Steve King has empathy after all (updated)

Representative Steve King doesn’t come across as the most compassionate guy in the world, bragging about opposing aid for Hurricane Katrina victims and questioning the need to stop deporting undocumented Haitian immigrants after last month’s earthquake.

But if you thought King was incapable of feeling empathy, you’re wrong. Over the weekend he spoke to a panel on immigration at the Conservative Political Action Conference:

During his closing remarks, King veered into a complaint about high taxes, and said he could “empathize” with the man who flew a plane into an IRS building last week.

During the question and answer session, the Media Matters staffer asked King to clarify his comment, reminding him of his sworn duty to protect the American people from all sworn enemies, foreign and domestic. In response, said the staffer, King gave a long and convoluted answer about having been personally audited by the IRS, and ended by saying he intended to hold a fundraiser to help people “implode” their local IRS office.

That’s right, King feels empathy for a guy who crashed his plane into a federal building, intending to harm the IRS employees inside. In the process, the man killed a loving family man and longtime federal worker who served two terms in Vietnam.

Following King’s remarks at the CPAC panel, a man with a video camera gave the congressman a chance to clarify his remarks. King dug deeper. (continues after the jump)

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

It took me a week longer than I anticipated, but I finally finished compiling links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage from last year. This post and part 2, coming later today, include stories on national politics, mostly relating to Congress and Barack Obama’s administration. Diaries reviewing Iowa politics in 2009 will come soon.

One thing struck me while compiling this post: on all of the House bills I covered here during 2009, Democrats Leonard Boswell, Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack voted the same way. That was a big change from 2007 and 2008, when Blue Dog Boswell voted with Republicans and against the majority of the Democratic caucus on many key bills.

No federal policy issue inspired more posts last year than health care reform. Rereading my earlier, guardedly hopeful pieces was depressing in light of the mess the health care reform bill has become. I was never optimistic about getting a strong public health insurance option through Congress, but I thought we had a chance to pass a very good bill. If I had anticipated the magnitude of the Democratic sellout on so many aspects of reform in addition to the public option, I wouldn’t have spent so many hours writing about this issue. I can’t say I wasn’t warned (and warned), though.

Links to stories from January through June 2009 are after the jump. Any thoughts about last year’s political events are welcome in this thread.

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Terry Branstad's accountability problem

For a guy who claims to be proud of his record, former governor Terry Branstad sure has a funny way of showing it.

On one issue after another, Branstad takes credit for things he didn’t do and evades responsibility for things he did. So, the governor who kept two sets of books boasts about enacting budget reforms that that other people pushed in response to his fiscal mismanagement.

The governor who used state bonding more than once says that politicians who create debt should be voted out of office.

Pressed on his record of expanding gambling in Iowa, Branstad has suggested he had little choice in the matter: “What was I supposed to do? Over 70% of the people wanted it even though I was personally opposed to it.”

Now Branstad is playing the same game on the Road Use Tax Fund and the idea of eliminating federal deductibility from Iowa’s tax system.

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Two tax votes reveal Republican priorities

The House of Representatives approved the Tax Extenders Act of 2009 on Wednesday by a vote of 241 to 181. As you can see from the roll call, all but ten Democrats voted for the bill, including Iowa’s Bruce Braley, Dave Loebsack and Leonard Boswell. All but two Republicans voted against it, including Iowa’s Tom Latham and Steve King. After the jump I’ve posted more details about the business tax credits that would be extended if this bill becomes law.

On December 3, the House passed the Permanent Estate Tax Relief for Families Farmers and Small Businesses Act, which caps the estate tax at 45 percent and exempts estates worth up to $3.5 million (preserving this tax at 2009 levels). Again, all of Iowa’s Democrats voted for the bill. Iowa’s Republicans voted against it. If Congress had not acted, the estate tax would have been repealed in 2010 and then would have reverted to its 2001 level in 2011 (a 55 percent tax on estates valued above $1 million).

Republicans claim the so-called “death tax” is a burden to small business owners and farmers. Candidate Jim Gibbons already used this canard in a press release targeting Boswell. Right-wingers can’t find any real-world families who had to sell the farm because of the estate tax. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has concluded (emphasis added),

If the 2009 estate tax rules are extended, only 100 small business and farm estates in the entire nation will owe any estate tax at all in 2011, according to the new estimates by the Tax Policy Center, and virtually none of those businesses and farms would have to be sold to pay the tax. […]

Under 2009 law, the estates of more than 997 of every 1,000 people who die will owe no estate tax whatsoever. […] In its latest analysis, the Tax Policy Center projects that only 0.25 percent of the estates of people who die in 2011 – i.e., the estates of 1 of every 400 people who die – will be subject to the estate tax if the 2009 estate tax rules are continued.

Less than 1 percent of estates in Iowa were subject to the estate tax in recent years.

To sum up: Republicans are for saving farmers and small business owners from the so-called “death tax” that doesn’t apply to them. But when they had a chance on Wednesday to extend tax credits affecting farms and small businesses, House Republicans said no.

Why am I not surprised?

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