Globe Gazette. July 28, 2013.
Once again King is an embarrassment to state, District 4
On Internet forums you'd call U.S. Rep. Steve King a troll — someone who makes outlandish and incendiary statements just to see the reaction they get. The problem in King's case is we have an awful feeling he really believes some of the hateful nonsense he spews.
King, the Republican congressman representing the state's U.S. District 4 — which now includes much of North Iowa — told a conservative news website last week that with respect to immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as kids, "For every one who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert."
As with many things King says, the Obama administration and other Democrats were quick to blast his comments. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, D-Ill., went as far as to call him an "ignorant racist."
This time, however, critics were joined by prominent members of King's own party.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner issued a statement earlier in the week condemning King's remarks, calling the idea that most immigrants in the country illegally are running drugs "deeply offensive and wrong."
Boehner elaborated at his weekly news conference Thursday, saying, "I want to be clear. There's no place in this debate for hateful or ignorant comments from elected officials. What he said does not reflect the values of the American people or the Republican Party, and we all need to do our work in a constructive, open and respectful way."
Others, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., joined in the criticism. New Mexico Republican Rep. Steve Pearce, who represents the district that includes his state's border with Mexico, called King's comments "unproductive" and "divisive."
It's not the first time that King has felt heat over comments on immigration, or on other topics.
In a 2010 editorial, when King's U.S. House district did not include North Iowa, we took him to task for comments involving the Obama administration's challenge of Arizona's "Papers, please" law and some other incidents where he appeared to have undertones of racism. We pointed out that he has compared immigrants here illegally to "stray cats" that have kittens and end up lazy and dependent on others. He suggested that the fence separating the United States and Mexico should be electrified, adding, "We do it with livestock all the time."
King's extremism seems to know no bounds. We believe he'd vote for machine guns and mine fields along the U.S.-Mexico border if given the chance.
Rep. King takes great pains to tell people he is merely interested in preserving "the rule of law," that anyone who came here illegally broke the law and should be offered no sympathy and no opportunity to benefit from this country's advantages.
Well, Mr. King, laws change. Our country's history is full of laws that have eventually been judged to be outmoded, no longer needed or just plain wrong. It is your job, as a lawmaker, to move the "rule of law" forward, to change to meet the needs of the country now, not decades or centuries ago.
We are again disappointed in King's rhetoric, and his decision to double down rather than apologize when called on it. But it's what we've come to expect.
The Hawk Eye. July 26, 2013.
Perpetual conundrum: President's economic speech bores Republicans
The Fiscal Times called President Barack Obama's speech on the economy "a yawner."
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, declared the president's words delivered Wednesday at Galesburg's Knox College "a revamp of a revamp" of old ideas. House Speaker John Boehner referred to calls for income equity and saving the middle class as "an Easter egg with no candy inside."
Sad to say, there is an iota of truth in the cowpies conservatives flung at the president, but also a truth they share responsibility for creating.
Obama has been conservatives' handy dart board to the exclusion of accomplishing anything for the middle class or the poor: Think cutting foods stamps to 50 million underemployed, underpaid people in a recession that refuses to end.
Five years is a long time to hold a presidential grudge, especially since Obama has 3½ years left to serve. But congressional Republicans have mastered the art of demeaning Democrats, the president and holding progressive ideas hostage.
They believe time is on their side to regain unchecked power. Meanwhile, Americans continue the struggle to survive an unfriendly economy. So the president justly addressed that grim situation, enabled in part by a GOP-controlled Congress that refuses to compromise. In addition, Republicans again are threatening to shut down the government when the president asks them to increase the debt limit.
In the president's defense, Wednesday's speech purposely lacked specifics as to what Congress can do to get the economy rolling. He promised specific ideas will follow. He needs to hurry.
Cynical as ever, Republicans said he should have offered ideas at his second inauguration in January. But what would have been the point? They have put the kibosh on every idea that involves government spending or oversight. And with private equity sitting out the recession on mounds of idle cash, government investment in projects is necessary to put people and industry back to work and to raise wages that are lower now than they were a generation ago.
The austerity Republicans have demanded and imposed during Obama's presidency has failed. Tens of millions of Americans are little if any better off than they were after the 2006 housing crash and Wall Street's 2008 meltdown wiped out trillions of dollars of the middle class' income and net worth.
It's long past time to do something bold and inspirational. Whether the ideas come from Democrats or Republicans is unimportant. But we need ideas. Soon.
The president insisted "there are Republicans in Congress right now who privately agree with me on many of the ideas I'll be proposing, but worry they'll face swift political retaliation for saying so."
But will it matter? How to get Congress to fear destroying the country more than losing their jobs in the next election is Washington's perpetual conundrum and the American people's nightmare.
Sioux City Journal. July 25, 2013.
Treat all producers of energy the same
Critics, including big oil companies, say the ethanol industry shouldn't get federal support, like the Renewable Fuel Standard through which transportation fuel must be blended with renewable fuel. It should have to stand on its own two feet, they say.
OK, fine, but the federal government then should end all forms of support, like tax write-offs, for all energy producers, including the oil industry.
Seems fair, right?
Since the percentage-depletion allowance was created in 1913, the oil industry has enjoyed a wealth of tax breaks. Today, those tax write-offs amount to billions of dollars each year. This at a time of record profits for the five largest oil companies.
Other producers of energy, including the wind and solar industries, receive federal subsidies, as well.
We tire of reading and hearing criticisms of federal support for ethanol from naysayers who at the same time appear perfectly content with federal tax benefits for Big Oil.
In our view, it's neither fair nor reasonable to suggest ending federal support for one energy-related industry, like ethanol, but favor keeping tax advantages extended to another, like oil.
In all honesty, we do not wish to see federal support for ethanol or wind end because these industries are important to the economy of our state. In the name of achieving energy independence for the nation, we in principle are comfortable with the idea of federal support for energy - all of energy.
Still, if Congress wants to end federal support for energy producers within the context of reducing the federal budget and reforming the tax code, fine.
Our point is it should do so with integrity and consistency and not by allowing influential oil interests possessed of power through lobbying and campaign contributions to dictate the rules of the game.
What we don't wish to see is cherry-picking of who gets money and who doesn't.
One way or the other, treat everyone the same.
The Des Moines Register. July 26, 2013.
Anti-abortion effort a blow to rural Iowa
In their latest effort, advocates of limiting a woman's access to a legal abortion delivered a petition to the Iowa Board of Medicine recently asking for a change in rules to end so-called webcam abortions.
In 2000, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a drug regimen commonly known as RU-486 to terminate a pregnancy without surgery. For a growing number of women, it is the best and safest option. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland set up a system to help women living in rural Iowa obtain the drug.
After undergoing an exam in their location, they use a videoconferencing system to talk with a doctor in another location, typically Des Moines. The physician can remotely open a drawer containing the medication in front of the patient who swallows it while the doctor watches.
These steps are necessary to ensure Planned Parenthood is complying with an Iowa law requiring abortions to be "performed" by physicians.
The petition asks the medical board to require a physician to be physically present to watch a woman swallow a pill. It seeks to require the doctor to "schedule a follow-up visit with the woman at the same facility where the abortion-inducing drug was provided."
The proposal has less to do with safety than with imposing barriers on women. And the petitioners are keeping Gov. Terry Branstad's office in the loop. According to an email obtained by The Des Moines Register, Jenny Condon sent a message to the governor's attorney to describe progress in obtaining signatures for the petition. "Let me know if I can do anything else," she wrote.
The governor's office should not get tangled up in this effort to waste the time of Iowa Board of Medicine. And the board should focus on the facts, not on members' personal opinions.
State regulators have not received a single complaint from the 3,000 women who have used the videoconferencing system. Like therapists using the Internet to talk with and monitor patients remotely, this is part of a 21st century movement in medicine to increase access to health services to people in rural areas.