tables wondering how they will make ends meet.  

“I intend to do everything in my power to fight this and hope other Senators will join me in this effort.”

[…] In November, Senate Republicans used a similar delay tactic to filibuster a motion to proceed to a bill to extend unemployment compensation.  After delaying and grinding Senate business to a halt for nearly a month, the bill passed 97-1.

Bunning’s behavior is inexcusable, and he even had the gall to complain about missing a college basketball game while staying on the Senate floor to block this bill.

At the same time, it is pathetic that Democrats adjourned instead of standing and fighting Senate Republicans all weekend long. Apparently one or two other Republicans showed up Thursday night to back up Bunning, but so what? Democrats should have refused to leave until the unemployment benefits bill passed. At the Congress Matters blog, David Waldman explained other ways Democrats could have handled Bunning’s procedural roadblock. Chris Bowers looked at the big picture here:

Democrats are in charge, and they are going to get blamed for this.  Democratic attempts to blame this on Senate procedure will ring utterly hollow.  Not only do people not understand, or care about, those rules, but it simply sounds wimpy and pathetic for the people running the United States Government to throw their hands up in the air and say “our procedural rules prevented us from doing anything to solve this huge problem. Sorry.”

Democrats did not have to adjourn.  They could have kept fighting Bunning.  Further, they all agreed to the rules under which the Senate operates, and most of them are still defending those rules.  Blaming Senate procedure is not going to extend anyone’s unemployment or COBRA benefits, and its not going to win many hearts around the country.

Sure, Jim Bunning is currently the biggest asshole in the country right now.  However, if you think that procedure is a problem, then start working to change the procedure.  If you think that unemployment benefits need to be extended, then don’t adjourn for the weekend when those benefits are slated to run out.  

Sometime this week, or perhaps later in March, Senate Democrats will break the Republican obstruction. But when that happens, “state governments will still have to deal with the extra administrative costs of shutting down and restarting the extended benefits programs.”

Some Republicans, like Representative Steve King, are philosophically opposed to extending unemployment benefits, but they fail to acknowledge that extending unemployment benefits has tremendous “bang for the buck.” The Iowa Fiscal Partnership recently calculated that that the unemployment benefits extension contained in last year’s federal stimulus bill “produced $501.7 million increased economic activity and $112.1 million in income in 2009, while creating or saving 3,727 jobs” in Iowa alone.

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Senate passes jobs bill; Grassley votes no

The U.S. Senate passed a scaled-back jobs bill today by a 70-28 vote (roll call here). 57 of the 59 Senate Democrats voted for the bill; Ben Nelson of Nebraska voted no and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey was absent. 13 Republicans voted for the bill. Five of them helped Democrats break a Republican filibuster on Monday: Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, and the retiring Kit Bond of Missouri and George Voinovich of Ohio. Two Republicans who were absent for Monday’s cloture vote also voted yes today: Orrin Hatch of Utah and Richard Burr of North Carolina. Six other Republicans tried to block this vote from going forward on Monday but turned around and voted for the bill today: Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker of Mississippi, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, George LeMieux of Florida, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Senate Democrats and the media are calling this a $15 billion jobs bill, but David Dayen notes, it’s really a $35 billion measure: “the extension of the Highway Trust Fund would add $20 billion for infrastructure projects, but because of the way it’s financed, through a fund shift, it doesn’t count as an expense.”

In addition to the highway fund money, the main features of the jobs bill are a tax credit for small businesses that hire new workers, “Build America Bonds” that help state and local governments to borrow money, and a provision to allow small businesses to write off more expenses.

Senator Chuck Grassley voted against today’s bill and against the cloture motion on Monday. He and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus had agreed on a different jobs bill, which Senate Majority Leader Reid abandoned. In a statement submitted to the Senate record on Monday, Grassley slammed Reid’s “disregard for bipartisanship” and noted that tax-extending provisions in the Baucus-Grassley bill had enjoyed broad support from both parties in the past.

The House passed a larger jobs bill in December that included many of the tax-extending provisions Reid omitted from the Senate bill.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moodys.com, said last week that Reid’s jobs bill was “a good first step” but not nearly large enough to address the unemployment problem:

A failure to provide additional funding to struggling states, for example, would lead to job losses that would “overwhelm” all the other job-creating efforts being tried, he said. And while the Schumer-Hatch tax credit would create between 200,000 and 300,000 new jobs, Zandi estimated, that number is a drop in the bucket relative to the roughly 11 million new jobs needed to get the country back to pre-recession jobless levels.

Reid has promised to introduce more jobs-creating legislation soon. Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will try to move quickly on the bill the Senate just approved, Roll Call reported.

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Stimulus bill anniversary thread

It’s been a year since President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (better known as the stimulus bill) into law. I didn’t like the early concessions Obama made to Republicans in a fruitless effort to win their support for the stimulus. I was even more upset with later compromises made to appease Senate conservadems and Republican moderates. They reduced spending in several areas that had real stimulative value (school construction funds, extra money for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, aid to state governments) in order to include tax cuts that have much less stimulus “bang for the buck.” Senator Tom Harkin was right to question why 9 percent of the stimulus bill’s cost went toward fixing the alternative minimum tax, for instance.

Still, I supported passage of the stimulus bill. In late 2008 and early 2009 the U.S. economy was losing 600,000 to 700,000 jobs per month. Something had to be done. On balance, the stimulus did much more good than bad. Economists agree it has saved or created a lot of jobs:

Just look at the outside evaluations of the stimulus. Perhaps the best-known economic research firms are IHS Global Insight, Macroeconomic Advisers and Moody’s Economy.com. They all estimate that the bill has added 1.6 million to 1.8 million jobs so far and that its ultimate impact will be roughly 2.5 million jobs. The Congressional Budget Office, an independent agency, considers these estimates to be conservative.

Two and a half million jobs isn’t enough to compensate for the 8 million jobs lost since this recession began, but it’s a start.

Not only did the stimulus create jobs, it greatly increased spending on programs that will have collateral benefits. Incentives to make homes more energy efficient will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save consumers money that they can spend elsewhere. Money for sewer improvements will provide lasting gains in water quality (inadequate sewers and septic systems are a huge problem in Iowa). The stimulus included $8 billion for high-speed rail. It wasn’t nearly enough, of course; we could have spent ten or twenty times that amount on improving our rail networks. But that $8 billion pot drew $102 billion in grant applications from 40 states and Washington, DC. The massive demand for high-speed rail stimulus funding increases the chance that Congress will allocate more funds for rail transportation in the future.

Unfortunately, most Americans don’t believe the stimulus bill created jobs. That’s largely because unemployment remains at a historically high level of 10 percent nationwide. Also, inflation-adjusted average weekly earnings have gone down during the past year. In addition, Republicans have stayed on message about the worthlessness of the stimulus bill, even though scores of them have hailed stimulus spending in their own states and districts.

Democrats on the House Labor and Education Committee released an ad that lists various popular stimulus bill provisions, such as increasing Pell Grants and teacher pay. The ad uses the tag line, “There’s an act for that,” naming the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act at the end. I don’t think it’s effective, because the ad doesn’t include the word “stimulus.” Few people will realize that the ARRA refers to the stimulus bill.

Bleeding Heartland readers, how do you view the stimulus one year later?

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Steve King idiocy of the week

These unbelievable comments from Representative Steve King come to you courtesy of KTIV in Sioux City, who asked the congressman about the upcoming closure of the John Morrell plant in April:

King doesn’t support a suggestion, by Iowa governor Chet Culver, to extend federal unemployment benefits to 39-weeks after a worker loses his, or her, job.

The republican worries some Morrell workers won’t start looking for a new job until that 39th week when benefits are about to run out.

King says the 26-weeks workers get, right now, is enough. Rep. Steve King, (R) Iowa says “We shouldn’t turn the ‘safety net’ into a hammock. It should actually be a ‘safety net’.”

The John Morrell plant currently employs about 1,450 workers. The unemployment rate in Woodbury County is above 6 percent, so it won’t be easy for all of the displaced workers to find new jobs quickly. The Iowa Democratic Party slammed King’s “absurd” comments:

“Calling the extension to unemployment benefits a ‘hammock’ is insulting. Sioux City is suffering with the blow of the Morrell plant closing. This is the worst recession in 80 years. But, Congressman King believes that we should be worried about these workers being too lazy,” said Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan. […]

“Iowans believe in working hard and playing by the rules, and I know that many affected by the Morrell plant closing are already looking for work to provide for their families after the plant closes. Steve King should stop insulting his constituents and get to work helping them get through this difficult time.”

Not only is King insensitive, he appears to be ignorant about how unemployment benefits relate to the broader economy. Last year Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moodys.com, calculated the stimulus “bang for the buck” of various forms of tax cuts and government spending. The table he created is on page 9 of this pdf document, or you can view it here. Of everything Zandi examined, extending unemployment benefits had the second-highest bang for the buck, generating $1.63 in economic activity for every $1 spent by the federal government. That was more than three times the bang for the buck of any permanent tax cut. Even the best tax cut for economic stimulus (a temporary payroll tax holiday) generates only an estimated $1.28 in economic activity for every $1 in revenue the federal government doesn’t collect.

In other words, extending unemployment benefits to former John Morrell workers wouldn’t just give them a safety net, it would produce more revenue for businesses in the Sioux City area. Last year’s stimulus bill extended federal unemployment benefits, but that provision may expire at the end of this month. Meanwhile, long-term unemployment has reached its highest level in decades. According to KTIV, King has talked with Smithfield Foods about giving Sioux City workers jobs at plants Smithfield owns in other communities, but I question how realistic that is when 44 other states have higher unemployment rates than Iowa. Nor would it help Sioux City businesses and property values to have hundreds of families leave the area.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

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Baucus-Grassley "jobs" bill going nowhere (updated)

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and ranking Republican Chuck Grassley released a draft jobs bill yesterday that would cost about $85 billion. It “would give employers a payroll tax exemption for hiring those who have been unemployed for at least 60 days. The bill would also provide a $1,000 income tax credit for new workers retained for 52 weeks.” Click here to read a copy of the draft bill.

A bipartisan jobs bill would be great if that bill would create a significant number of new jobs. Unfortunately, analysts agree that many of the measures in the Baucus-Grassley bill would do little on that front. More details are after the jump.

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Fed chairman Bernanke confirmed for second term

The Senate voted to confirm Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve today, but it was hardly a ringing endorsement:

The 70 to 30 vote was the thinnest approval ever extended to a chairman in the central bank’s 96-year history.

The confirmation was a victory for President Obama, who had called Mr. Bernanke an architect of the recovery, but also signaled the extent to which the Fed, once little known to the public, has become the object of populist outrage over high unemployment and Wall Street bailouts.

In several hours of debate, senators said the Fed had abetted, then ignored, the housing and credit bubbles and allowed banks to keep dangerously low capital reserves and to make reckless lending decisions that ruined consumers. Some even blamed Mr. Bernanke for the falling dollar and questioned his commitment to free enterprise.

In contrast, Mr. Bernanke’s supporters were muted. Like a mantra, they said that the Fed had made mistakes but that Mr. Bernanke had helped save the economy from a far worse recession.

Eleven Democrats, 18 Republicans and independent Bernie Sanders voted against confirming Bernanke (roll call here).

Senators of both parties who opposed Bernanke said his monetary policy and poor oversight contributed to the financial meltdown of 2008. Various Democrats who voted against Bernanke said he had been too beholden to Wall Street interests.

I still think it was a mistake for Obama to nominate Bernanke for another term, but let’s hope the Fed chairman our mild-mannered economic overlord improves on the job.

UPDATE: MIT economist Simon Johnson argues that Bernanke’s reappointment was “a colossal failure of governance.” Worth a read.

SECOND UPDATE: Bleeding Heartland user ragbrai08 notes that seven senators voted for cloture (allowing the Senate to proceed to consider Bernanke’s nomination) before voting against confirming him. Here is the roll call on the cloture vote. The senators who voted for cloture but against Bernanke are Democrats Tom Harkin, Barbara Boxer (CA), Byron Dorgan (ND), Al Franken (MN), Ted Kaufman (DE), and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), along with Republican George LeMieux (FL).

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Harkin will vote no on Bernanke

Senator Tom Harkin told the Des Moines Register and Radio Iowa today that he will vote against confirming Ben Bernanke to another term as chairman of the Federal Reserve. Radio Iowa quoted him as saying he’s “tired of being held hostage by Wall Street”:

“I just think Mr. Bernanke is going to continue the policy of The Fed of taking care of the big financial institutions and to heck with Main Street,” Harkin says.

Harkin faults Bernanke for the handling of the Wall Street bailout. “Mr. Bernanke gave away trillions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to AIG at almost zero percent interest rate, and then they turned around and they held their counterparties – French, Germans, Swiss and many others – harmless. They didn’t have to take a hair cut at all,” Harkin says, “They got paid off in full and yet we (taxpayers) lost trillions.” […]

“I’ve had it with being told that some bank is too big to fail and I’ve had it with being told that someone, some person is so important that we have to have that person in this position.  That’s nonsense,” Harkin says.

Looks like someone didn’t get the memo about “our mild-mannered economic overlord” saving the country. Good for Harkin.

Meanwhile, Senator Chuck Grassley told the Des Moines Register, “I think I made a decision [on Bernanke] […] But I don’t think I’ll announce it.” Grassley went on to criticize the Fed for doing too little to fight inflation, suggesting we could be on a path to hyper-inflation like we had in 1979.

With unemployment at a 26-year high, I’m surprised Grassley is so concerned about hyper-inflation. Economists, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t deflation a greater risk right now?

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Barack Herbert Hoover Obama

Please tell me our president is smarter than this:

President Obama will propose freezing non-security discretionary government spending for the next three years, a sweeping plan to attempt deficit reduction that will save taxpayers $250 billion over 10 years.

When the administration releases its budget next week, the discretionary spending for government agencies from Health and Human Services to the Department of Treasury will be frozen at its 2010 level in fiscal years 2011, 2012 and 2013. […]

Exempted from the freeze would be Pentagon funding, and the budgets for Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security.

Instead of delivering his State of the Union address this week, Barack Obama may as well hold up a big sign that says, “I want Democrats to lose Congress.” Over at Daily Kos, eugene explains why:

That will be the equivalent of FDR’s boneheaded move in 1937 to pull back on government spending. The result was a major recession that caused conservatives to win a lot of seats in the 1938 election and brought the New Deal to an end.

Yet FDR had already won his second term. Obama, on the other hand, is embracing a policy that has been proven to fail even before the midterm elections.

If he thinks this is even a realistic or economically feasible policy, he is out of his mind. If he thinks this will save his and Democrats’ political bacon, he is very badly mistaken. Only greater government spending – MUCH greater spending – will pull us out of recession, create jobs, and produce lasting recovery.

Without greater spending, Obama is implying he is willing to live with high unemployment for the remainder of his first term. If one wanted to deal with the deficit, he could follow Bill Clinton’s model of producing economic growth that would close the deficit in future years.

Economically, this course would be a disaster, but politically it’s even a worse move. During the presidential campaign, Obama promised hundreds of times that we would be able to spend more on various domestic priorities because we wouldn’t be spending $200 billion a year in Iraq. With the escalation in Afghanistan, the combined cost of our commitments there and in Iraq will now exceed Bush administration levels, and Obama isn’t cutting fat from other areas in the Pentagon budget to make up for it.

It’s as if Obama wants Democrats to stay home this November.

A month ago, I would have said Republicans had a 10 to 20 percent chance of retaking the House and zero chance of retaking the Senate. The Massachusetts election has already prompted several Democratic incumbents to retire and prospective challengers not to run. If Obama puts deficit reduction ahead of job creation this year, I give the GOP a good chance of winning the House and an outside shot at taking the Senate (which would require a nine-seat gain, assuming Joe Lieberman would switch parties).

Obama told Diane Sawyer today, “I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president.” At this rate, he’ll be neither.

UPDATE: So some people are claiming this is no big deal because the spending freeze isn’t an across-the-board freeze, “would apply to a relatively small portion of the federal budget” and locks in a bunch of spending increases from last year. I am not interested in endlessly increasing the defense budget while holding the line on the EPA, Energy, Transportation, HUD and other areas. That’s not the agenda Obama campaigned on, and it’s not smart from any perspective.

Chris Bowers raises a better point, which is that “the people who actually write spending bills–members of the House Appropriation and Budget committees–say they won’t be freezing or cutting social spending.” So this is just window dressing for the State of the Union to show the wise men of the beltway that Obama is very, very concerned about the deficit. Still not the kind of leadership we need from our president.

SECOND UPDATE: Brad DeLong has a must-read post up on this proposal (“Dingbat Kabuki”).

THIRD UPDATE: Turkana helpfully compiled excerpts from seven liberal economists’ comments on Obama’s new proposal. Spoiler alert: they’re not impressed.

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Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 1)

I expected 2009 to be a relatively quiet year in Iowa politics, but was I ever wrong.

The governor’s race heated up, state revenues melted down, key bills lived and died during the legislative session, and the Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Varnum v Brien became one of this state’s major events of the decade.

After the jump I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from January through June 2009. Any comments about the year that passed are welcome in this thread.

Although I wrote a lot of posts last year, there were many important stories I didn’t manage to cover. I recommend reading Iowa Independent’s compilation of “Iowa’s most overlooked and under reported stories of 2009,” as well as that blog’s review of “stories that will continue to impact Iowa in 2010.”

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Braley wants "Buy American" provisions in jobs bill

President Barack Obama announced more details today about provisions he wants in the jobs bill Congress will take up soon:

Obama proposed new spending for highway and bridge construction, for small business tax cuts and for retrofitting millions of homes to make them more energy-efficient. He said he wanted to extend economic stimulus programs to keep unemployment insurance from expiring for millions of out-of-work Americans and to help laid-off workers keep their health insurance. He proposed an additional $250 apiece in stimulus spending for seniors and veterans and aid to state and local governments to discourage them from laying off teachers, police officers and firefighters.

Making homes more energy efficient would not only create jobs, but would produce huge collateral benefits, as A Siegel explains at the Get Energy Smart Now blog. Money that homeowners and business owners save on utility bills is money they can spend on other goods and services.

Populist Caucus Chairman Bruce Braley (IA-01) and House Trade Working Group Chairman Mike Michaud (ME-02) wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer today, urging them to make sure the jobs bill contains a strong “Buy American” provision. From a press release Braley’s office issued:

“Recently, as America has suffered the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, unemployment has risen and is now around 10 percent,” the letter reads. “We believe that the shipment of American jobs overseas is a factor in this rising unemployment.  If we are going to pass a strong job creation bill then it only makes sense to include strong Buy American provisions, to further ensure that the jobs created as a result of this legislation are created within the United States.

“We have an obligation to create jobs in America. While some would argue that Buy American is nothing more than a trade protectionist label, it is clear that these provisions would equate to greater investment, and greater job-creation, within the U.S.  In addition, Buy American provisions are perfectly legal under current trade agreements and many other nations use similar mechanisms to protect their domestic manufacturers.  Therefore, we feel that it is entirely appropriate that this language be included in any upcoming job-creation measure, and we believe that this provision is essential to creating and retaining American jobs.

The stimulus bill Congress approved in February contained “Buy American” language despite a massive corporate lobbying effort.

If the upcoming jobs bill contains aid to state and local governments, as the stimulus bill did, that could help Iowa legislators close the gap in the fiscal year 2011 budget. Republicans keep complaining about Iowa Democrats using federal transfers to balance the state budget, but they ignore the reality that deep cuts in state budgets are themselves a drag on the economy. State employee layoffs have a ripple effect in the private sector. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has estimated that without additional federal fiscal relief, “states will have to take steps to eliminate deficits for state fiscal year 2011 that will likely take nearly a full percentage point off the Gross Domestic Product. That, in turn, could cost the economy 900,000 jobs next year.”

UPDATE: Meteor Blades has a good post up at Daily Kos on the jobs bill.

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Mr. President, please ignore the deficit hawks

Barack Obama’s job approval in Iowa fell to 49 percent according to the latest statewide poll by Selzer and Co. for the Des Moines Register. His lowest marks were for his handling of the budget deficit (30 percent approve, 61 percent disapprove), leading Kathie Obradovich to suggest that “Cut spending and balance the budget” should be at the top of Obama’s to-do list.

No matter what today’s polls say about the deficit, it would be poor economic policy and foolish politics to make deficit reduction a priority now.

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Bailout yields record pay on Wall Street

Americans won’t be happy to learn that Wall Street salaries may be higher this year than they were before the current recession began:

Major U.S. banks and securities firms are on pace to pay their employees about $140 billion this year — a record high that shows compensation is rebounding despite regulatory scrutiny of Wall Street’s pay culture.

Workers at 23 top investment banks, hedge funds, asset managers and stock and commodities exchanges can expect to earn even more than they did the peak year of 2007, according to an analysis of securities filings for the first half of 2009 and revenue estimates through year-end by The Wall Street Journal.

Ian Welsh wrote a depressing post at Open Left yesterday:

All they did was throw cash at the problem, without dealing with the underlying issues, which is why they didn’t manage (as Jerome points out) to kickstart ANY net private spending.  They didn’t break up major banks.  They didn’t allow bankruptcy judges to rewrite mortgages.  Their mortgage program kept hardly anyone in the house.  And their money for financial firms did not increase lending by one cent. […]

This is going to be the worst “recovery” of your lifetime, unless you’re in the financial sector at a relatively high level.  Bank profits have recovered but ordinary people are not, in a generation, going to see a full recovery from this clusterfuck – employment will not recover to pre-recession levels before the next recession, and I don’t expect it to recover after that recession either.

At this point, in fact, I am expecting this to turn into a double dip recession-this “recovery” will not have any significant legs.

Continuing George Bush’s Wall Street bailout policy will prove to be a costly mistake for President Obama. Watch the Huffington Post Investigative Fund’s interview with Neil Barofsky, who “monitors a dozen separate bailout-related programs that now account for nearly $3 trillion in financial commitments.” Among other things, his research has confirmed that the bailout did not increase lending to the business sector.

Republicans pretend that Iowa Democrats are to blame for all our economic troubles, but the factors impeding employment growth are nationwide problems, like falling wages and major banks cutting back on loans to small businesses.

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Gronstal: Legislators see few benefits from film tax credit

Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal discussed the film tax credit fiasco on this weekend’s Iowa Press program, and it sounds like defenders of the tax credit will be fighting an uphill battle during next year’s legislative session:

“I think we’re going to get this investigation from the Attorney General and from the State Auditor. I think we’re going to do a good evaluation of the program and if we can’t show a real benefit to the state of Iowa – and not just a few part-time jobs, but a real long-term benefit to the state of Iowa – I think it’s 50-50 as to whether this program continues.”

According to Gronstal, he and other legislators right now “see very little in terms of potential benefits” to the state from the film tax credits which have been awarded already.  […]

Gronstal says he may regret having voted to create the program and he expects some political fall-out from this episode.

“People will be disappointed in that, but I think it’s the responsibility of the legislature – we try things in economic development. Everything we try doesn’t work and it’s perfectly o.k. to occasionally decide, ‘You know, we’ve (gone) down a road and that road doesn’t make as much as sense as we thought it made,’” Gronstal says. “And so we’re going to go back and change that.”

Gronstal also defended Governor Chet Culver, saying “once he found out about [problems with the film tax credit] he acted quickly and put the program on hold and got people to investigate.”

Gronstal expressed surprise that a flood of applications for film tax credits this spring allowed producers to get around the $50 million annual cap the legislature approved for the program. (Note to legislators: next time you cap a tax credit, make the law go into effect immediately on being signed by the governor.)

Culver has ordered a comprehensive review of all Iowa tax credits, and Gronstal made clear that legislators will subject these programs to additional scrutiny in the coming year:

“If you can show that a tax credit creates a climate, for instance, the research activities tax credit – if you can show that that keeps an industry here in the state of Iowa and builds long-term jobs and high-wage, high-skills jobs in this state where there’s a net benefit to the state by having that set of jobs come along with it, yeah, that makes sense,” Gronstal says.  But Gronstal says if you can’t show that, then the tax credit should be repealed.

A critical analysis of Iowa’s tax credits is overdue, but better late than never. State revenues continue to lag behind projections because of the recession. Repealing wasteful tax credits could reduce the size of state spending cuts during the 2010 fiscal year. Iowa Republicans would like to plug the budget gap entirely through spending cuts, but they forget that deep spending reductions by state and local governments can also be a drag on the economy.  

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Iowa turning stimulus road funds around quickly

The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has been keeping track of how states are spending the stimulus funds allocated for roads. On September 2 the committee released a report ranking the states according to how much of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for highways and bridges had been put to work as of July 31. This pdf file contains the state rankings.

Iowa ranked second overall, having put 75 percent of its stimulus road funds to work by the end of July. Join me after the jump for more details from the report and analysis.  

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Links on making ends meet in the 2010 budget

With the economic recession continuing to drag down tax revenues, the 2010 budget that the Iowa Legislature approved in April is likely to require significant adjustments.

In June the Legislative Council agreed to cut more than 10 percent from the Legislature’s budget in 2010. The cost-saving measures “include a pay freeze for all legislative employees, reducing travel budgets, and cutting back next year’s legislative session by 10 days.”

A State Government Reorganization Commission will look for other ways to cut spending next year. It will be interesting to compare that commission’s proposals with the kind of cuts Iowa Republicans have been advocating. During the last legislative session, Republicans called for $300 million in spending cuts, but I have been unable to find a link to a document with details about that proposal. (Note: I’ll have more to say in a future post about the state budget reforms Iowa Republicans proposed yesterday.)

After the jump I’ve posted some links and analysis related to the budget constraints facing Iowa and just about every other state right now.

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Congress may extend "Cash for Clunkers" program

Huge consumer demand quickly exhausted the $1 billion in federal funds allocated to the “Cash for Clunkers” program that provides $3,500 or $4,500 vouchers to some consumers who trade in old vehicles for newer models. An estimated 250,000 Americans have taken advantage of the program already, prompting the U.S. House to vote on Friday for an additional $2 billion to extend it. All five Iowans in the House voted to fund “Cash for Clunkers” in June, but Representative Steve King (IA-05) voted no on the extra $2 billion.

Although the White House would like to extend this program, Reuters reported that the bill may run into trouble in the Senate:

One member can block a bill in the Senate and there are different interests that could pose a challenge. For instance, Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman said he opposes the House proposal because it calls for spending unused Energy Department loan guarantees on the program.

Environmental champions in the Senate have urged members to strengthen requirements in the bill for fuel efficiency and pollution control.

Energy analysts played down the impact the program would have on reducing gasoline consumption.

Conservative budget hawks could also draw the line on more help for an industry that has already received tens of billions in federal assistance.

In an ideal world, I would have liked to see “Cash for Clunkers” structured somewhat differently, but there is no question that this program has helped many people and given a slight boost to the economy. Even if the Senate does not approve the additional $2 billion, car dealers’ incentives that copy the “Cash for Clunkers” approach may continue to stimulate new car purchases.

Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) was one of the key House sponsors of this bill, and its popularity will probably help him if he ever runs for statewide office. People who bought new cars they otherwise could not have afforded are going to remember that for a long time.

I noticed that Congressman Leonard Boswell (IA-03) is holding a public event to discuss “Cash for Clunkers” on August 4 (Stew Hansen Dodge City Jeep on Hickman in Urbandale, 9 am).

Share any thoughts about this program or stories about people who have benefited from it in this thread.

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Paul McKinley demands to waste our time

Iowa Senate minority leader Paul McKinley has been on a Twitter tear this week complaining about Democrats “obstructing” his “state sovereignty resolution.” According to the Omaha World-Herald, McKinley

offered a resolution this year calling on the federal government to “cease and desist” in issuing mandates that go beyond what the 10th Amendment allows. The [Iowa Senate]’s Democratic majority has kept the resolution alive but bottled up in committee.

The article goes on to quote two constitutional scholars saying such resolutions carry a political message but no legal weight.

Not only is McKinley’s resolution an empty political gesture, it contradicts volumes of case law supporting the federal government’s authority to put strings on money it appropriates. Mr. desmoinesdem reminded me that conservatives love this case law when it suits their purposes–for instance, when federal courts have said universities accepting federal grants must allow military recruiters and the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) on campus.

I’m glad Senate Democrats are not spending the public’s time and money to advance McKinley’s “state sovereignty” campaign. It isn’t the first time McKinley has wasted the Senate’s time on matters settled by courts. During the closing weeks of the session, McKinley pleaded with Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal to co-sponsor a leadership bill to ban same-sex marriage. Gronstal refused.

McKinley seems to be using the “state sovereignty” resolution to set himself apart from other Republicans as he “aggressively” explores a run for governor. I’m guessing that will be a waste of his own time. He has few relationships with heavy-hitting Republican donors, and social conservatives blame him for not making sure a marriage bill was filed in time to reach the floor during this year’s legislative session (see also here). He doesn’t have a lot of legislative achievements to run on, unless you count holding his caucus together to vote down three of Governor Chet Culver’s nominees on specious grounds.

McKinley’s campaign website and recent media interviews have highlighted his experience as a business owner. I give full credit to McKinley for managing and growing a company during the 1980s. But his ideology on economic policy looks like it’s stuck in the 1920s. Central Iowa business Republicans don’t seem sold on him yet, though it’s possible that McKinley is among the potential candidates the Iowa First Foundation is focus-grouping.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread. Are McKinley’s gubernatorial ambitions for real, or is Bleeding Heartland user ragbrai08 right to suspect that he is a stalking horse for Christian Fong?

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Iowa Republicans still wrong on the economy and I-JOBS

The business network CNBC threw a wrench in the Republican sound bite machine yesterday by ranking Iowa the fourth best state in the country for doing business. Click the link to read Iowa’s scores for 2008 and 2009 in the ten different categories CNBC considered in compiling these rankings. (Iowa ranked ninth overall in 2008.) You can also watch the CNBC segment here.

Iowa improved in almost all of CNBC’s categories from 2008 to 2009. The biggest improvement was in the “economy” category, where Iowa went from 29th in 2008 to 4th in 2009, even as the national recession deepened. While the recession is hurting Iowa along with every other state, we are doing reasonably well under the circumstances. CNBC also moved Iowa up quite a few notches under “technology and innovation” and “transportation and infrastructure.” We have a ways to go to reach the top-ranked states in those areas, which is why the Culver administration is smart to be investing heavily in our infrastructure with the I-JOBS bonding program.

Speaking of I-JOBS, now that most of the bonds have been sold, money is starting to be awarded:

Every city and county in Iowa will receive a portion of $45 million in additional funding under I-JOBS for local street and road projects. These funds will begin being distributed to cities and counties starting next Tuesday.

In addition, $50 million in I-JOBS funds will improve 55 state highway system bridges in 29 counties across the state. Projects in the metro Des Moines area include two I-35 bridges over the Iowa Interstate Railroad, the Iowa 17 bridge over the Des Moines River, and U.S. 69 bridge over Scott Avenue.

Scroll to the bottom of this page to find links to pdf files containing a “list of I-JOBS road funding amounts for all Iowa cities and counties, as well as bridge projects.”

Meanwhile, Iowa Republicans continue to proudly oppose the I-JOBS program. Today Senate minority leader Paul McKinley and others are triumphantly Twittering about an article in the Des Moines Register: Economists question impact of I-JOBS plan. My response is after the jump.

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Republicans still don't get the point of the stimulus

The Republican Party opposed President Obama’s economic stimulus bill earlier this year, instead advocating a federal spending freeze in response to the recession. The misguided Republican proposal would have repeated Herbert Hoover’s big mistake, ignoring consensus among economists that deficits help end recessions.

The stimulus bill wasn’t perfect, but it contained some valuable provisions, notably aid to state governments, which can’t run deficits. While Governor Chet Culver imposed two rounds of cuts to fiscal year 2009 spending, federal stimulus funds helped lessen the severity of those cuts and avoid drastic reductions in the 2010 budget.

That’s good, because state budget cuts can further weaken an already weak economy, as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained in this review of state fiscal stress across the country:

When states cut spending, they lay off employees, cancel contracts with vendors, eliminate or lower payments to businesses and nonprofit organizations that provide direct services, and cut benefit payments to individuals. In all of these circumstances, the companies and organizations that would have received government payments have less money to spend on salaries and supplies, and individuals who would have received salaries or benefits have less money for consumption. This directly removes demand from the economy. […]

Federal assistance can lessen the extent to which states take pro-cyclical actions that can further harm the economy. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act recognizes this fact and includes substantial assistance for states. The amount of funding that will go to states to help them maintain current activities is approximately $135 billion to $140 billion – or about 40 percent of projected state deficits. Most of this money is in the form of increased Medicaid funding and a “Fiscal Stabilization Fund.” This funding will reduce the depth of state budget cuts and moderate state tax and fee increases.

Leave it to the Republicans to miss the point of stimulus aid to state governments, as I’ll discuss after the jump.

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Braley's "Cash for Clunkers" bill clears House

A bill to encourage consumers to purchase new and more fuel-efficient vehicles, co-sponsored by Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01), passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday by a wide margin of 298 to 119, with two members voting “present.”

The roll call shows 59 yes votes from Republicans, including Iowa’s Tom Latham (IA-04) and Steve King (IA-05). Leonard Boswell (IA-03) also voted for the bill. Braley and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) were not present for the roll call, but it’s safe to assume that Loebsack would have voted for it, since only a handful of the most conservative House Democrats voted no.

Braley said in a statement,

“The passage of Cash for Clunkers legislation will help boost our economy, save families money, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” Braley said.  “Cash for Clunkers is a common-sense idea that can have a big impact on the economy, reducing emissions and saving American jobs by jumpstarting the auto industry.  I hope the passage of this bill today is a sign that this program will start benefiting families and American workers as soon as possible.”

In my opinion, this bill has much more potential to spur new car purchases and save jobs than it does to reduce emissions or our dependence on foreign oil. The increased fuel-efficiency requirements are quite modest (presumably because American car manufacturers have done a poor job of increasing fuel efficiency).

The original draft of the bill set more ambitious mileage requirements, but that changed during negotiations over the Waxman-Markey climate-change bill, to which this measure was attached:

The compromise also waters down the so-called cash-for-clunkers program*, which ostensibly encourages drivers to turn in their gas guzzlers in exchange for a federal subsidy on more fuel efficient models. Yet under the compromise proposal, the new fuel efficiencies are hardly dramatic. For example, drivers trading in trucks between 6,000 and 8,500 pounds would be eligible for a $3,500 voucher for purchasing the same-sized vehicle that’s more efficient by just 1 mile per gallon.

Daniel Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, said the program does much more to help struggling automakers sell large, unpopular models than it does to reduce greenhouse emissions.

“It’s a $4 billion giveaway to move gas guzzling vehicles that nobody wants off the lots,” Becker said.

After the jump I’ve posted the press release from Braley’s office and the information from an accompanying fact sheet on how this bill would work.

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Dave Murphy is working to strengthen rural economies

The Des Moines Register profiled Dave Murphy of Food Democracy Now in Monday’s edition. The article mentioned the incredible success of the petition signed by more than 94,000 Americans. Two of the “sustainable dozen” candidates whom Food Democracy Now recommended for U.S. Department of Agriculture posts now work for the department. Drake Law Professor Neil Hamilton, also on the sustainable dozen list, is an “informal adviser” to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

You should read the whole Des Moines Register article. The most important passage is about how Murphy makes the case for changing agriculture policies:

[Murphy] pointed to a survey from the Organic Trade Association that showed that the U.S. sales of organic food grew nearly 16 percent between 2007 and 2008 to reach $22.9 billion. Organic foods now account for about 3.5 percent of all U.S. food sales.

For Murphy, sustainable farming is about more than the food.

He sees it as returning to a model of production that is better for the environment and one in which farmers can start without taking on deep debt to finance heavy equipment.

He said the agricultural policies today are stacked against farmers of small- to mid-sized farms in favor of larger operations. […]

Murphy stressed that he isn’t against large farm operations. He said sustainable practices can help farms of all sizes.

But Murphy does believe that the playing field ought to be leveled, for the benefit not just for smaller farms but for rural areas in general.

“That’s the best way to improve rural economies,” he said. “The more farmers there are on the land, the better it is for rural economies.”

Health and environmental concerns sparked my interest in buying local food produced sustainably, but Murphy is wise to connect the dots between agriculture policies and the economic future of rural areas. For more along those lines, read the feature on Murphy and Food Democracy Now from the Washington Post in March.

Speaking of Iowans who are incredibly committed to helping small and medium-sized farms thrive, Woodbury County’s rural economic development director Rob Marqusee has pledged to “eat only food grown within 100 miles of the Woodbury County Courthouse for the entire month of June 09 (and no meat will be allowed in the diet).” Keep an eye on Marqusee’s Woodbury Organics site next month, because he’ll be blogging about his food challenge.

Those interested in Murphy’s work should go read more on the Food Democracy Now site. Click here for past Bleeding Heartland posts that referenced Food Democracy Now’s work. Jill Richardson wrote more here about Murphy’s activist roots and the role he played during the Iowa caucus campaign.

If organic farmer Francis Thicke decides to run for Iowa secretary of agriculture in 2010, expanding local food networks will be a major theme of his campaign.

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Republican hypocrisy watch: Steve King edition

Yesterday I posted here that Representative Tom Latham (IA-04) has been taking credit for earmarks in the 2009 omnibus spending bill that he voted against.

Alert Bleeding Heartland user frogmanjim informed me that Representative Steve King (IA-05) has been playing the same game. King’s office issued an upbeat statement about $570,000 included in the economic stimulus bill that will go toward widening U.S. Highway 20 in a rural area of northwest Iowa. Of course, the statement did not mention that King voted against the stimulus. Nor did the brief news item in the Sioux City Journal.

I had a feeling that King would take credit for stimulus spending. During last year’s campaign he repeatedly misled voters about his role in securing money to widen Highway 20 (see here and here).

Time for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to add Steve King’s name to the Republican Hypocrisy Hall of Fame. More than 30 House Republicans have already been inducted.

A few links on unemployment and finding a job

As you can see from this graph, job losses in the current recession are worse than in other recent recessions and are continuing to accelerate at a time when the U.S. economy has already started adding jobs during the past two recessions.

Paul Krugman, who has been arguing for a much larger stimulus package, is very worried:

To see how bad the numbers are, consider this: The administration’s budget proposals, released less than two weeks ago, assumed an average unemployment rate of 8.1 percent for the whole of this year. In reality, unemployment hit that level in February – and it’s rising fast.

Employment has already fallen more in this recession than in the 1981-82 slump, considered the worst since the Great Depression. As a result, Mr. Obama’s promise that his plan will create or save 3.5 million jobs by the end of 2010 looks underwhelming, to say the least. It’s a credible promise – his economists used solidly mainstream estimates of the impacts of tax and spending policies. But 3.5 million jobs almost two years from now isn’t enough in the face of an economy that has already lost 4.4 million jobs, and is losing 600,000 more each month. […]

So here’s the picture that scares me: It’s September 2009, the unemployment rate has passed 9 percent, and despite the early round of stimulus spending it’s still headed up. Mr. Obama finally concedes that a bigger stimulus is needed.

But he can’t get his new plan through Congress because approval for his economic policies has plummeted, partly because his policies are seen to have failed, partly because job-creation policies are conflated in the public mind with deeply unpopular bank bailouts. And as a result, the recession rages on, unchecked.

At MyDD Charles Lemos wonders whether current job losses may become permanent because of the manufacturing sector’s continuing decline.

Only the biggest layoffs make headlines, as when John Deere cut 325 jobs in Dubuque and Davenport last week. But almost all of us have friends or relatives who have lost their jobs in the past six months. Thankfully, none of my recently-unemployed friends are likely to lose their homes, but lots of people aren’t so lucky. Tent cities are booming across the country.

If you are looking for work, read this piece by Teddifish on How to get a job when no one is hiring.

Daily Kos diarist plf515 just found a new job and shared some advice in this diary:

How did I get this job?

I told everyone I was looking for work!  

This particular lead came from an announcement I made on SAS-L a mailing list about software that I use.  I am a frequent contributor there, someone who has read my work saw my mention, and then forwarded me a link to a job offer. […]

But I didn’t just mention it there.  I told everyone. I wrote a diary here; and I joined dkos networking; I announced it on mailing lists; I told my friends; I told former employers; I told the guy who does our dry cleaning; I told EVERYONE.  I also left cards advertising my consulting business all over.  

Can you find a job in this economy? Well, there are no guarantees.  But, if people don’t know you’re looking, they’ll never tell you about any openings.  

MyDD user ragekage has specific advice for people pursuing a career in nursing because they think it is a “recession-proof” occupation.

This thread is for any comments about unemployment or helpful advice about finding jobs.

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DCCC keeps Boswell in Frontline Program

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced that 40 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives will be in the “Frontline Program,” which seeks to protect incumbents in potentially vulnerable districts. Once again, Leonard Boswell of Iowa’s third district will be a Frontline Democrat. Here’s what the designation means:

The Frontline Program is a partnership between the DCCC and Members which lays the ground work for the 2010 cycle by supporting and expanding their fundraising and outreach operations. Frontline Members must sign a memorandum of understanding, strengthened this cycle to reflect the challenging political environment, that requires Members to meet aggressive fundraising goals, accelerate volunteer and recruitment efforts, and increase their online networking.

The DCCC’s Frontline Program is a proven success. Frontline Members and the DCCC did its work effectively and early in the 2008 cycle.  As a result, the DCCC’s independent expenditure campaign made a significant investment in only 10 of 34 Frontline districts – approximately 15 percent of the IE’s budget.

I’ve put the DCCC’s press release after the jump. Most of the others named to the Frontline list appear to be in more vulnerable districts than Boswell. Republicans targeted Boswell during his first five re-election campaigns but did not make a serious challenge in IA-03 in 2008. Boswell defeated Kim Schmett by 56 percent to 42 percent in November.

Here’s an interesting fact from the DCCC’s statement, which underscores how the Republican Party has become increasingly uncompetitive in large parts of the country:

There are 83 Democrats in districts that President [George] Bush won in 2004, while there are only six (6) Republicans in seats that Senator [John] Kerry won.

Presumably a significant number of those 83 districts swung to Barack Obama in the 2008 election, as Iowa’s third district did. But the final presidential election results by Congressional district have not been calculated everywhere in the country.

I would be very surprised if the DCCC had to spend resources defending Boswell in the next election. Many House Democrats are in a more precarious position. Unfortunately, the irony is that re-electing Boswell in 2010 could make IA-03 a very tough hold for Democrats in 2012.

The DCCC is staying on offense as well, launching robocalls this week in the districts of 12 potentially vulnerable House Republicans. A few weeks ago the DCCC ran radio ads in 28 Republican-held House districts, including Iowa’s fourth district. Tom Latham is not being targeted in the current robocall effort, however. It’s just as well, since IA-04 does not appear to be among the top Democratic pickup opportunities for the next cycle.

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More details on Braley's Populist Caucus

Chris Bowers wrote a good post on where Representative Bruce Braley’s new Populist Caucus fits in among House Democrats. The whole piece is worth reading, but here’s an excerpt:

Clearly, there is a strong tendency toward the Progressive caucus among the Populists, even though they were organized by a New Democrat. Further, Progressive punch puts the median lifetime score on “crucial votes” for this group at 55.5 of 256 (between [Joe] Courtney at 54 and [Dave] Loebsack at 57) in the Democratic caucus, placing it decidedly in the left-wing of the party.


Notably, the Populists are also heavy on the class of 2006, as 14 of the 20 members listed by the Huffington Post were first elected to Congress that year (and Massa came within an inch of being a 15th that year). Only Boswell, DeFazio, Filner Sanchez and Schakowsky were first elected to Congress before 2006. As such, while it displayed the same fractured tendencies of all ideological caucuses across the three bailout votes, the Populist Caucus appears to be primarily a caucus of progressive sophomore Representatives. This is particularly interesting since the class of 2006 was supposed to be a conservative dominated class ushered in by then -DCCC chair Rahm Emanuel. Now, the progressive members of that class appear to have organized a new caucus for themselves.

I didn’t realize until I read this page on Braley’s website that Tom Harkin chaired a House Populist Caucus during the 1980s:

In February of 1983, a group of 14 Midwest Democratic members of Congress founded the first known “Populist Caucus” with the goal to “fight for such economic goals as fairer taxes, lower interest rates and cheaper energy.”

The original Populist Caucus was chaired by then-Rep. Tom Harkin (D-IA).  The other members in the caucus were Berkley Bedell (D-IA); Lane Evans (D-IL); Tom Daschle (D-SD); Al Gore (D-TN); Timothy Penny (D-MN); Jim Weaver (D-OR); Byron Dorgan (D-ND); Harold Volkmer (D-MO); James Oberstar (D-MN); Bob Wise (D-WV); Frank McCloskey (D-IN); Bill Richardson (D-NM); Gerry Sikorski (D-MN); and Mike Synar (D-OK).

The first Populist Caucus dissolved by the mid-1990’s.

Several members of that original Populist Caucus had been elected to the U.S. Senate or had left the House for other reasons by the early 1990s.

Side note: Bill Richardson once identified himself as a populist? Wow.

The new Populist Caucus platform is on Braley’s website:

  1. Fighting for working families and the middle class by creating and retaining good-paying jobs in America, providing fair wages, proper benefits, a level playing field at the negotiating table, and ensuring American workers have secure, solvent retirement plans.

  2. Cutting taxes for the middle class and establishing an equitable tax structure.

  3. Providing affordable, accessible, quality health care for all Americans.

  4. Ensuring quality primary education for all American children, and affordable college education for all who want it.

  5. Defending American competiveness by fighting for fair trade principles.

  6. Protecting consumers, so that Americans can have faith in the safety and effectiveness of the products they purchase

I will be interested to see how the Populist Caucus weighs in on the coming debates over health care, workers’ rights and tax policy.

A full list of the 23 founding Populist Caucus members is after the jump.  

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More proof that the Wall Street bailout was ill-conceived

Remember how urgent it was for Congress to approve the Wall Street bailout last fall to free up credit? Not surprisingly, things didn’t work out that way:

A new report out of the Treasury Department Tuesday confirmed what many lawmakers, housing advocates, small businesses and individual consumers have known all along: That despite hundreds of billions of dollars flowing from Washington to the finance industry, bank lending among recipients of the Troubled Asset Relief Program fell in the last three months of 2008.

Among the 20 largest TARP recipients, median mortgage and business lending both fell by 1 percent over that span, Treasury found, while median credit card lending rose 2 percent, “reflecting greater reliance on existing credit lines by consumers.”

The findings were based on a survey of the 20 banks receiving the most federal help under the TARP, and marks the first in what will be a series of monthly reports analyzing the lending trends among bailed-out banks.

It would be nice to know what the banks are doing with the bailout money, but they don’t want to tell anyone.

How disappointing that Barack Obama’s Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner wants to continue the misguided effort begun by George Bush’s Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson.

Here are some more links on why Geithner’s plan “fails on almost every level.” Excerpt:

Robert Kuttner offers a strong analysis of Geithner’s strategy to salvage the banking industry in The American Prospect, noting that Geithner is explicitly avoiding the simplest and cheapest solution in favor of propping up the current Wall Street regime. The current plan is designed to support a financial architecture that has proven completely ineffective in maintaining the nation’s basic economic functions.

Someone who works for a non-profit organization told me last week that he has filled out a detailed six-page application for a $1,000 federal grant, while Geithner wants to get $350 billion on the basis of a vague two-page proposal.

Josh Marshall notes that “a lot of key political appointments at the Treasury haven’t been made yet, let alone been confirmed.” He takes a stab at explaining why:

one of the big issues is that it’s actually hard to find people with the requisite knowledge of banks and the capital markets who aren’t also compromised — either in policy or business terms — by the housing bubble and the rest of the financial collapse. And that raises again as a question: why have none of the people who were financial orthodoxy dissidents and saw what was coming been brought in to the administration. I know I’m hardly the first one to bring this up. And we know that the big appointees — Summers and Geithner — were part of the mix. But there aren’t even any of them further down into the appointment structure. They’re all still on the outside.


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Tell us if you catch King or Latham taking credit for stimulus spending (updated)

Although GOP leaders are boasting that zero House Republicans voted for the stimulus bill, I have a sneaking suspicion that once this so-called “wasteful spending” starts working its way through the economy, Republican members of Congress will find a way to take credit for it.

We saw last fall that Steve “10 worst” King used his first television commercial to take credit for progress toward widening Iowa Highway 20. The TIME-21 plan approved by the state legislature last spring–not King’s work in Congress–made that project possible. Nevertheless, King continued to mislead voters about his role in moving the Highway 20 project forward.

At least two House Republicans are already playing this game with respect to the stimulus. David Waldman/Kagro X predicts,

Standard operating procedure, of course. Oppose the bill viciously, vote against it, then show up at every ribbon cutting in the district paid for by federal funds, and cry “Politicization!” if they’re not invited.

Paul Rosenberg’s take on this story is also worth a read.

Democrats need to be on the lookout for this kind of weaselry over the next couple of years. Help from Iowans living in the fourth and fifth Congressional districts would be most appreciated.

If you see Steve King or Tom Latham taking credit for stimulus spending they voted against, either in an official press release or in a local newspaper, radio or television news story, please post a diary about it at Bleeding Heartland, or e-mail me with the details (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com).

UPDATE: More Republicans are touting wonderful provisions in the stimulus bill they voted against.

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Stimulus bill passes: What's in it for Iowa?

President Barack Obama will have a very large bill to sign on Monday. Yesterday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the $787 billion economic stimulus bill by 246 to 183. As expected, no Republicans voted for the bill. Iowa’s three Democrats in the House voted for it. Looking at the roll call, I was surprised to see that only seven House Democrats voted against this bill (one voted “present” and one did not vote). I did not expect that much support from the 50-odd Blue Dog Democrats. Good for them!

In the Senate, supporters of the stimulus managed exactly 60 votes after Senator Sherrod Brown flew back from Ohio, where he was attending his mother’s wake. All Democrats, two independents, and three Republicans (Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins and Arlen Specter) voted for it. According to Specter, at least a few other Senate Republicans supported the bill but were afraid to vote for it (fearing a challenge from the right in the next GOP primary). I’m no fan of Specter, but I give him credit for casting a tough vote today. As brownsox explains, conservative Republicans in Pennsylvania are eager to take Specter out in the 2010 primary, having apparently forgotten how badly right-wing Senator Rick Santorum got beaten in 2006.

Daily Kos diarist thereisnospoon, a self-described “hack” who conducts focus groups for a living, is giddy about the potential to make Republicans pay in 2010 for voting against “the biggest middle-class tax cut in history.”

On the whole, this bill is more good than bad, but I agree 100 percent with Tom Harkin’s comments to the New York Times:

Even before the last touches were put to the bill, some angry Democrats said that Mr. Obama and Congressional leaders had been too quick to give up on Democratic priorities. “I am not happy with it,” said Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa. “You are not looking at a happy camper. I mean they took a lot of stuff out of education. They took it out of health, school construction and they put it more into tax issues.”

Mr. Harkin said he was particularly frustrated by the money being spent on fixing the alternative minimum tax. “It’s about 9 percent of the whole bill,” he said, “Why is it in there? It has nothing to do with stimulus. It has nothing to do with recovery.”

The $70 billion spent on fixing the alternative minimum tax will produce little “stimulus bang for the buck” compared to most forms of spending. The upper middle class and upper class earners who will benefit are likely to save rather than spend the money they get back.

As exciting as it is to see increased funding for high-speed rail, I fear that the bulk of the much larger sum appropriated for roads will go toward new highway construction rather than maintaining our existing infrastructure.

But I’ve buried the lede: what will the stimulus bill do for Iowa?

Iowa Politics linked to two White House documents about the impact in terms of spending and jobs created. This pdf file estimates the number of jobs created in each state and in each Congressional district within that state. It estimates 37,000 jobs created in Iowa: 6,600 in the first district, 7,000 in each of the second and third districts, 6,700 in the fourth district and 6,200 in the fifth district.

Prediction: Tom Latham and Steve King will take credit for infrastructure projects in their districts during the next election campaign, even though both voted against the stimulus bill.

This pdf file shows how much money Iowa will receive under different line items in the stimulus bill. Even more helpful, it also shows the figures for the original House and Senate bills, so you can get a sense of which cuts were made. The bill that first passed the House would have directed $2.27 billion to Iowa. The first Senate version reduced that number to $1.8 billion. The final bill that came out of conference directs about $1.9 billion to Iowa.

If you delve into the details of this document you’ll understand why Harkin isn’t thrilled with the bill he voted for. They took out school construction funds and extra money for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), for crying out loud.

“Bizarro Stimulus” indeed.

Iowa Independent reports that Harkin and Chuck Grassley “agree that the newly conceived formula used to distribute the $87 billion Medicaid portion of the bill shortchanges Iowa.”

After the jump I’ve posted statements from Representatives Dave Loebsack and Bruce Braley on the stimulus bill. Both talk about the jobs that will be created in Iowa. Loebsack emphasizes the tax cuts that 95 percent of American families will receive as a result of this bill. However, he also expresses his concern about what he views as inadequate funding for modernizing schools in the final bill.

Braley’s statement highlights an amendment he wrote providing low-interest loans for biofuels producers.

I would have been happy to post a statement from Leonard Boswell too, but his office has repeatedly refused my requests to be added to its distribution list for press releases. Hillary Clinton may have a prestigious job in Barack Obama’s cabinet and Joe Lieberman may be welcome in the Democratic Senate caucus, but Boswell’s press secretary seems ready to hold a grudge forever against the blogger who supported Ed Fallon.  

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Employment numbers belie Steve King's high-school research

Representative Steve King bragged about his 11th-grade research project in the Thursday edition of the Des Moines Register:

As a junior at Denison High School, I wrote a term paper on President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal. I began working on the paper with the intention of confirming what I had been taught in school – that FDR’s government recovery programs brought America out of the Great Depression.

I started my research believing in the success of Roosevelt’s economic-recovery programs. To support this claim, I spent hours at the Carnegie Library in Denison reading past editions of the local, biweekly newspaper.

My reading began with the 1929 stock-market crash, and I examined every issue through the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Those stacks of old papers turned upside down everything I had been taught in history and government class about the New Deal. As I searched for information proving the New Deal stabilized the American economy, I instead found the exact opposite: high unemployment, a struggling stock market and continued hard times.

Later statistical findings confirm my 11th-grade research. Throughout the 1930s, the unemployment rate never dipped below 14 percent. FDR’s tinkering with the free market frustrated investors, and the 1929 high point for the Dow Jones industrial average was not reached again until 1954.

Roosevelt possessed tremendous leadership skills and inspired many Americans, including my hard-hit family. Charisma aside, historians often inflate the true economic record of the New Deal. Roosevelt tried one big government program after another, with poor results. Many of Roosevelt’s programs and initiatives led the government to compete directly with the private sector for capital and workers, with Washington making the rules.

Massive government spending did not lift the United States out of recession. Instead, FDR’s big-government programs prolonged the Great Depression. The best we can say about the New Deal is that it may have blunted the depths of the Depression, but the trade-off was it delayed economic recovery until World War II and our post-war industrial advantage brought America out of the Depression.

Ah yes, the “poor results” of big-government programs introduced by FDR. Programs like Social Security, which dramatically reduced poverty among the elderly, and the Fair Labor Standards Act, which “set maximum hours and minimum wages for most categories of workers.”

But never mind the safety net for seniors and regulations that improved the quality of life for workers. What about King’s central claim, that the New Deal prolonged the Great Depression? This is now a key right-wing talking point against government spending in Barack Obama’s stimulus package.

It is wrong to say that no economic recovery occurred during the New Deal. On the contrary,

The economy had hit rock bottom in March 1933 and then started to expand. As historian Broadus Mitchell notes, “Most indexes worsened until the summer of 1932, which may be called the low point of the depression economically and psychologically.”[18] Economic indicators show the economy reached nadir in the first days of March, then began a steady, sharp upward recovery. Thus the Federal Reserve Index of Industrial Production hit its lowest point of 52.8 in July 1930 (with 1935-39 = 100) and was practically unchanged at 54.3 in March 1933; however by July 1933, it reached 85.5, a dramatic rebound of 57% in four months. Recovery was steady and strong until 1937. Except for unemployment, the economy by 1937 surpassed the levels of the late 1920s. The Recession of 1937 was a temporary downturn. Private sector employment, especially in manufacturing, recovered to the level of the 1920s but failed to advance further until the war.

Unemployment continued to be high by today’s standards throughout the 1930s, but King ignores the sharp reduction in unemployment following the introduction of New Deal policies.

The bottom line is this: the unemployment rate dropped by 9 percent during the pre-World War II FDR era, and the absolute number of unemployed people dropped by 36.7 percent (from 12.8 million unemployed in 1932 to 8.1 million unemployed in 1940).

World War II significantly reduced the number of unemployed Americans, but again, it is false to claim that the New Deal programs accomplished little on the employment front.

By way of comparison, under King’s hero Ronald Reagan, the unemployment rate only dropped by 2.1 percent, and the absolute number of unemployed people dropped by 19.0 percent (from 8.2 million in 1981 to 6.7 million in 1988).

The U.S. population was a lot bigger during Reagan’s presidency than it was in FDR’s day. If Reagan’s policies were so much better for putting people to work, why did we not see a larger decrease in the total number of unemployed Americans during the 1980s? Why did we see such marginal improvement in the unemployment rate during Reagan’s presidency?

If we look at employment figures under every president since FDR, King’s nemesis Bill Clinton comes out ahead. During his presidency, the unemployment rate declined by 2.9 percent, and the total number of unemployed dropped by 36.3 percent (from 8.9 million in 1993 to 5.6 million in 2000).

Note: Chase Martyn had a go at King at Iowa Independent, but he was too kind in my opinion. The facts do not support King’s assertion that the New Deal delayed economic recovery and failed to address high unemployment.

Someone please talk King into running for governor in 2010 so we can get a less odious Republican representing Iowa’s fifth district.

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Gregg out at Commerce--Whom should Obama appoint?

Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire withdrew his name from consideration for Commerce Secretary in Barack Obama’s cabinet today. Politico posted the statement from Gregg’s office. Excerpt:

I want to thank the President for nominating me to serve in his Cabinet as Secretary of Commerce. This was a great honor, and I had felt that I could bring some views and ideas that would assist him in governing during this difficult time. I especially admire his willingness to reach across the aisle.

However, it has become apparent during this process that this will not work for me as I have found that on issues such as the stimulus package and the Census there are irresolvable conflicts for me. Prior to accepting this post, we had discussed these and other potential differences, but unfortunately we did not adequately focus on these concerns. We are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy.

Obviously the President requires a team that is fully supportive of all his initiatives. […]

As a further matter of clarification, nothing about the vetting process played any role in this decision. I will continue to represent the people of New Hampshire in the United States Senate.

One wonders why Gregg only noticed today that his views on economic stimulus and the census would impede his effectiveness as a cabinet member. (The U.S. Census Bureau is part of the Commerce Department.)

Despite the last paragraph of Gregg’s statement, you have to wonder whether something popped up in the vetting process here.

Whatever his reasons, I welcome the news and hope that the third time will be the charm for President Obama as he tries to fill this position.

This thread is for any comments or speculation about why Gregg dropped out and who should replace him at Commerce. I don’t want the job to go to another conservative or another Republican.

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Open thread on good news and bad news in the stimulus bill

It didn’t take long for representatives and senators to reach a compromise on a $790 billion stimulus bill. Chris Bowers posted a good summary of the bill at Open Left. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s selling point is that the bill that came out of conference creates more jobs than the original Senate bill while spending less money than the original House bill.

I don’t believe the bill is large enough to do the job it’s supposed to do, especially since it still contains costly measures that won’t stimulate the economy much (such as fixing the alternative minimum tax, which hits high-income Americans).

I hope President Barack Obama will take a tougher line in future negotiations with Congress. He did too much pre-compromising with Republicans, to the detriment of the final bill. His original suggestion of an $800 billion price tag for the stimulus, seen by some as a “floor” that would increase when Congress got to work, became a “ceiling” above which any bill was viewed as too expensive.

He also included too many non-stimulative tax cuts in his original proposal to Congress. Predictably, Republicans demanded (and got) even more concessions, even though none of them voted for the bill in the House and only three voted for it in the Senate.

Bowers noticed one Q and A from Obama’s prime-time press conference the other night, which hints that the president learned a lesson about negotiating from this experience.

Bowers believes that “The deal isn’t perfect, but it is still probably the best piece of legislation to pass Congress in, oh, 15 or 16 years.”

David Sirota is also mostly pleased:

I’m not happy that the stimulus bill was made less stimulative by reactionary Republicans and embarrassingly incoherent Democrats. I’m also not happy that direct spending on infrastructure/social programs comprises a miniscule 4.6% of all the government funds spent to deal with this economic crisis. However, considering how far progressives have pushed the debate, I’d say the deal on the economic stimulus package is a huge victory.

Remember, only months ago, the incoming administration and the Congress were talking about passing a stimulus bill at around $350 billion. Remember, too, that Obama started out pushing a stimulus package chock full of odious tax cuts. Now, we’ve got a bill that’s $790 billion (including a sizable downpayment for major progressive priorities) and stripped of the worst tax cuts.

Your opinion of the stimulus may depend on which issues you care about most. Open Left user WI Dem noticed that the compromise bill included more funding for high-speed rail but less for urban public transit, which “has a far greater effect on CO2 [emissions] and on people’s daily lives.”

Via the twitter feed of Daily Iowan opinion writers, I found this piece by Climate Progress on “what’s green” in the stimulus compromise.

The Republican Party is already planning to run ads against 30 Democrats who will vote for the stimulus. It makes sense for the GOP to bet against the stimulus, because they won’t get credit if it succeeds, and their best hope for a comeback in the next election cycle is for Democrats to fail. The main risk for them is that if the stimulus package succeeds, the upcoming advertising campaign people could make more people remember that Republicans tried to stand in its way.

Speaking of Republican propaganda, contrary to what your wingnut friends may tell you, the stimulus bill does not earmark $30 million to save “Nancy Pelosi’s mouse.” It does include some funding for federal wetlands restoration, however.

UPDATE: TPM’s Elana Schor provides surprising proof that no politician is wrong 100 percent of the time. Apparently Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma got a $2 billion “clean coal” earmark out of the stimulus bill.

Greg Sargent explains how “Pelosi’s mouse” went from fabrication to talking point for right-wing television pundits.

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Braley ready to roll out House Populist Caucus

Representative Bruce Braley (IA-01) announced plans to form a Populist Caucus in December. According to the Huffington Post, Braley plans to roll out the new caucus this week. (Hat tip David Sirota.)

Huffington Post lists most of the 21 founding members, who come from all over the country. There are moderates like Leonard Boswell (IA-03) and Phil Hare (IL-17), progressives like Keith Ellison (MN-05) and Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), and netroots heroes like Eric Massa (NY-29) and Pete DeFazio (OR-04). According to Huffington Post, Braley would be open to having Republicans join the caucus, although only Democrats have signed up so far.

Braley’s letter inviting colleagues to join the caucus listed these key points of the Populist Caucus agenda:

1. Fighting for working families and the middle class through the establishment of an equitable tax structure, fair wages, proper benefits, a level playing field at the negotiating table, and secure, solvent retirement plans.

2. Providing affordable, accessible, quality health care to all Americans.

3. Ensuring accessible, quality primary education for all American children, and affordable college education for all who want it.

4. Protecting consumers, so that Americans can once again have faith in the safety and effectiveness of the products they purchase.

5. Defending American competitiveness by fighting for fair trade principles.

6. Creating and retaining good-paying jobs in America.

Huffington Post also had this encouraging news:

The Populist Caucus will make its first major play by advocating for the inclusion of a “Buy American” provision in the stimulus package.

Bring it on. The “Buy American” provision is important if we want the stimulus to create jobs in the U.S. rather than taxpayer-funded outsourcing.

Though only starting his second term in Congress, Braley is rising fast. He landed a seat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee after aggressively advocating for Henry Waxman to replace John Dingell as its chairman. He is also one of three vice-chairs of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

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Senate Republicans (including Grassley) fail to block stimulus

The Senate is on track to pass the deeply flawed compromise stimulus bill Tuesday after a motion to invoke cloture passed by a 61-36 vote today. (To overcome a filibuster in the Senate, 60 votes are needed for a cloture motion.)

All Senate Democrats, including Tom Harkin, voted yes, joined by Republicans Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins and Arlen Specter. Two Senate Republicans did not vote on the cloture motion, and all the rest, including Chuck Grassley, voted no.

Last week Grassley said he would vote for the stimulus bill if it included a provision on low-cost mortgages. Looking here I couldn’t find any sign that the amendment Grassley supported made it into the Senate version, so I assume it did not. I will call the senator’s office tomorrow to double-check.

According to Kagro X, a great side-by-side comparison of the House and Senate stimulus bills is here, but I couldn’t make that work on my browser.

The stimulus was the main topic of Barack Obama’s first prime-time news conference as president tonight. Click that link for some highlights.

Republicans don't need "new ideas"--just Democratic failure

A funny post by Paul Rosenberg at Open Left pointed me to this post by Greg Sargent:

The Republican National Committee, under new chairman  Michael Steele, has quietly killed an ambitious plan to create the Center for Republican Renewal, a big in-house RNC think tank intended to develop new policies and ideas in order to take the party in a new direction, a Republican official who was directly informed of the decision by RNC staff tells me.

The Center’s goal was to help the GOP reclaim the mantle of the “party of ideas,” as RNC officials glowingly announced in December, and the decision to scrap it has some Republicans, including allies of former RNC chair Mike Duncan, its creator, wondering how precisely the RNC intends to generate the new ideas necessary to change course and renew itself.

Rosenberg mocks Steele’s apparent decision to give up on making the GOP the “party of ideas,” but I think Steele is smart not to waste money on this project. As I’ve written before, I share Matthew Yglesias’s view that the time for Republicans to implement effective new ideas was when they were in power.

Whether the Republicans come back in 2010 or 2012 has little to do with their ability to generate new ideas and everything to do with how Democrats govern.

If Democrats fail to deliver on big promises, the pendulum will swing back. If Democratic leaders succeed, no think-tank generated “new Republican ideas” will prevent a political realignment in our favor.

If only we could explain this concept to the Democrats in the U.S. Senate who are eager to strip from the stimulus bill the government spending that would help the economy by creating jobs (school reconstruction) or increasing consumer spending (more money for food stamps). Those same so-called “centrist” Democrats favor leaving in tax cuts that provide much less “bang for the buck” (tax credits for business, fixing the alternative minimum tax).

In the name of bipartisanship and compromise, Democrats in the Senate may approve a stimulus bill that won’t work. That will do more to revive the Republican Party than the think tank Michael Steele axed. Even if a handful of Senate Republicans vote for the stimulus, Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats will pay the price if the economy continues to decline.

President Obama deserves much of the blame for the sad turn the stimulus debate has taken. His negotiating strategy was deeply flawed, as debcoop and Theda Skocpol have explained. He should have started the debate on the stimulus with a much higher dollar number and a clear statement that he would not accede to failed Republican ideology.

I’ve noticed on these stimulus threads that some commenters think Obama would be acting too much like George W. Bush if he applied his political capital toward crafting a strong Democratic (rather than bipartisan) stimulus bill, and shaming a few Republicans into going along. I disagree. The most important thing for Obama is to pass a bill that will help the economy. Voters won’t give him points on style if the economy is still lousy in 2010 and 2012.

Bush’s mistake was not being partisan, but using his political capital to push through policies that failed miserably. If he had rammed bills through Congress that boosted our economy, improved the environment, kept our national debt from exploding and didn’t get us bogged down in an expensive war, he might have laid the groundwork for Republican realignment while his approval ratings were still very high.

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Government spending is better economic stimulus than tax cuts

Paul Rosenberg has an outstanding post up at Open Left on a report by Mark Zandi, the chief economist and co-founder of Moody’s Economy.com. Zandi analyzed different types of tax cuts and government spending in terms of “fiscal stimulus bang for the buck.”

Click here to view the chart showing his conclusions. Various types of government spending all delivered much more stimulus to the economy than even the most effective tax cuts.

Temporary increases in food stamps carried the most “bang for the buck,” $1.73 for every federal dollar spent. That’s because food stamp money goes into the hands of people who will spend it right away. Not far behind was extending unemployment benefits (which also helps people likely to spend money quickly) and government spending on infrastructure (which creates jobs).

Zandi found that even the government spending that delivered the least bang for the buck, general aid to state governments, still generated $1.38 for every federal dollar spent.

On the other hand, most tax cuts generated far below $1 for the economy for every dollar they cost the federal government. That’s particularly true for the tax cuts Republicans tend to favor, which mainly benefit high-income Americans or businesses. These generate between 25 and 50 cents for the economy for every dollar they cost the federal government.

By far the best tax cut for stimulating the  economy, according to Zandi, was a payroll tax holiday, which generates $1.28 for every dollar it costs. However, a payroll tax holiday still ranked significantly below various types of spending in terms of “bang for the buck.”

Rosenberg created a second chart combining Zandi’s figures with job creation numbers from the Center for Economic Policy and Research. It shows that millions more jobs would be created by $850 billion in spending compared to $850 billion in tax cuts.

Not only does government spending create more jobs and stimulate more consumer spending, it can also accomplish tasks that benefit the community as a whole. For instance, everyone who uses a bridge benefits from maintenance that prevents that bridge from collapsing. Thousands of travelers could take advantage of improved passenger rail service, which would also reduce greenhouse-gas emissions compared to driving or flying. For those reasons, I agree with the Iowa legislators who have advocated more rail funding in the stimulus bill.

Yesterday the Iowa Environmental Council provided another excellent example of how stimulus spending could produce both jobs and cleaner water in many Iowa communities:


For Immediate Release

February 2, 2009

More money needed in stimulus for clean water infrastructure

The Iowa Environmental Council is encouraging U.S. lawmakers to increase clean water infrastructure funding in the economic stimulus plan, now under consideration in Congress. The House version of the stimulus package currently includes $8 billion and the Senate bill $4 billion for clean water infrastructure. The EPA estimated the cost of meeting our clean water infrastructure needs at $580 billion during the last assessment in 2004, according to a GAO report.

In Iowa alone, the Department of Natural Resources estimates water infrastructure needs to be over $618 million over the next two to three years.

According to Susan Heathcote, water program director for the Iowa Environmental Council, 87 of these projects, with a total cost of $306 million, could be underway in three to four months if the necessary funding were made available.

Sixty-six communities in Iowa do not have a public sewer system and 21 communities need help to upgrade their drinking water systems says Heathcote.

“These needs combined with the fact that we could have shovels in the ground as soon as funding becomes available make them perfect candidates for funding under the nation’s economic stimulus package,” said Heathcote.

In letters to Iowa Representative Boswell and Senators Harkin and Grassley, Heathcote outlined Iowa projects that could proceed immediately with available funding:

·         25 communities with sewage treatment plant projects, with estimated needed loan amounts of $165 million.

·         41 small unsewered communities, with estimated total cost of $72 million.

·         21 communities with need for upgrades to their drinking water systems, with an estimated total cost of $69 million.

Heathcote says, in addition to the new water projects outlined above, Iowa communities also need help to address ongoing efforts to separate outdated combined sewer systems and to repair or replace aging sanitary sewer system pipes. Until this work is completed, Iowa communities must continue to deal with the public health threat from frequent failure of sanitary sewer systems that result in discharges of untreated sewage into Iowa rivers.

“While we are addressing our ailing economy, why not make a real investment in clean water?” said Heathcote.

### End ###

Maybe Senator Chuck Grassley, who derides the stimulus spending as “porkulus,” needs to hear from Iowans living in communities with substandard sewage systems and drinking water that could be a lot cleaner. You can reach his office by calling (202) 224-3121.

President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress need to do a better job explaining to the public that the spending in the stimulus bill would directly boost the economy much more than tax cuts.  

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DCCC buying radio ads against Latham

Didn’t see this one coming. I learned via Iowa Politics that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is running radio ads in 28 Congressional districts held by Republicans, including Iowa’s fourth district:

The ads focus on the Republicans out of step priorities by putting bank bail outs and building schools in Iraq before the needs of the Americans in the struggling economy. The Putting Families First ads begin airing on Tuesday morning during drive time and will run for a week.

In addition to the strategic radio ads in 28 Republican districts, the DCCC will also begin a grassroots initiative which includes targeted e-mails to 3 million voters and nearly 100,000 person-to-person telephone calls.

House Republicans just don’t get it.  They celebrate being the party of no and status quo, while more than 2.6 million Americans have lost their jobs, the stock market has plummeted wiping out nearly $7 trillion stock market wealth and endangering thousands of investors’ nest eggs, and one in 10 homeowners was delinquent on mortgage payments or in foreclosure this fall.

“These are serious times, hard working families are worried about keeping their jobs, health care and homes – they want action, not House Republicans cheering about doing nothing,” said Brian Wolff, Executive Director of the DCCC. “Republicans’ champagne wishes and caviar dreams simply don’t connect with middle class families struggling to make ends meet and furious that their tax dollars are going to bail out banks, build schools in Iraq, or send American jobs overseas.  The Putting Families First campaign is only the first step, we will continue to go district by district to hold Republicans who continue to vote in lockstep with party leaders and against the folks in their districts accountable.”

There are several versions of the ad (click here for transcripts). This transcript of an ad running in a Michigan representative’s district is apparently comparable to what the DCCC is running in Tom Latham’s district:

Did you know Congressman Thad McCotter opposed over $526 million to modernize crumbling Michigan schools, but supported building new schools in Iraq?  Times are tough, tell Thad McCotter to put American jobs first.

If you’ve heard any of these radio ads, please post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) to let me know what issue it covered.

There is a lot of overlap between the 28 districts where DCCC ads are running and this list of the 20 most vulnerable House Republicans going into 2010, which Crisitunity compiled at Swing State Project last month. However, there are a handful of Republicans on Crisitunity’s list who are not (yet) being targeted by the DCCC’s ad campaign.

Conversely, the ads are running in some districts where the incumbents may not seem vulnerable at first glance. Latham did not make Crisitunity’s list after he won re-election by more than 20 points in November, despite the fact that Barack Obama carried IA-04. However, the DCCC clearly has not ruled out making a serious play for this district in 2010.

Remember, Iowa’s Bruce Braley is now the DCCC’s vice chair responsible for “offensive efforts including recruitment, money, and training.”

Taking out Latham in 2010 would make it highly likely for Iowa Democrats to hold three out of the four Congressional districts we will have after the next census. Even if we don’t beat him in 2010, running a strong campaign against Latham could bring down his favorables and improve our chances of holding IA-03 if that district includes Story County in 2012.

UPDATE: Brownsox demolishes Fred Hiatt’s criticism of this ad campaign.

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Update on cabinet appointments and confirmations

The Senate confirmed Eric Holder as attorney general today by a vote of 75-21. Both Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley voted yes, as expected. I always thought Holder would be confirmed, but I am pleasantly surprised that he was approved by a larger majority than Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. I believe Holder will turn out to be one of President Barack Obama’s better cabinet appointments.

For reasons I cannot fathom, Obama appears ready to appoint Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, a conservative Republican, as Secretary of Commerce. Chris Bowers concisely explains why this is an awful choice:

So, for some reason, in the wake of total Republican intransigence on the stimulus bill, the Obama administration will respond by putting a Republican in charge of one the federal departments overseeing the economy. Judd Gregg himself has said he will oppose the stimulus package. That is certainly an, um, interesting way for the Obama administration to incentivize Republican opposition. Oppose President Obama, and he will reward you by giving you a cabinet position.

It is worth noting what sort of ideas Judd Gregg has for the economy: a commission of center-right insiders operating in secret and circumventing Congress in order to destroy Social Security and Medicare.

Senate Republicans continue to hold up Hilda Solis’s confirmation as Labor Secretary, and Obama responds by appointing Gregg to the cabinet?

Democrats won’t even get a Senate seat out of the deal, because the Democratic governor of New Hampshire has promised to appoint a Republican to serve out Gregg’s term. The only upside is that the appointee may be easier to beat in 2010 than longtime incumbent Gregg would have been. But that’s not worth handing over control of the Commerce Department to a conservative, in my opinion.

All I can say is, Gregg better not screw around with the Census Bureau and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In a dispatch from bizarro world, Politico’s David Rogers still isn’t convinced that Obama is serious about bipartisanship, even though Gregg will become the third Republican in his cabinet and will be replaced by a Republican in the Senate:

Obama, while talking a good game about bipartisanship, is draining the Senate of the very talent he needs to achieve this goal.

If only Obama were merely “talking a good game about bipartisanship.”

Speaking of Senate Republicans, Kagro X put up a good post on prospects for a filibuster of the economic stimulus bill, and Chris Bowers posted a “whip count” here, concluding that

Overall, it seems highly likely that the stimulus will pass without Republicans forcing major changes. However, given the narrow margins, this is not a guarantee.

The Senate will likely vote on the bill on Wednesday. Grassley has already spoken out against what he calls the “stimulus/porkulus bill.”

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Republican governors don't believe their party's talking points

It’s easy to complain about “wasteful government spending” in the stimulus bill when you’re in the Congressional minority. Voting against the stimulus may even be a smart political play for Congressional Republicans.

However, Republican governors who have to balance state budgets in this shrinking economy view the prospect of massive federal government spending differently:

Most Republican governors have broken with their GOP colleagues in Congress and are pushing for passage of President Barack Obama’s economic aid plan that would send billions to states for education, public works and health care.

Their state treasuries drained by the financial crisis, governors would welcome the money from Capitol Hill, where GOP lawmakers are more skeptical of Obama’s spending priorities.

The 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, planned to meet in Washington this weekend with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and other senators to press for her state’s share of the package.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist worked the phones last week with members of his state’s congressional delegation, including House Republicans. Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, the Republican vice chairman of the National Governors Association, planned to be in Washington on Monday to urge the Senate to approve the plan. […]

This past week the bipartisan National Governors Association called on Congress to quickly pass the plan.

“States are facing fiscal conditions not seen since the Great Depression _ anticipated budget shortfalls are expected in excess of $200 billion,” the NGA statement said. “Governors … support several key elements of the bill critical to states-increased federal support for Medicaid and K-12 and higher education; investment in the nation’s infrastructure; and tax provisions to spur investment.”

Will the GOP base become disenchanted with Alaska Governor Sarah Palin because of her public support for the stimulus? I suspect Markos is right:

It complicates matters for the anti-stimulus ideologues who see starbursts in the presence of Palin.

Then again, Palin had no trouble lying about her support for the Bridge to Nowhere. Nothing will stop her from trying to rewrite history three years from now.

Speaking of Palin, I learned from Jeff Angelo that she’s created SarahPAC. Something tells me that a lot of Iowa Republican candidates in will receive generous contributions from this political action committee during the next two election cycles.

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Tom Harkin is right

Senator Tom Harkin was right to warn in a conference call with reporters today that the economic stimulus bill may be too small.

He is also right to be concerned about the tax-cut provisions. Tax cuts that put more money into the hands of people in high income brackets (such as fixing the alternative minimum tax) will not necessarily boost consumer spending.

He is right about this too:

Harkin said the bill must be seen as more than an immediate jump-start for the ailing economy, and therefore lawmakers should not be timid about its potential.

“This is not just a stimulus bill to put someone to work right now,” Harkin said. “That’s important and we will do that. But we are also going to do things that lay the groundwork for a solid recovery in the future.”

Harkin wants the bill to put more money into renewable fuels and less money into so-called “clean coal”:

“We’re putting money into clean coal technology,” he said. “There’s no such thing.”

You said it, senator.

Speaking of how there’s no such thing as clean coal, if you click here you’ll find another clever ad from the Reality Coalition.

Speaking of senators who are right about things, Here’s John Kerry on the stimulus:

Reacting to Wednesday night’s vote in the House – where not a single GOP member supported the stimulus package – Kerry told Politico that “if Republicans aren’t prepared to vote for it, I don’t think we should be giving up things, where I think the money can be spent more effectively.”

“If they’re not going to vote for it, let’s go with a plan that we think is going to work.”

The Massachusetts Democrat and 2004 presidential candidate suggested tossing some of the tax provisions in the stimulus that the GOP requested. “Those aren’t job creators immediately, and even in the longer term they’re not necessarily. We’ve seen that policy for the last eight years,” he said.

What was that thing Americans voted for in November? Oh yeah, change.

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House passes economic stimulus bill, no thanks to Republicans

The House of Representatives passed an $819 billion economic stimulus bill today by a vote of 244-188. Here is the roll call. Iowa Democrats Bruce Braley (IA-01), Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Leonard Boswell (IA-03) all voted with the majority. Republicans unanimously opposed the bill, including Tom Latham (IA-04) and Steve King (IA-05), and 11 “Blue Dog” Democrats also voted no.

All the news reports have emphasized that not a single Republican voted for this package, even though President Barack Obama tried hard (too hard if you ask me) to bring them on board.

It reminds me of 1993, when Congressional Republicans unanimously opposed President Bill Clinton’s first budget. The GOP seems to be banking on running against Democrats’ management of the economy in the midterm elections. For that reason, I think it’s foolish for Democrats to try to cater to Republicans. Passing a stimulus bill that truly helps the economy should be paramount.

I’ll update this post later with more details about what made it into the House bill and what got left behind. I’m pleased to note that an amendment significantly increasing mass transit funding passed. A Siegel tells you which Democrats deserve particular credit for this achievement. By the way, mass transit is not just for large cities.

UPDATE: Congressman Loebsack’s office sent out a release with a long list of provisions in the stimulus bill. I’ve posted it after the jump, so click “there’s more” if you want all the details.

The top point of the release is that Loebsack successfully pushed for school modernization funds to be included in the stimulus package.

At the very end of the press release, you’ll see that the stimulus bill “Prevents [Illinois] Governor [Rod] Blagojevich from directing the use of funds provided in the package.” I understand why people would worry about him administering any funds earmarked for Illinois, but I am with Adam B: this provision is tantamount to “bribing the jury” of Illinois senators who are considering impeachment charges against Blagojevich.

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Bleeding Heartland Year in Review: Iowa politics in 2008

Last year at this time I was scrambling to make as many phone calls and knock on as many doors as I could before the Iowa caucuses on January 3.

This week I had a little more time to reflect on the year that just ended.

After the jump I’ve linked to Bleeding Heartland highlights in 2008. Most of the links relate to Iowa politics, but some also covered issues or strategy of national importance.

I only linked to a few posts about the presidential race. I’ll do a review of Bleeding Heartland’s 2008 presidential election coverage later this month.

You can use the search engine on the left side of the screen to look for past Bleeding Heartland diaries about any person or issue.

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Reactions to the horrendous November employment report

Kula2316 posted several clips containing economists’ reactions to news that U.S. employers cut more than half a million jobs in November. From a story in today’s Washington Post:

Indeed, the economy is unraveling so fast as to defy analysis through the usual statistical models. Among the phrases found in normally sober reports from the nation’s top economic forecasters yesterday: “god-awful,” “wholesale capitulation,” “shockingly weak” and “indescribably terrible.”

“The numbers here are truly horrific,” said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group, a consultancy. “It is clear this economy is now deteriorating with frightening speed and ferocity.”

Many experts expect the economy to get worse before it gets better. I graduated from college in what we thought was a gruesome hiring environment during Poppy Bush’s presidency. People who could get into some kind of graduate school jumped at the chance to stay off the job market for a year or two.

If you are looking for a job now, or plan to be looking soon, I recommend Teddifish’s Daily Kos diary on How to get a job when no one is hiring. Teddifish’s advice is mainly geared toward people starting out their careers, but the comment thread under that diary is full of ideas that apply to job-seekers of any age and experience level.

For instance, several people recommended sending a thank-you note after a job interview. That can help you stand out among the competitors. Even if you are not hired right away, sending a note to thank the interviewer for his or her consideration can help you in the future. Often an employer’s first choice doesn’t work out for whatever reason.

I’ll share one tip, which got me the job that changed my life: If you are a finalist for a position and don’t get an offer, call to find out why you weren’t hired.

I had had what I thought was a very positive interview in September. I heard a week or two later that I had made the cut to their short list, and they would be making a decision soon. October passed and I never heard anything. I assumed they hired someone else.

This job was in a different city. In January I went to that city, thinking I had another promising lead. While I was in town, I decided to call the guy who had interviewed me in September, who was the director of the institute where I wanted to work. I was nervous, but I had been advised that it was worth asking why I hadn’t been hired.

When he got on the phone, he said, “Boy, am I embarrassed to be talking to you.” It turned out that they weren’t 100 percent happy with any of the finalists, so the position was still open. (I was considered too inexperienced.) But as long as I was in town, he invited me to come down to their office.

Then I got to meet with the man who was going to head the department I had applied for. That interview went very well. He liked me and felt that while I didn’t have a lot of directly relevant experience, I had skills and background that suggested I would have a lot to contribute. He also knew of and respected one of the references listed on my resume.

Within an hour they offered me a job and I was talking to someone in human resources about moving and temporary housing while I looked for an apartment. It was surreal.

I don’t know if professional head-hunters recommend calling to find out why you weren’t hired, but it worked out for me.

Share any thoughts about the economy or job market in the comments.

UPDATE: Several Daily Kos commenters recommended Dick Bolles’ book “What Color Is Your Parachute?” He has a website with information for job-hunters and career-changers here.

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How bad is this economy?

Worse than you thought:

Skittish employers slashed 533,000 jobs in November, the most in 34 years, catapulting the unemployment rate to 6.7 percent, dramatic proof the country is careening deeper into recession.


As companies throttled back hiring, the unemployment rate bolted from 6.5 percent in October to 6.7 percent last month, a 15-year high.

“These numbers are shocking,” said economist Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economics Advisors. “Companies are sharply reacting to the economy’s problems and slashing costs. They are not trying to ride it out.”

The unemployment rate would have moved even higher if not for the exodus of 422,000 people from the work force. Economists thought many of those people probably abandoned their job searches out of sheer frustration. In November 2007, the jobless rate was at 4.7 percent.

I knew things were bad (I have a couple of friends who’ve been laid off this fall), but I am surprised the monthly job-loss total is worse than at any time since 1974. That is terrible.

At Daily Kos, TomP has Barack Obama’s response to the unemployment numbers. Excerpt:

At the same time, this painful crisis also provides us with an opportunity to transform our economy to improve the lives of ordinary people by rebuilding roads and modernizing schools for our children, investing in clean energy solutions to break our dependence on imported oil, and making an early down payment on the long-term reforms that will grow and strengthen our economy for all Americans for years to come.”

It looks like Obama will try to fold a lot of energy and infrastructure programs into a large economic stimulus bill early next year. That’s a smart approach, but I hope he won’t make too many concessions to boondoggles like “clean coal.” Also, I would hope that a large portion of the infrastructure spending goes on fixing and maintaining current roads and bridges, along with expanding rail travel. Too often federal spending on the transportation sector goes largely toward new road construction.

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A contender for most ridiculous conservative spin this year

I know, that sounds like hyperbole, but it would be hard to top the argument Grover Norquist made yesterday on CNBC. David Sirota, who was also on the program, fills us in:

Grover Norquist is regularly billed as one of the leading intellectual lights of the conservative movement – and I think you will agree that the arguments he made in a debate with me over taxes this morning on CNBC highlight not merely the shocking intellectual bankruptcy of the movement he leads, but just how out of touch Republicans in Washington really are.

The debate revolved around President-elect Obama’s potential plans to put off raising taxes on the very wealthy. Norquist begins the debate with the claim – I kid you not – that “the economy is in the present state because when the Democrats took the House and Senate in 2006 you knew those tax increases were going to come in 2010.” He insisted that, “The stock market began to collapse as soon as you recognize that those old tax rates were coming back.” Yes, because under “those old tax rates” – ie. Clinton-era tax rates – the economy was so much worse than it is today.

As you’ll see, the CNBC reporters start laughing at Norquist, having trouble taking him seriously. And I must say, I really wasn’t sure he was being serious – but, of course, he was. I went on to make the point that I’ve often made in the past – the point that conservatives simply want everyone to forget: Namely, that President Clinton faced down a recession in 1993 by raising taxes on the wealthy in order to finance an economic stimulus package, and the economy subsequently boomed.

Click here to watch the You Tube. Yes, Norquist would have us believe that the U.S. economy is tanking in late 2008 because when the Democrats took over Congress two years ago, people began to expect that taxes on the wealthy would go up in 2010.

If you’ve heard a more illogical assertion from a Republican talking head lately, I want to hear about it in the comments.

While we’re talking about taxes, who thinks Obama should keep his promise to ask Congress to roll back George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent?

Who thinks Obama should just let those tax cuts expire on schedule in 2010, rather than spend political capital to get Congress to rescind them one year early?

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Open thread on Obama's economic team

Apologies for not getting this thread posted yesterday, when President-elect Barack Obama unveiled his economic team.

On the plus side, there are no incompetent hacks in this group. I’ve heard particularly good things about Peter Orszag’s work at the Congressional Budget Office, and he will produce reliable numbers at the Office of Management and Budget.

People I respect speak quite highly of Melody Barnes, who will run Obama’s Domestic Policy Council.

Also, it’s encouraging that Obama is committed to a major stimulus bill that will focus on infrastructure investments. I’ll reserve further judgment until we see more specifics about Obama’s plans, because spending $350 billion on stuff worth doing is a lot better than spending $350 billion on boondoggles.

I also agree with Matthew Yglesias that if you’re going to throw tens of billions of dollars at the economy, high-speed rail in the Midwest would be an excellent place to start. (UPDATE: Senator John Kerry has introduced a major bill that would promote high-speed rail development across the country.)

On the down side, since I opposed the series of Wall Street bailouts we’ve been seeing this fall, I’m not thrilled to see Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary and Larry Summers as chief of the National Economic Council. During Bill Clinton’s presidency, I wanted economic policy to be more in the direction that Labor Secretary Robert Reich was proposing, but Clinton and now Obama are clearly favoring the approach of Clinton’s Treasury Secreatry, Robert Rubin. Almost everyone on Obama economic team has close ties to Rubin.

I think Bill Richardson will do fine at the Commerce Department, but I would have preferred to see him in a different cabinet position.

If you were one of those Obama supporters who claimed during the primaries that he would govern in a much more progressive way than Hillary Clinton, now would be a good time to rethink your views.

Meanwhile, George W. Bush’s team is taking care of one troubled financial firm after another. The latest bailout plan, for Citigroup, is a particularly bad deal for taxpayers, according to Paul Krugman (who reluctantly supported the $700 billion bailout package approved before the election).

What do you think about the team Obama is assembling to handle the economy?

UPDATE: The members of the New York Times editorial board are not wild about putting Geithner and Summers in charge:

As treasury secretary in 2000, Mr. Summers championed the law that deregulated derivatives, the financial instruments – a k a toxic assets – that have spread the financial losses from reckless lending around the globe. He refused to heed the critics who warned of dangers to come.

That law, still on the books, reinforced the false belief that markets would self-regulate. And it gave the Bush administration cover to ignore the ever-spiraling risks posed by derivatives and inadequate supervision.

Mr. Summers now will advise a president who has promised to impose rational and essential regulations on chaotic financial markets. What has he learned?

At the New York Fed, Mr. Geithner has been one of the ringmasters of this year’s serial bailouts. His involvement includes the as-yet-unexplained flip-flop in September when a read-my-lips, no-new-bailouts policy allowed Lehman Brothers to go under – only to be followed less than two days later by the even costlier bailout of the American International Group and last weekend by the bailout of Citigroup.

It is still unclear what Mr. Geithner and other policy makers knew or did not know – or what they thought they knew but didn’t – in arriving at those decisions, including who exactly is on the receiving end of the billions of dollars of taxpayer money now flooding the system.

Confidence in the system will not be restored as long as top officials fail or refuse to fully explain their actions.

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Hubler pledges not to accept pay raises if elected

I love how Rob Hubler ties together several things in this release:

-Steve King’s embarrassingly thin legislative record (the only bill he got through the House was about recognizing the importance of Christmas).

-King’s misleading tv ad about the Highway 20 widening project.

-King’s repeated votes against raising the minimum wage.

-King’s repeated votes to raise his own pay.

FOR RELEASE: Friday, October 24, 2008                          

Rob Hubler pledges to take no pay increases if elected to the House of Representatives

King has voted to raise pay six times and cost taxpayers more than $8.5 million since he was elected in 2002

       COUNCIL BLUFFS – Rob Hubler, Democratic candidate for Congress in Iowa’s 5th district, has pledged to not accept any increases in salary if he is elected to the House of Representatives, pointing out that incumbent Rep. Steve King has voted to increase his pay all six years that he has been in Congress.

       During a telephone news conference this morning, Hubler said that “taxpayers haven’t gotten their money’s worth in the past six years that King has been in Congress.”  Charging that King has not produced results for his western Iowa district during his three terms, Hubler pointed out that it has cost taxpayers more than $8.5 million to maintain his office, excluding travel expenses.  “That’s a lot of money to pay someone to remind us that we ought to celebrate Christmas,” said Hubler, referring to the only resolution or bill authored by King that has become law.

       “Obviously, we haven’t gotten much of a return on the our investment since King was elected in 2002,” said Hubler.  “The reason I’m running for Congress is that I think the fifth district deserves better than this.  While voting six times to increase his own pay by $15,000, the income of average Iowans has gone down over $2,000.  King has repeatedly voted against increases in the minimum wage while charging taxpayers over $8.5 million to run his office,” he said.

       “If Congress, over my objection, increases salaries for members of the House of Representatives while I’m in Congress, I will donate the amount of the increase to charities and non-profit organizations that are doing good work in our district,” Hubler promised.

       Commenting on King’s opposition to increases in the minimum wage for low income workers, Hubler said that he will “support efforts to see that the minimum wage keeps pace with inflation so that those at the bottom of the economic ladder don’t fall further behind.”

       Hubler chided King for misleading voters with his television ad in which the incumbent congressman takes credit for a recent appropriation the Iowa Department of Transportation to improve Highway 20. No federal funds are included in the appropriation.  “Since he hasn’t been able to accomplish anything in six years to improve the lives of his constituents, I guess King thought he’d better fabricate something before election day,” said Hubler.  “If I’m elected to Congress, I’ll work hard to produce results for the people who sent me there.

       Hubler, a Navy veteran and retired Presbyterian minister from Council Bluffs, recently was placed on the “Emerging Races” list by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, signifying that his campaign to unseat King is viewed as competitive by the national committee.  Hubler has been campaigning for Iowa’s Fifth District seat in the House of Representatives for nearly 20 months, travelling more than 220,000 miles throughout the 32-county district.

Please donate to or volunteer for Hubler’s campaign during the next ten days.

WHO-TV in Des Moines ran a feature on Hubler last night. I don’t have video, but here is the text.

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Help Rob Hubler get his message out

Steve King keeps adding to the multitude of reasons to elect Rob Hubler to represent Iowa’s fifth district in Congress. He is running a misleading television ad in the Sioux City market:

Friday, October 17, 2008                  

         COUNCIL BLUFFS – Rob Hubler, Democratic candidate for Congress in Iowa’s 5th district, today called on Rep. Steve King to pull his new television ad in which he falsely claims credit for “working with others” to widen Highway 20 from two lanes to four lanes.

         Following an announcement by the Iowa Department of Transportation on Tuesday that $48 million had been allocated for 11.7 miles of four-laning Highway 20, King began running a television commercial claiming credit for the funding.  All of the funding is from a special fund recently approved by the Iowa legislature and none of the funding is from federal sources.

         “Steve King taking credit for funding Highway 20 improvements would be like me taking credit for the sun coming up this morning,” said Hubler.  “Our state legislators and the Iowa Department of Transportation deserve credit for allocating the funding for Highway 20, which is long overdue,” he said.  “King had nothing to do with approving money for highway improvements but, three weeks before an election, he is desperate to show some accomplishments in Congress, by taking credit where it is not due.”

         State Sen. Steve Warnstadt of Sioux City, who has fought for funding in the Iowa legislature, said today that the legislature, “rather than wait for the promises of federal politicians to be fulfilled, worked in a bipartisan manner to not only create the funding for TIME-21, but ensured that projects like four-laning Highway 20 would be top priority for new funding.”

         “I’m pleased that the Iowa Transportation Commission did not wait for federal funds, and is using the resources provided to them by the legislature for critical projects like Highway 20,” said Sen. Warnstadt.

         In his television ad, that began running this week, King says:  “Six years ago I made a commitment to you that I would pull out all the stops to build four-lane Highway 20.  Today with the commission’s announcement, I can tell you that 46 more miles will be built within five years.  My number one transportation priority was a promise, now it’s a plan, soon it will be a reality.  We work together and we get things done.”

         In a press release issued the same day, King again took credit for the Highway 20 improvement project.  “Steve King had absolutely nothing to do with any of that funding and is shamelessly trying to take credit for it,” said Hubler.  “I suppose this is what you do when you’ve spent six years in Congress and have only a resolution encouraging people to celebrate Christmas to show for it,” he added.

         Hubler pointed out that King is unable to get anything done to help his district because he is not respected by other members of Congress, even those in his own party.  “By contrast, Rep. Leonard Boswell of Iowa has a program for Highway 34 in which he gets 20 miles paved every year,” he said.

         Hubler said that he will work with the rest of the Iowa delegation to make sure Iowa gets help with maintaining our highways and bridges.  “I will sponsor and fight for legislation to fund at least ten miles of Highway 20 widening each year until it is completed,” he said.  “If Steve King had done this, we would have 60 miles completed during his three terms in Congress.”

This press release from the Iowa Department of Transportation confirms the above comments by Hubler and State Senator Steve Warnstadt. This project is funded by the state, not by any federal appropriation.

Iowa Guy calls out the television ad as one of King’s “lies.” Here is a rough transcript that someone in the fifth district sent to me (if anyone has an official script, please send me a copy). Judge for yourself:

King: I’m Steve King. I approve this message. Six years ago I made a commitment to you that I would pull out all of the stops to build 4 lane Highway 20. Today with the commission’s announcement, I can tell you that 46 more miles will be built within five years. My number one transportation priority was a promise, now it’s a plan, soon it will be a reality. We work together and we get things done.

Voice Over: “Steve King for Congress”

King’s ad creates a false impression. Note how he refers to “the commission” without making clear that he’s talking about the Iowa Transportation Commission’s announcement regarding Highway 20. He talks about how his “promise” is now a “plan” that will soon be a “reality,” without specifying what he did to make that plan a reality (because he played no role).

I read in one of my parenting books that lying can be a form of wish fulfillment. If I had achieved as little for constituents as King has, I’d probably wish I could take credit for a popular highway project too.

Speaking of King’s record, you may recall this article the Sioux City Journal published over the summer, asking “How effective is Steve King?” (Answer: not very.) In the article, King described a “key moment” for him:

King said the extended 2007 funding debate for reauthorization of the federal State Children’s Health Insurance Program was a key moment. The measure was initially written for an increase of $35 billion, but was scaled back before being signed by President Bush in December.

King took to the House floor last fall with a sign that said the SCHIP acronym should instead stand for “Socialized Clinton-style Hillarycare for Illegals and their Parents.”

“I do believe if you took me out of the equation, there would have been a different (funding) result,” King said.

I have a close friend (self-employed) whose family was getting health coverage through her husband’s job. He was just laid off this month. Fortunately, their kids are eligible to be added to HAWK-I (that’s the Iowa version of SCHIP) as of November 1.

Plenty of children would be going without health insurance if not for HAWK-I, and in this economy, demand for the program will probably rise significantly.

Isn’t it great that King fought to scale back the funding?

Another recent “achievement” for King was his proposal to create a commission to study the current financial crisis. Hubler had some choice words about that idea, and I’ve put his full statement after the jump. Some excerpts:

       “For six years, Steve King has supported an administration that has refused to accept responsibility or to hold anyone accountable for policies that have devastated the middle class, provided tax breaks to big oil companies, mismanaged an unnecessary war, and now caused the worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression,” said Hubler.  “We don’t need to spend millions of dollars on a commission that will take months to find out what we already know; when there are no rules, and no regulators, markets do not regulate themselves.”

       “King opposed common-sense regulations designed to protect investors and consumers as his Republican-led Congress gave the Bush administration the authority to dismantle rules, allowing greedy Wall Street speculators and unscrupulous lenders free rein to engage in subprime lending with no oversight from Congress,” Hubler continued.  “Yet, instead of accepting responsibility for his part in creating this mess, King has tried to blame middle class borrowers for the collapse of the housing market,” said Hubler, referring to comments King made Saturday at a town hall meeting in Onawa.

Hubler is a strong Democrat as well as a strong candidate, which is why Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold’s Progressive Patriots Fund is supporting him.

Hubler can win this race if he is able to get his message to voters. He’s already been up on the radio with at least one ad, featuring former Congressman Berkley Bedell. The Hubler campaign has also produced this voter guide (pdf file) to mail district-wide. To reach more voters through direct mail and broadcast media, the campaign needs your help. Please donate today.

We have a great opportunity to take advantage of the coming Democratic wave. This post at Swing State Project notes that seats once thought safe for Republicans are becoming competitive across the country. The author names IA-05 (as well as IA-04) among the “Republican seats at severe risk of being lost or swept away in the ensuing tide.”

The Republican Party is now spending money on behalf of incumbents in some districts comparable to western Iowa in terms of partisan makeup. This recent story from Politico notes:

GOP Reps. John B. Shadegg of Arizona, Lee Terry of Nebraska, Henry Brown Jr. of South Carolina and Dan Lungren of California are all fighting for their political lives, a reversal of fortunes that has caught even the most astute campaign observers by surprise.

Markos commented on the Politico piece,

Shadegg’s AZ-03 is R+5.9.

Terry’s NE-02 is R+9.0.

Brown’s SC-01 is R+9.6

Lungren’s CA-03 is R+6.7.

Iowa’s fifth district has a partisan voting index of R+8. As I’ve written before, ten House Democrats already represent districts at least as Republican. This election will increase that number. Let’s make IA-05 one of them.

King’s third-quarter FEC filing showed a financial advantage over Hubler, but hardly an intimidating war chest. His cash on hand may not even be sufficient to run television ads across the district for the remainder of the campaign. He certainly won’t have a turnout operation to rival what Barack Obama’s campaign and the Iowa Democratic Party have going in western Iowa.

It only takes a minute to donate to Hubler’s campaign, giving him the resources to spread his message in the final weeks. Please take the time to help send a good man to Congress.

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Congratulations to Paul Krugman

who just won the Nobel Prize for economics:

“What are the effects of free trade and globalization? What are the driving forces behind worldwide urbanization? Paul Krugman has formulated a new theory to answer these questions,” the [Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences] said in its citation.

“He has thereby integrated the previously disparate research fields of international trade and economic geography,” it said.

Although Krugman wasn’t honored for his op-ed pieces in the New York Times, I will always be grateful that he remained unafraid to criticize George Bush and his policies, even at the height of Bush’s popularity in late 2001 and 2002.

In case you weren’t aware, Krugman has a good blog too.

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Department of untimely policy initiatives

Over at the Washington Monthly’s Political Animal blog, Hilzoy had a great comment on news that John McCain may soon propose “economic measures aimed directly at the middle class” such as “tax cuts — perhaps temporary — for capital gains and dividends”:

Because what everyone is really worried about right now is how they’ll manage to pay the taxes on their massive capital gains.

The biggest surprise for me this year is how poor a campaign McCain has run since locking up the Republican nomination.

This is an open thread on the dumbest policy idea or campaign tactic McCain has come up with in recent months.

Although McCain had no great options for VP, in my opinion, I still think picking Sarah Palin was one of his biggest mistakes.

UPDATE: The New York Times reports,

Despite signals that Senator John McCain would have new prescriptions for the economic crisis after a weekend of meetings, his campaign said Sunday that Mr. McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, would not have any more proposals this week unless developments call for some.

There’s a winning message!

Everyone who doesn’t think that current developments call for some economic policy proposals, please raise your hands.

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House bailout debate/vote thread

The House of Representatives is debating the bailout bill that cleared the Senate on Wednesday.

Bruce Braley, who voted against the bailout on Monday, has announced that he will support this version. His statement explaining his decision is after the jump.

Dave Loebsack and Leonard Boswell voted for the bailout on Monday and will surely support this version too.

I don’t expect Tom Latham or Steve King to change their votes against the bailout.

UPDATE: The bill passed 263 to 171. Here is the roll call:


All three Democrats in the Iowa delegation voted yes, while Latham and King voted no.

SECOND UPDATE: George Bush signed the bill already.

Becky Greenwald issued the following statement:

Greenwald Condemns Latham for Voting Against Cleaning Up the Financial Mess He Helped Create

Waukee, IA – Today, Becky Greenwald condemned Tom Latham for voting against the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 as the economy faces its most serious crisis since the Great Depression.

“I am disappointed that Tom Latham voted against fixing the financial mess he helped create. Latham’s years of support for George Bush’s failed economic policies and deregulation of the financial markets while taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from Wall Street put America in the economic crisis it faces today. I’m just glad he didn’t get his way when he supported George Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security and risk America’s retirement safety net on Wall Street. And to add insult to injury, this vote was also a vote against providing tax relief to middle income families and disaster victims in Iowa.

“I am pleased the House passed the Economic Rescue Bill. Today’s bill will help to unfreeze credit, protect taxpayers, provide tax relief for Iowans affected by natural disasters, and fix the Alternative Minimum Tax to exempt middle-income taxpayers. It was clear action needed to be taken to protect Iowans, and these provisions go a long way to support working families in the 4th District, who were forgotten in the original bill.

“Through no fault of their own, Iowans who have planned and saved for retirement and families trying to send their children to college would have been forced to delay their plans. Something needed to be done, and Tom Latham voted to do nothing.

“It’s time we have a representative that values working families and Main Street over Wall Street.”

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Open thread on the bailout and the economy

Last night the Senate passed a bailout bill that was somewhat different from the version the House rejected on Monday. The Senate vote was 74-25 (roll call here), with Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin both voting in favor.

Last week Harkin had spoken out against the original bailout proposal, so obviously he was satisfied with the changes made. (UPDATE: Harkin’s statement explaining his vote is after the jump.)

Both Barack Obama and John McCain voted for the bailout last night. Today, Obama made the economy the centerpiece of a campaign speech in Michigan. Click here to read the speech and watch video clips.

Congressional candidate Becky Greenwald, who said on Monday that she would have opposed the House version of the bailout, issued a statement urging Tom Latham to support the Senate version when it comes back to the House:

“I strongly encourage Tom Latham to support this new version of the financial rescue bill. The Senate version of the bill integrated constructive changes including temporarily raising the FDIC insurance caps, renewable energy tax credits and fixing the Alternative Minimum Tax to exempt middle-income taxpayers. These provisions go a long way to support working families in the 4th District, who were forgotten in the original bill.  

“I still think more needs to be done to address the underlying problem of keeping families in their homes, but it is clear by the impending unavailability of credit, we need to take action now. I am encouraged by the modifications to this bill. I hope the House will embrace the modified bill. I encourage Tom Latham to vote in favor of this bill and take this important step in addressing our financial crisis.”

Congressional candidate Rob Hubler, who said on Monday that he would have voted for the bailout in the House, posted this statement on the front page of his website:

“The failed economic policies of the Bush administration, supported consistently by Steve King, combined with the lack of common-sense regulations and oversight by Congress has led us to this financial train-wreck.

“Six years ago, the Bush administration sought authorization to use military force to invade Iraq.  We acted too quickly and became mired down in war.  Today, it is asking for authorization to use financial force in the market place.  We must not make the mistake of acting too quickly without enough information, and we must address the problems of Main Street as well as Wall Street.  The revised proposal includes subsidies to support the production of ethanol and wind energy, which will be helpful to Iowa’s economy.

“By raising the insurance level from $100,000 to $250,000 for savings accounts, we will help small-town bankers survive the current financial crisis.  If the revised version of the rescue package provides that taxpayers will be paid back every dime of the billions it will take to avert an extended recession and gets money to people on Main Street, I would reluctantly vote in favor of the legislation in order to stabilize the economy so that families and businesses on Main Street are not further affected.  I am encouraged that both Senators Obama and McCain are now working toward a solution, while Steve King is still pushing failed policies, such as eliminating the capital gains taxes which favor wealthy Wall Street speculators.  Main Street doesn’t have any capital gains to pay taxes on right now.

“If I am elected to Congress. I will be a strong voice in favor of regulatory measures and vigilant oversight-unlike Steve King-to see that checks and balances are put back in place so that we never have to experience this kind of calamity again.”

Speaking of Steve King, he made news yesterday during a talk radio show. He argued that McCain was right to say the fundamentals of our economy are strong. I didn’t watch Keith Olbermann’s Countdown show last night, but apparently King earned the title of third-worst person in the world for the day.

I haven’t had a chance to read up on the specific improvements made in the Senate bailout bill. I am skeptical that this will solve the problems in the banking sector, however. Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin issued this statement explaining his opposition:

“I will oppose the Wall Street bailout plan because though well intentioned, and certainly much improved over the administration’s original proposal, it remains deeply flawed. It fails to offset the cost of the plan, leaving taxpayers to bear the burden of serious lapses of judgment by private financial institutions, their regulators, and the enablers in Washington who paved the way for this catastrophe by removing the safeguards that had protected consumers and the economy since the great depression. The bailout legislation also fails to reform the flawed regulatory structure that permitted this crisis to arise in the first place. And it doesn’t do enough to address the root cause of the credit market collapse, namely the housing crisis. Taxpayers deserve a plan that puts their concerns ahead of those who got us into this mess.”

-Senator Russ Feingold, October 1, 2008

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich expects the economy to continue to worsen with or without the bailout.

The economist/blogger Bonndad wrote a piece analyzing the various bailout proposals. He concluded, “As far as I have seen, no one has offered any solution to the credit crunch that makes any sense. ”

This is an open thread for any comments related to the economy or the bailout proposals.

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How the Iowa delegation voted on the bailout

I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the $700 billion bailout bill failed in Congress today on a truly bipartisan vote: 140 Democrats for, 95 against; 65 Republicans for, 133 against.

In the House, Bruce Braley, Tom Latham and Steve King voted no, while Dave Loebsack and Leonard Boswell voted yes.

The full statement from Braley’s office is after the jump. I will update this post with full statements from Iowa’s other members of Congress as they become available. The Des Moines Register has excerpts from each representative’s statement here:


Senator Tom Harkin spoke out against the bailout several days ago.

UPDATE: I encourage those of you who support this bailout to read these notes from a conference call Treasury had with about 800 Wall Street analysts. If you click the link you can even download a recording of the call and listen yourself. The notes at that site are plenty for me. All of the “concessions” the Democrats got were meaningless:

1. The tranching is a mere formality, and the Treasury boys as much as said so. They could take the $700 billion max as soon as the bill has passed,

2. However, they do not plan any action immediately, will wait a couple of weeks. They want to focus their efforts on stronger companies but also made noise about protecting the financial system. This, by the way, is the Japanese convoy system all over.


5. The exec comp provisions sound like a joke, They DO NOT affect existing contracts, they affect only contracts entered into during the two years of the authority of this program and then affect only golden parachutes. More detail on that point, but I don’t need more detail to get the drift of the gist.

Regarding that second point about Treasury planning to wait a couple of weeks before doing anything, I totally agree with this analysis:

Waiting a couple of weeks because no one has any idea when or where the next bomb will blow up. In other words, all their doomsday scenarios about Black Monday were B.S. They screamed the check had to be written by Monday, but now they’re saying they actually have a few weeks before they need to cash it. Plus, this will allow them to “seek guidance” from GS, JPM, and other selfless public servants about where the money should be funneled.

Remember, a Treasury official admitted to Forbes last week that they made up the $700 billion number. There was no analysis supporting that number.

I think Jerome Armstrong is right on target:

It’s almost as if, the administration thought this election through already, and decided that if they could bust the budget wide enough, then Democrats, incoming with 60 votes in the Senate, 250 in the House, and a President, would be able to do nothing but cut costs.  Try to spend anything in ’09, and the Republicans would be re-born as fiscal deficit hawks running against the spendster libruls.

I don’t pretend to know the solution here, other than taking the fiscal downer now, which is admittedly trite. I also have to wonder about the tact to ‘own’ this thing as well, making it a Democratic bill that takes on Bush, which has its own set of problems. Its become so poisoned that to let the Republicans off the hook would seem to be handing them a gift. At the end of the day, I am doubtful that this “no” sticks, and won’t be at all surprised to see a dozen votes flip to pass this behemoth budget buster pass as is. We win it all, and are able to do nothing but raise taxes and cut spending.

Folks, this is a trap that will enrich a bunch of people while doing little to help the overall economy.

Final point: I totally disagree with Nate Silver, who said this about retiring members of Congress who voted for the bailout:

The congressmen who are retiring this year — and who therefore can perhaps be described as the most neutral arbiters of the public good — voted overwhelmingly for this measure.

Neutral arbiters of the public good?

A lot of retired members of Congress go work at lobbying firms, “consult” with investment banks or get paid to serve on corporate boards. I reject the premise that their support for the bailout means it was a good idea.

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Why $700 billion? They "wanted to choose a really large number"

I stand by my contention that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s bailout scheme is among the worst proposals to come out of George Bush’s very bad presidency.

So I am glad to learn that Iowa Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald wants some questions answered before urging Congress to pass the bailout. Click the link to read Marc Hansen’s column about a conference call Fitzgerald and other state treasurers had on Thursday with acting U.S. treasury undersecretary for domestic finance.

I am no economics whiz, but I can help answer Fitzgerald’s first question:

Why $700 billion?

From his office at the Capitol, Fitzgerald listened intently, waiting for the answer that never came. And what did he get instead?

“Nothing,” he says, “other than a lot of babble.”

What’s so magical about $700 billion? Fitzgerald still doesn’t know. It’s about 5 percent of the gross domestic product, if that means anything.

“Magical” is a good word for the number, because as it turns out, they just made it up.

I know this because a few days ago, Open Left diarist fladem posted this link from Forbes magazine:

In fact, some of the most basic details, including the $700 billion figure Treasury would use to buy up bad debt, are fuzzy.

“It’s not based on any particular data point,” a Treasury spokeswoman told Forbes.com Tuesday. “We just wanted to choose a really large number.”

David Sirota has written two good pieces quoting Nobel prize-winning economists and others on why there is no crisis requiring a bailout package. Here is part 1, and here is part 2.

In an alternate universe where John Edwards hadn’t disgraced himself, he could have been an effective voice against the rush to shovel taxpayer dollars to Wall Street.

Instead, we have Barack Obama’s campaign letting Roger Altman speak for them in favor of Paulson’s scheme. That’s

the same Roger Altman who was a Clinton Treasury official when the Clinton-backed deregulatory orgy was taking place, the same Roger Altman who is now an investment banker who stands to make bank if this bailout passes, the same Roger Altman who Bloomberg notes “is advising a group of investors who are trying to prevent their shares from being diluted in the U.S. takeover of American International Group Inc.” – that is, who have a direct financial interest in Paulson’s bailout package.

Watching this train barrel down the track is quite discouraging.

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Obama uses debate footage to show McCain "doesn't get it"

Great ad, “Zero,” released by Barack Obama’s campaign less than 12 hours after the presidential debate:

The Democratic political blogs seemed to think Obama’s best moment of the debate was when he pounded John McCain on being wrong about Iraq.

I liked that clip, but I think this ad is very smart, because the economy is a bigger issue for most voters than Iraq.

At fivethirtyeight.com, Nate Silver analyzes last night’s snap polls and explains why the snap polls and focus groups showed an advantage to Obama:

TPM has the internals of the CNN poll of debate-watchers, which had Obama winning overall by a margin of 51-38. The poll suggests that Obama is opening up a gap on connectedness, while closing a gap on readiness.

Specifically, by a 62-32 margin, voters thought that Obama was “more in touch with the needs and problems of people like you”. This is a gap that has no doubt grown because of the financial crisis of recent days. But it also grew because Obama was actually speaking to middle class voters. Per the transcript, McCain never once mentioned the phrase “middle class” (Obama did so three times). And Obama’s eye contact was directly with the camera, i.e. the voters at home. McCain seemed to be speaking literally to the people in the room in Mississippi, but figuratively to the punditry. It is no surprise that a small majority of pundits seemed to have thought that McCain won, even when the polls indicated otherwise; the pundits were his target audience.


McCain’s essential problem is that his fundamental strength – his experience — is specifically not viewed by voters as carrying over to the economy. And the economy is pretty much all that voters care about these days.

EDIT: The CBS poll of undecideds has more confirmatory detail. Obama went from a +18 on “understanding your needs and problems” before the debate to a +56 (!) afterward. And he went from a -9 on “prepared to be president” to a +21.

Click the link, because Silver’s piece is worth your time.

Speaking of the pundits who were McCain’s target audience, the Des Moines Register’s David Yepsen thought McCain won the debate.  

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The bailout may be the worst Bush administration proposal ever

If we’re talking about policy mistakes with disastrous long-term outcomes, it’s hard to top the Iraq War for loss of life and the 2005 energy bill for threats to the planet.

In fact, we could be here all day if we set out to brainstorm all the horrible things to come out of George Bush’s presidency.

But it does seem like the proposed bailout of failing banks is a contender for worst Bush administration proposal ever.

Here are a bunch of links on the subject.

Paul Krugman of the New York Times is updating his blog frequently.

Senator Bernie Sanders: Billions for Bailouts: Who Pays?

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich: What Wall Street Should Be Required to Do, to Get A Blank Check From Taxpayers

Bonddad: This is one of the worst bills to ever be proposed.

Robert Borosage: Financial Crisis: Time for a Citizens’ Plan?

Devilstower: Three Times is Enemy Action

Ian Welsh: How To Bail Out Ordinary Mortgage Holders And Not Just Banks

8ackgr0und N015e wrote a funny piece on one angle of this story that hasn’t received as much attention.

Two of Josh Marshall’s readers ask really good questions.

This post by Matt Stoller includes an excellent statement from Senator Hillary Clinton.

As far as I know, no members of Congress from Iowa have issued public statements about the bailout, but I will post them as they become available.

Events coming up this week

As always, post a comment or send me an e-mail if I’ve left out anything important.

Note: the first presidential debate is coming up next Friday, September 26. Democracy for America is organizing debate watch parties across the country.

Monday, September 15:

It’s the last day to get the early-bird discount when registering for the Iowa Environmental Council’s annual conference on October 17. For more details on that event, click here or call 515-244-1194, ext 202.

Tuesday, September 16:

It’s the deadline to register for the Interfaith Allliance of Iowa’s Crossroads luncheon on Friday (see below). For more information or to make a reservation, call (515) 279-8715 or email tiaiowa@dwx.com.

Wednesday, September 17:

The Iowa Citizen Action Network is organizing a public forum to discuss what is needed for economic recovery at The Talk Shop Café, 1015 E. 4th Street in Waterloo at 6:30 pm. We are inviting our Congressional representatives and State and Local Officials to hear from US what we need during this week of Economic Recovery talks.

From the Sierra Club:

Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining:  How Iowans Can Help Bring an End to Destructive Mining!

Learn about Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining, and What Iowans Can Do to Stop This Practice and Move our Nation Towards a Clean Energy Future!

WHO:  Concerned citizens, the Sierra Club National Coal Campaign

WHAT:  Come join your friends and neighbors for an educational presentation about how our reliance on coal-fired electricity is destroying the mountains and communities of Appalachia, and what you can do to stop it!  Hear accounts from Appalachian coalfield residents, watch a portion of a soon to-be-released documentary highlighting the effects of coal on communities and the environment, and join us for refreshments as we discuss the ways that Iowans can put a stop to Mountaintop Removal Mining!

WHEN:  September 17th, 2008 from 7:30 to 9 pm

WHERE:  Grace United Methodist Church, 37th and Cottage Grove, Des Moines

RSVP:  If you plan on attending this event, please contact Lauren Trevisan at lauren.trevisan@sierraclub.org

If you would like any additional information about this event, and if you are planning on attending, please contact Lauren Trevisan at lauren.trevisan@sierraclub.org or 202-675-6278.  Thank you!  I look forward to meeting all of you on Wednesday!

From the Des Moines area chapter of the Holistic Moms Network:

Next Wednesday is our next Holisitic Moms Network meeting.

The meeting will start at 6pm and is located at the FOREST AVE. LIBRARY [in Des Moines] (franklin ave had another meeting the same day)

This months meeting is: Decreasing Your Carbon Footprint at Home- I am very excited to announce that we are going to have Jennifer Oredson a lobbyist from Greenpeace come and lead our discussion!  I met her a few weeks ago at a demonstration Greenpeace had at the Drake farmers market.

I hope to see you all there!  Please feel free to bring a snack to share.

Peace- Rebecca


From the DNR:


DES MOINES – Iowans interested in learning about the water quality improvement plan scheduled to be completed for the lower Des Moines River can attend a meeting to be held in three locations the week of Sept. 15.

A segment of the Des Moines River, known as the lower Des Moines River, is on the state’s impaired waters list because of excess E. coli bacteria in the water. This type of bacteria may indicate the presence of disease-causing human pathogens.  

The lower Des Moines segment runs from downtown Des Moines where the Raccoon River enters to the uppermost part of Red Rock Reservoir.  This segment collects water from many important Iowa rivers and streams including Raccoon River, Saylorville Lake, Beaver Creek, Four Mile Creek, North River, Middle River and South River.

The study, or DNR water quality improvement plan, will look at the problems and potential solutions for the river. The document can be used as a guide to improve recreation, wildlife and fishing on the river for local resource agencies, partners, stakeholders and residents interested in making a difference.

“We would like to work with people interested in learning more about water quality and how they can affect positive change in their watershed,” said Jeff Berckes with the DNR’s Watershed Improvement program. “These meetings are the first chance for the public to express their ideas on what can be done to improve the lower Des Moines River.”

Indianola:  Sept. 17, 7-9 p.m., Carver Hall Room 215 at Simpson College, West Clinton Ave.

Staff from the DNR’s Watershed Improvement Program will be on hand to answer questions.

Those not able to attend the public meeting can receive more information at www.iowadnr.gov/water/watershed/tmdl/publicnotice.html Or, they can contact Jeff Berckes, water quality improvement program coordinator,  by emailing jeff.berckes@dnr.iowa.gov, calling (515) 281-4791 or mailing him care of the DNR, Wallace State Office Building, 502 E. Ninth St., Des Moines, IA 50319

After gathering Iowans’ comments, the DNR will complete a draft plan.  When the document is completed, it will be presented to the public for comments and then submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for approval. Local groups interested in improving water quality in the lower Des Moines River can then use the plan to assist their improvement efforts.

Parents, caregivers and children of all ages are welcome to attend Holistic Moms meetings.

Thursday, September 18:

The Polk County Democrats 9th Annual Women’s Event will take place from 5:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M.

at the home of Dr. Andy McGuire, 100 37th St. in Des Moines (South of Grand Ave on 37th). With Guest of Honor Governor Ruth Ann Minner of Delaware. Please call to RSVP at 515-285-1800 or email polkdems@polkcountydemocrats.org

The Iowa Citizen Action Network is organizing another “listening post” event on health care:

Have you been struggling with your health insurance coverage?  Do you find yourself paying more for less coverage every year?  Have you been denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions?  Have you been dropped from your coverage and aren’t sure how to fight back?  Do you have a family member or neighbor who is struggling?

Here’s your chance to let your elected representatives know what you’re going through, and what you think they should do about it. September 18, from 6:30 to 7:30 pm at the Bob Mickle Community Center at 1620 Pleasant St in Des Moines.

Friday, September 19:

From the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa:

Crossroads is a program of The Interfaith Alliance of Iowa and is an opportunity to learn, to participate in civil dialogue, and to discuss issues at the intersection of religion & politics.

Friday, September 19

Brad Clark, Campaign Director, One Iowa

Fairness for All Families: Why Marriage Equality Matters

Today in Iowa , thousands of committed gay and lesbian couples are doing the hard work of building strong families yet lack the basic legal protections they need to take care of each other and their families.  These Iowa families need and deserve the security, dignity, and legal safety net of protections and responsibilities that marriage provides.  Join us to hear more about marriage equality in Iowa !

The Crossroads luncheon is Friday, September 19 from 11:45 am – 1 pm at Plymouth Congregational Church, 42nd & Ingersoll Avenue, Des Moines.

Reservations are required to attend Crossroads and must be received by noon on Tuesday, September 16.  Cost is $8 and is payable at the door.

For more information or to make a reservation, call (515) 279-8715 or email tiaiowa@dwx.com.

Saturday, September 20:

The Iowa Citizen Action Network is participating in a nationwide canvassing effort to knock on a million doors for peace. MoveOn.org is also involved with this effort. If you’ve got two hours to spare on Saturday, you can sign up to get a list of 40 new or infrequent voters in your neighborhood. You can do this individually wherever you live, or sign up to join groups that will be meeting in Des Moines, Ames and Waterloo. More details are after the jump.  Contact ICAN Organizer Sue Dinsdale at sdinsdale@iowacan.org or 515-277-5077 ext. 14 or go to milliondoorsforpeace.org

From the Sierra Club:

Why our Modern Food System is Not Sustainable

September 20, Ames area

Join us on Saturday, September 20, as we celebrate together the efforts and achievements of fellow Iowa Sierrans and conservation activists at the Story County Conservation Center in McFarland Park north of Ames. Frederick L. Kirschenmann, a Distinguished Fellow, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture will be the featured speaker. His presentation, “Why our Modern Food System is not Sustainable,” will offer Fred’s unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities we face in balancing an agricultural economy with the protection of our natural heritage. The banquet begins with a social time and silent auction at 11:00 a.m. followed at noon by lunch, Dr. Kirschenmann and an awards ceremony. There are also opportunities to hike the many trails in the park. The event will be catered by renowned Lucallan’s Restaurant, featuring local foods. The cost is $35 per person.

Please RSVP to Neila Seaman, 3839 Merle Hay Road, Suite 280, Des Moines, Iowa, 50310 or Iowa.chapter@sierraclub.org or 515-277-8868.

The Latino Heritage Festival runs Saturday and Sunday in Blank Park on SW 9th by the Zoo in Des Moines. The Polk County Democrats need volunteers to help with the booth, especially anyone who speaks Spanish.  Ideally, we would like to have at least one Spanish speaking person on every shift. The hours are 11am to 7pm Saturday, September 20th and 11am to 7pm Sunday, September 21st.  Any time you are available to help during those hours would be appreciated.  To volunteer, please call Tamyra at 515-285-1800.

Johnson County Heritage Trust Autumn Celebration

The 2nd annual “Under a Cider Moon . . . a Celebration of Autumn with the Johnson County Heritage Trust” fundraising event will be held Saturday, September 20, at 6 p.m at Dick Schwab’s round barn located at 2501 Sugar Bottom Road near Solon, Iowa.  There will be a live and silent auction, live music and local food and beverages. Proceeds will assist JCHT identify, preserve and manage land with significant environmental value in Johnson County.  For additional information visit www.jcht.org or call 1-319-857-4741.  RSVP today by mailing your check or donation to Johnson County Heritage Trust, P. O. Box 2523, Iowa City, Iowa 522440-2523 or by calling credit card information to 1-319-857-4741.

Climate Bicycle Ride

Begins September 20, New York to DC

We need Iowans to join us for a bike ride, to promote renewable energy, and getting the word out to people passionate about this issue. It is a fun event – a five day bike tour from New York City to Washington D.C. in September. Along the route, expert speakers will address the riders on the challenges of and solutions to global warming, and the ride will end with a rally and a lobbying session in the nation’s capital. The website is http://www.climateride.org/abo… We currently don’t have any Iowa riders. Our message would be stronger if we had representation from your state. For questions, call David Kroodsma, 413.658.4086.  

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Events coming up this week

There is so much happening this week that I hereby forbid you from complaining that there’s nothing to do in Iowa.

If you can make it to the I-RENEW Energy and Sustainability Expo in Cedar Falls this weekend, I encourage you to go. I have attended the I-Renew expo several times in the past and never been disappointed. There are also great books and progressive advocacy materials (shirts, posters, bumper stickers) available in the exhibitor tent.

I won’t be at the Harkin Steak Fry featuring Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, so I hope someone out there will post a diary with a first-person account of the event.

Please post a comment or send me an e-mail if I’ve left out anything important.

Tuesday, September 9:

School board elections are being held across the state. Get out and vote, even if you don’t have kids in school. We don’t want the religious right taking control of these boards.

From the Iowa Citizen Action Network:

Iowa Citizen Action Network (ICAN) is proud to take a lead role in the “Health Care for America Now” campaign and we hope you will join us and all the coalition partners in Iowa to make our voices heard!

Health Care for America Now is all about raising this very important question in the minds of the public and in decision makers: Do we want a health care system where everyone has responsibility to ensure access for all Americans – individuals, employers, our communities, and our government?  Or do we want to continue with a system that says – “You’re all on your own to deal with insurance companies.”

We’ve been doing just that this summer, and we’re excited to bring this campaign to cities all around Iowa.  




Have you been struggling with your health insurance coverage?  Do you find yourself paying more for less coverage every year?  Have you been denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions?  Have you been dropped from your coverage and aren’t sure how to fight back?  Do you have a family member or neighbor who is struggling?

Here’s your chance to let your elected representatives know what you’re going through, and what you think they should do about it.

September 9,

6:30-7:30 PM


515 Douglas Avenue

Ames, IA 50010

One Iowa Campaign Training RSVP

Today – Tuesday, September 9 – 6:30 PM-8:30 PM

AFSCME Council 61, 4230 NW 2nd Avenue, Des Moines

We’re weeks away from what may prove to be the most critical election of our time. Success this November depends on individuals like you making a commitment to get involved. Join us to learn more about what’s at stake and how you fit into the big picture!

One Iowa Coffee House

Today – Tuesday, September 9 – 5:00-6:45pm

Ritual Cafe, 1301 Locust Street, Des Moines

Sandy Vopalka will talk about PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) the importance of this organization and the work being done across the state. PFLAG is a national non-profit organization with over 200,000 members and supporters and over 500 affiliates in the United States. Sandy’s presentation will start at 5:30pm.

Wednesday, September 10:

Democracy for America is holding another session of its famous “Night School,” with a focus on recruiting volunteers. The session begins at 7:30 pm, and you can register by clicking here:


The Iowa Citizen Action Network has scheduled an event to give Iowans a chance to talk about what real economic recovery looks like. September 10, 6:30 pm at the Local 6 UFCW, 15 N 12th Street in Fort Dodge. “We are inviting our Congressional representatives and State and Local Officials to hear from US what we need during this week of Economic Recovery talks.”

Iowa’s Office of Energy Independence invites you to attend the public forum on energy issues in Mount Vernon at Cornell College on Wednesday, September 10, at 6:30 p.m., following a Power Fund Board meeting. The forum will take place in the Hedges Conference Room, 600 First Street SW in Mount Vernon.

Thursday, September 11:

The Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa Book Sale opens at 4 pm at the 4-H building of the State Fairgrounds. The sale runs through Monday, September 15. More details here:


The Organization for Competitive Markets will hold an event the Clay County Fair in Spencer, Iowa to learn how to “Take Back” a fair and open seed marketplace. We’ll gather at the 4H building on the fairgrounds from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. to hear speakers talk about the problem of concentration in the seed industry and what we can do about it. Enjoy engaging discussions with farmers and local politicians, as well as a complimentary dinner from Oak Tree Bar-B-Que. The event is co-chaired by State Representatives Marcie Frevert and Mark Kuhn, and speakers include Iowa State University’s Fred Kirschenmann and past president of the National Family Farm Coalition, George Naylor. Tell your friends! For more information, click here:


One Iowa is organizing a PFLAG Des Moines Re-Launch at 7:00 PM, First Unitarian Church, 1800 Bell Avenue in Des Moines. The Des Moines Metro Area PFLAG will meet to discuss relaunching the chapter. Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays provides opportunity for dialogue about sexual orientation and gender identity, and acts to create a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity. Coffee and refreshments served before the meeting, beginning at 6:30 PM. All are welcome, but confidentiality is required.

Friday, September 12:

From the Iowa City-based Local Foods Connection (http://www.localfoodsconnection.org):

Fundraising event for ZJ Farm



French Dinner at Simone’s Plain & Simple

ZJ Farms Education Programs Fundraiser

Friday, Sept 12, 6:30 p.m.

Susan Jutz of ZJ Farm helped create the idea of Local Foods Connection along with Simone Delaty and Laura Dowd. Local Foods Connection buys vegetables CSA shares from Susan and bread & egg CSA shares from Simone for our clients.

Come enjoy an authentic French dinner in lovely country setting and support the Education Programs at ZJ Farms.  The ZJ Farms Education Programs offer hands-on experience and events that teach young people of all ages that value of land stewardship, nontraditional leadership and nutrition.  Education explorations include milking and petting the farm animals, hunts for vegetable in gardens, work projects to participate in farming experience, lessons on growing food from planting to harvest, leadership and community building training.

Tickets on sale now!

$45 for Slow Food Members/ $50 for non-Slow Food.

Call 621-2484 to reserve a seat.

Saturday, September 13:

From the Polk County Democrats:



On September 13, 2008 at 12:00 PM TO 3:00 PM , there will a community celebration picnic at MLK Park, E. 17th and Garfield (1 block north of University), Des Moines , Iowa.

This will be a time for diverse groups of Asian/Pacific Islanders, African Americans, Persons with Disabilities, GaysLesbians, Latinos, Native Americans, Armed Forces Veterans and Young Democrats  to come together with the whole community, celebrating the diversity in our neighborhoods.  Over good food, communication and networking will be done.

The picnic is hosted by the Polk County Democratic Affirmative Action / Diversity Committee.

For more information, call 515-285-1800.


17th Annual I-Renew Energy & Sustainability EXPO

September 13 & 14, 2008

9 to 5 Saturday

10:30 to 4:30 Sunday

At the UNI Center for Energy & Environmental Education, Cedar Falls, IA

Admission: $10 per day, I-Renew members pay no admission. Memberships available at the door.

Featuring renewable energy, energy efficiency, green building, renewable fuels and sustainable living workshops, exhibits and demonstrations

Cedar Falls, IA – The Iowa Power Fund Board approved a grant to support this year’s I-Renew Energy & Sustainability Expo. The grant will go towards promoting the event statewide as well as to produce DVDs of 12 of the 70 workshops offered at the event. “The Iowa Renewable Energy Association has proven its annual Expo is the place to be to learn about renewable energy and energy efficiency”, said Michelle Kenyon Brown, I-Renew Executive Director. “The support from the Iowa Power Fund and the Office of Energy Independence will enable us to bring in a larger audience, an audience that is growing everyday as energy costs are hitting everyone’s pocketbook.”

The 17th I-Renew Energy & Sustainability EXPO will be held Sept. 13-14, 2008, at the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Energy & Environmental Education (CEEE) in Cedar Falls, Iowa.  The EXPO feature 70 workshops, 80 exhibitors, and demonstrations providing information on renewable energy, energy efficiency, green building, renewable fuels, and sustainable living.

“The I-Renew Expo is the largest event of this type in Iowa,” says Kara Beauchamp, I-Renew Board President. “This years’ expo will be the biggest and the best we have ever had. Increasing energy prices have generated more interest in energy efficiency and renewable energy. The I-Renew Expo is the perfect place for people to get their questions answered while having a great time.”

The EXPO gives the general public, building contractors, installers and others the opportunity to talk directly with Iowa’s energy experts to learn new ways to build greener and live greener using renewable energy.

Demonstrations of solar power, wind power, a hydrogen fuel cell, electric cars, cars that run on alternative fuels, and much more will be at the site in and around the CEEE building. The EXPO runs 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13; and 10:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 14. Admission is $10 per day; however, I-Renew members pay no admission. Memberships are available at the door.

For more information or to register, visit www.irenew.org and click on I-Renew EXPO.

The I-Renew Energy & Sustainability Expo is provided with support from our partners: Iowa Office of Energy Independence, Iowa Energy Center, Alliant Energy’s Second Nature Program, Cedar Falls Utilities, Waverly Light & Power, Frontier Natural Products Coop, Center for Energy & Environmental Education and many more.

Contact: Michelle Kenyon Brown, Director Iowa Renewable Energy Association

(319) 325-2701          michellekbrown@irenew.org

Citizens are organizing a rally against a huge proposed hog lot in Poweshiek County:

Does Poweshiek County want more Factory Hog Farms ? NO!!

Prestage Farms of North Carolina, the nations 5th largest factory hog corporation, has plans to put nearly 5,000 hogs in two buildings near Deep River.

If built, this facility will negatively impact our community by creating odor and air quality problems, harming our areas already poor water quality, creating health risks for neighbors, and reducing property values in our county.

Prestage Farms will take the profits out of our state and leave us with the manure.

Please take the time to join with other concerned citizens from our area at a rally on Saturday, September 13th at 9:45 AM on Highway 21, 5 miles South of Interstate 80, between 470th and 480th Streets.

We want as many people to come out as possible to let the owners of the property know that they need to put the health and well-being of their neighbors before greed, and that residents of this county are against selling our future to out-of-state corporations.

Please call 641-990-2470 for more information.

From 1000 Friends of Iowa:

Dear Friends,

In case you didn’t get a chance to attend the public input meetings on the proposed Northwest 26th Street project/MLK extension and Northeast Polk County Beltway studies, you still have a chance to make your voices heard.

If you did attend the meetings, but didn’t submit written comments, your views still need to be documented for public record. The public meetings and collection of written comments are building the case for approval or disapproval of this project. All are part of the Environmental Impact Statement, a federally required evaluation for projects that have extensive environmental impacts.

The deadline for comments on the proposed alternatives for both projects is on Saturday, September 13. After that date, comments will be compiled and sent to Polk County, the Federal Highway Administration, and other decision-makers. Your comments are like a vote which needs to be counted on the stack of documented opinions that is carried forward in the near future.

To be effective in opposition to projects like these, citizens need to be there each major step of the way. This is one of those steps, and your presence is critical to keeping this current of opposition strong.

Gas prices are soaring along with the costs of road building. Public funds for roads are limited, meaning that not every road project gets funded. If constructed, these two costly projects would take money from much-needed transportation improvements.

You can find more information on these projects, maps, and how to send comments at



Stephanie Weisenbach

1000 Friends of Iowa

From Whiterock Conservancy:

Central Iowa Trail Association invites public to celebrate decade of trail stewardship

Sept. 13 ‘Ales and Trails’ event honors dirt trails at Whiterock Conservancy

Des Moines — Central Iowa Trail Association is celebrating its 10th anniversary as a non-profit trail stewardship and advocacy organization by hosting ‘Ales and Trails’ — a public event at the Whiterock Conservancy near Coon Rapids, Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 13.

‘Ales and Trails’ begins at 9 a.m. at Whiterock’s River House with activities including guided trail rides, a hike with Whiterock’s ecologist Elizabeth Hill, canoeing on the Middle Raccoon River and much more. The evening features a party in the storied Heeter Barn with music by Brother Trucker and a beer contest judged by event participants.

“This had been a very rough year for trail-loving Iowans,” said CITA president Ryan Hanser. “CITA has worked hard to repair damage to trails from this summer’s rains. It’s a perfect time to recognize and celebrate our decade of volunteer work that has brought so much enjoyment for cyclists, hikers, birdwatchers and others who appreciate natural trail experiences.”

Registration is required. There is a $20 fee to cover cost of meals and entertainment. Lodging is not included, but options ranging from B&B pampering to primitive campsites can be reserved through the Whiterock Resort. Visit http://www.centraliowatrails.org for details including a schedule of events and online registration.

As an affiliate of the International Mountain Bicycling Association, Central Iowa Trail Association (CITA) works with public and private land owners to design, build and maintain sustainable dirt trail for shared recreational use. The all-volunteer organization was incorporated as an Iowa non-profit organization in 1998 and does more than 500 hours of trailwork on public land in central Iowa each year.

“CITA was proud to bring the International Mountain Bicycling Association’s trailbuilding school to Whiterock in 2006,” said Hanser, who is also Iowa’s state representative for the International Mountain Bicycling Association. “Returning to celebrate their progress as an organization is important, too. Whiterock’s commitment to sustainable, natural recreation makes it a perfect venue to celebrate our shared values.”

Whiterock Conservancy is a new land trust created to manage a 5,000 acre conservation land donation from the Garst Family of Coon Rapids. Its nonprofit mission is to research and promote sustainable land management practices; provide low impact public recreation and environmental education; and protect and restore the area’s natural resources, including a 30-mile network of dirt trails. In October 2005, the Coon Rapids-Whiterock area was designated by Governor Vilsack as one of the first three “Iowa Great Places.” The Iowa Legislature recently appropriated $1 million to the Department of Cultural Affairs for supporting Coon Rapids Great Place projects.

Directions to Whiterock: Coon Rapids is located 75 miles NW of Des Moines and 100 miles east of Omaha on Highway 141. The Conservancy land is east of Coon Rapids and south of Highway 141. Visit http://www.whiterockconservanc…  for more information about Whiterock Conservancy.


Ryan Hanser, President

Central Iowa Trail Association


Jeana Feazel, Resort Manager

Whiterock Conservancy

712-684-2697 x112

Sunday, September 14:

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer will headline the 31st Annual Harkin Steak Fry, to be held at the Indianola balloon field. For more details, click here:


Monday, September 15:

Conference Coordinator – Contract Job: Deadline for Application September 15

Iowa Network for Community Agriculture (INCA) is seeking a coordinator for its annual Local Foods Conference to be held in Mason City on February 6 – 7, 2009.  If you are interested, or know of someone who is, then please review the request for proposal on INCA’s website (http://www.growinca.org) and respond by early next week.

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Push utilities to do more on energy efficiency

Yesterday I linked to this article by Joseph Romm in Salon about how efficiency measures could solve many of our energy problems. His piece starts with the following analogy:

Suppose I paid you for every pound of pollution you generated and punished you for every pound you reduced. You would probably spend most of your time trying to figure out how to generate more pollution. And suppose that if you generated enough pollution, I had to pay you to build a new plant, no matter what the cost, and no matter how much cheaper it might be to not pollute in the first place.

Well, that’s pretty much how we have run the U.S. electric grid for nearly a century. The more electricity a utility sells, the more money it makes. If it’s able to boost electricity demand enough, the utility is allowed to build a new power plant with a guaranteed profit. The only way a typical utility can lose money is if demand drops. So the last thing most utilities want to do is seriously push strategies that save energy, strategies that do not pollute in the first place.

Yet money invested in energy efficiency can generate huge savings in energy costs. According to a report filed with the Iowa Utilities Board by the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives,

In 2007, Iowa’s electric cooperatives, which provide electricity in each of the state’s 99 counties to approximately 650,000 Iowans, invested $11 million in energy-efficiency programs. Participation in the programs by electric cooperative member-consumer-owners in 2007 resulted in approximately $30.3 million in energy savings.

There also was an environmental benefit to the investment in energy-efficiency programs. By reducing demand for electricity, consumers reduced the amount of electricity that utilities would otherwise have generated, which would have placed emissions into the air. The energy savings over the life of the energy-efficiency measures installed in 2007 is equal to enough electricity to provide power for approximately 34,000 homes or a city the size of 85,000 people, which is equivalent to Iowa City and Coralville, combined.

The Salon article describes various state regulations that have helped reduce energy consumption in California.

While I would welcome action on that front by the Iowa legislature, it’s important to note that state regulators can push utilities to do more even without any new laws being passed.

This week three environmental groups (Iowa Environmental Council, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Law and Policy Center) submitted expert testimony to the Iowa Utilities Board regarding problems with MidAmerican Energy’s efficiency plan for the years 2009-2013. This press release from the Iowa Environmental Council provides more details:

Editors Contact: Lynn Laws

Iowa Environmental Council

515-244-1194, ext 210


July 29, 2008


MidAm Energy Efficiency Plan Falls Short

Clean energy advocates call MidAmerican Energy’s new energy efficiency plan a good start, but note missed opportunities.

“At a time when energy prices are sky rocketing and global warming regulation is looming on the horizon, MidAmerican must take all the cost-effective energy efficiency steps available,” said Nathaniel Baer, energy program director for the Iowa Environmental Council.

“The programs they propose simply don’t take advantage of the opportunities that are out there to save money and protect the environment,” Baer added.

Environmental advocates submitted testimony Monday responding to MidAmerican’s Energy Efficiency Plan for 2009-2013.  Under Iowa law, public gas and electric utilities, including MidAmerican Energy and Alliant Energy, must create comprehensive plans for energy efficiency for all types of customers.  Programs often include rebates or incentives for energy efficient equipment like advanced lighting, heating and air conditioning systems, insulation, energy efficient buildings, and other types of equipment and technology, as well as customer education. The Iowa Utilities Board must approve these plans, with input from stakeholders provided in a formal proceeding before the Board.

The Iowa Environmental Council, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Law and Policy Center submitted testimony by expert witness, Geoff Crandall of MSB Energy Associates, yesterday detailing significant shortcomings in the 2009-2013 MidAmerican Energy plan:

–          The plan understates the potential for energy efficiency improvements, especially in the industrial sector, which consumes 50% of the electricity in MidAmerican’s service territory;

–          The plan fails to include assistance to help consumers generate their own energy using renewable energy systems such as small solar panels (photovoltaic or “PV”), small wind turbines, and solar hot water heaters.

–          The plan does not incorporate enough next-generation lighting technology such as L.E.D. bulbs.

–          The plan fails to provide adequate funding for public education particularly as, it relates to the high energy needs of plasma TVs and home entertainment systems, and about unplugging appliances that use power even when they have been turned off (known as “phantom load.”).

“We can’t do this half way.  The end result of failure is billions of dollars spent on new power plants and thousands of tons of pollution,” said Wally Taylor, an attorney with the Sierra Club.  

“The Utilities Board has to step up and force MidAmerican to do the best job it can here,” he added.

Iowa Utilities Board’s decision is due by the end of 2008. — end —

After the jump you can find contact information for people who can provide copies of this expert testimony.

UPDATE: The Iowa Utilities Board released a statement today urging Iowans to “take steps now to reduce the impacts of increased energy prices this winter heating season”:

Many utilities offer cash rebates for the purchase of energy efficient appliances.  Some Iowa utilities, including MidAmerican Energy Company and Interstate Power and Light Company (Alliant Energy), have increased rebate amounts on energy efficient appliance purchases made by flood-affected customers this year, so inquire with your local utility.

Examples of wise energy-efficiency investments, regardless of utility or even manufacturer rebates, include programmable thermostats, high efficiency heating and/or cooling systems, hot water heaters, replacement windows, additional or replacement insulation, washers or dryers, refrigerators, and stoves.  To assure energy efficiency when purchasing new appliances, look for the ENERGY STAR label.  More information about the ENERGY STAR program for improving energy efficiency is available at www.homeenergysaver.lbl.gov.

A simple, short-term step for conserving energy is to adjust your thermostat for sleeping or periods when your home will be unoccupied.  If constantly changing your thermostat is difficult, consider a programmable thermostat.  Another inexpensive step to help mitigate heating costs is to weatherize around leaky windows and doors and on exterior walls in areas that are usually cold or drafty.  Please contact your local utility for additional energy efficiency information in preparation for this winter.

The full text of this press release is after the jump.

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Iowa Department of Revenue extends deadline for businesses in flood-affected areas

Iowa businesses in areas affected by recent flooding will have an extra month this summer to remit withholding, unemployment and sales tax for activity from April 1 to June 30. The floods cut off cash flow for many businesses, and the extension is intended to give them time to secure Small Business Administration or other loans before they have to make tax payments.

More details are in the press release from State Representative Tyler Olson, which is after the jump. Olson is a first-term incumbent in House district 38, which includes parts of Cedar Rapids. He requested the extension after being contacted by a business owner.  

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Values Fund not looking like good value for money

One thing I’ve never understood is why a smart guy like Tom Vilsack put the full weight of his administration’s political capital behind the Iowa Values Fund.

As Jason Hancock discusses in this story at Iowa Independent, the impact of that fund on jobs created and retained in Iowa has been questionable:

Colin Gordon, senior research consultant with the Iowa Policy Project, said the fear many critics of the Values Fund have is that once contracts expire and companies have received their last payment, the jobs that were created will disappear.


Companies make location decisions based on infrastructure needs, available workforce, skill level of the workforce and amenities, to name just a few reasons, Gordon said.

“It does not follow – just because a firm pockets money from the Values Fund – that the Fund can claim credit for all the jobs and investment that come afterward,” Gordon said. “We have no way of knowing whether Values Funds money actually attracts these firms. Certainly the academic research on this question is unequivocal that firms make location decisions based on local suppliers, customers and workers. No one turns down subsidies or tax breaks being thrown at them, but these are rarely the keys to investment and location decisions.”

Competition is fierce among states, IDED’s Bjornson said, and if Iowa doesn’t pony up, other Midwestern states will.

Swenson called this a “race to the bottom,” with Midwestern states trying to beat their neighbors but only making matters worse.

“Infrastructure, amenities, education, it all suffers, and thus, the Midwest becomes a less desirable place to do business,” he said. “The Midwest, including Iowa, is doing more damage to itself than anything else.”

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been doled out by the Values Fund, Swenson said, but Iowa has still grown at only one-third the rate the rest of the nation has. In 1982 Iowans made 92 percent of the national average for earnings per job. Today that figure stands at 78 percent.


Gordon said IDED can point to a few scattered success stories, but in the end the true impact of the Values Fund is murky at best.

“It diverts money from improving the things that truly matter to companies, and that hurts Iowa in the long haul,” he said. “These incentives are a short-term, politically easy fix to a much bigger problem. If you ask a business, and they answer honestly, they will say these incentives make very little difference to their final decision of where to locate.”

Count me among those who think the Values Fund is glorified corporate welfare. In some cases corporations didn’t even need to promise to create new jobs to receive money–they just had to promise not to decrease their current number of employees. But in an economic downturn, I don’t think those promises will make much difference.

Look at Lennox International. The slowdown in home construction has to be brutal for that manufacturer of heaters and air conditioners. Not surprisingly, the company will lay off 150 people in Marshalltown this August and 100 more people there next year. The Values Fund promised Lennox $6.6 million in forgivable loans in 2006, but it looks like Iowa taxpayers aren’t going to receive good value for that money.

We needed more leadership from Governor Vilsack on other economic policy issues, but he seemed to focus way too much on the Values Fund.

If anyone has any educated guesses or inside knowledge about why Vilsack believed so strongly in the Values Fund, please post a comment or send me an e-mail about it. It’s a real puzzle to me. A policy wonk like Vilsack should have been aware of research indicating that these state and local incentives are not major factors driving employment figures.

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Obama not ready to "turn the page" on Clintonomics

Though you wouldn’t know it from reading various blogs that support Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee was barely distinguishable from Hillary Clinton on most issues.

TomP reminded me of this in his diary yesterday about Obama choosing “centrist economist Jason Furman as the top economic advisor for the campaign.”

Click the link to learn why labor unions and many progressive organizations, such as Wake Up Wal-Mart and Public Citizen, are “seething” over Obama’s selection of Furman. Among other things, Furman has defended Wal-Mart’s business model and published a 2005 paper labeling Wal-Mart “A Progressive Success Story.”

The Steelworkers’ Union and AFL-CIO are not happy either about Furman’s support for global trade agreements and other writings as head of the Hamilton Project (a centrist economic group started by Bill Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin).

Some Obama supporters say choosing Hillary Clinton as his running mate would undercut his whole message of getting beyond the 1990s.

Until Obama demonstrates that he is committed to getting beyond Clintonomics, that argument won’t be very convincing.

Obama talked a good game in his speech last week to the Service Employees International Union, but actions speak louder than words. Wall Street and other corporate interests have too much power in the Democratic Party already. Putting Furman in charge of Obama’s economic policy team is a very worrying sign.

By the way, Colin Kahl is still the chairman of Obama’s advisory task force on Iraq:

Kahl is one of the authors of [the Center for a New American Security’s] new report, “Shaping the Iraq Inheritance,” which proposes a policy called “conditional engagement” for Iraq that would leave a large contingent of American forces in Iraq for several years, and which would make America’s presence in Iraq contingent on political progress in Iraq toward reconciliation among the country’s ethnic and sectarian groups and parties.

It’s been two months since reports emerged about Kahl’s support for leaving 60,000 to 80,000 U.S. troops in Iraq at least through the end of 2010. Why won’t Obama fire this guy?

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Grassley wants to review Bear Stearns bailout

I am no fan of Chuck Grassley, but I agree with these comments by the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee:

Grassley said today that he has told his staff members to look into the details of a sweeping arrangement in which the Federal Reserve will help guarantee the obligations of Bear Stearns with a $30 billion credit line.

Bear Stearns will be bought by J.P. Morgan Chase at a price considered by some analysts to be far less than its market value. The company has 14,000 employees.

“I want to understand what the downside risk for the taxpayer is and any upside potential,” Grassley said in a statement issued through his Senate office.

He said he also wants to know more about how insiders such as senior executives fare when such deals are made.

“Corporate bigwigs shouldn’t be able to profit from a deal while employees, shareholders and creditors have to carry the burden of a company’s demise,” Grassley said.

Here’s hoping the Democrats who control that Senate committee will make sure a thorough review is conducted.

I am not a regular on any of the economist blogs, but check out bonddad’s diary history for background on the Bear Stearns debacle.

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Grassley got some good things in a bad bill

As I’ve written, the so-called “economic stimulus” bill is a charade that won’t really help the economy.

However, I give full credit to Chuck Grassley for working hard to get good provisions on renewable energy incentives and green jobs into the version that passed the Senate Finance Committee today. A Sierra Club press release notes:

The $5.5 billion package includes short-term extensions of key renewable energy tax incentives due to expire at the end of 2008–including the Production Tax Credit (PTC), Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar, clean energy bonds, and other measures designed to promote energy efficiency.

I’m putting the full text of the Sierra Club’s statement after the jump. It includes examples of how “green jobs” have improved local economies.

Grassley has disappointed environmentalists many times, but today he came through and significantly improved the bill that’s going to the Senate floor.

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Four days after voting for trade pact, Hillary wants "time out" from them

I've got to agree with David Sirota here: Hillary Clinton Thinks Iowans Are Stupid.

Four days after voting for a trade agreement with Peru, Hillary tells a United Auto Workers conference that “she'll call a 'time out' on trade agreements if she wins the White House to see if the deals are draining jobs from the U.S.”

She also campaigned today in Waterloo, a city that has lost a lot of good manufacturing jobs.

Will people fall for this? 

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