Monthly Archives: October 2016

A State-Bred Race


thIt’s the home stretch! I’ve been campaigning now for 21 months.  Over a year in a primary for the United States Congress and 7 months after I made the switch to run for the Iowa House.  I have been enjoying every minute of it, even though the physical and mental requirements can be, at times, exhausting.

It is a process about getting in front of people, listening, sharing ideas, and discovering new ones.  At the end of each day a candidate will access their progress and feel either that they’ve moved the 20161017_215808needle, or that they missed an opportunity.  A campaign is a test of the sturdiness of will, principles, ideology and character.

I am proud of what I have done so far, but this journey will continue, regardless of the outcome on November 8th, into parts unknown, and it will be with the purpose to serve.  I respect any candidate or incumbent for the sacrifices and commitments they have made to serve.  No one, regardless of differences, goes through this with any intention other than to do good work.

I give my opponent the same respect. In fact, yesterday at a forum, we acknowledged that we agree on a few things, even though we have fundamental (huge in some cases) differences on other topics, and I tip my hat to him for his commitment.fb_img_1476818220544

But, I am running because of those differences.

He has placed a lot of stake in a call for “Smaller/Smarter” government.  And this is where I can comfortably stand on his ground while revealing our differences.  I am all in with creating efficient, fiscally responsible, government.  I, too, want to see smarter government.

Voting for education budgets that are annually 1 to 2% lower than inflationary costs, is not smarter, however. Not when the state’s new revenue would be sufficient without giveaway subsidies and when economic growth is consistent.

Standing in the way of legalizing in-state access to medical use of cannabinoids to treat epileptic seizures, on the grounds of needing more research, may seem conscientious, but it is, in reality, a government induced smokescreen pandering to Big Pharma that spends millions lobbying against it. That isn’t smaller.

Standing with a Governor who unilaterally closed two mental health facilities without a plan to replace those beds is neither smarter nor smaller. What it does is place the financial challenge of mental health onto our local municipalities as those patients transition into our jail system.

Government is not smarter when Medicaid is privatized without enough oversight, or transitional plans in place to handle the burden of care. Government ran Medicaid with a 3% administrative cost; private MCO’s operate around 12%.   It will take a lot of new efficiencies to compensate for the difference.  And where are those new efficiencies as a patient waits 6 months for a catheter and providers wait 6 months for reimbursement and have to drop services to cover costs?

As I point out these differences I am not blind to progress. At least mental health is in our political conversation. So is water quality.  And the Governor has taken his proposal off the table that took money from the school budget to put toward cleaning our water.

Cooperation has been seen toward fighting Human Trafficking and I applaud bi-partisan efforts. But, there are ideological differences when it comes to placing priorities on public education, building infrastructure for commerce and to create jobs, women’s health, living wages, access to medicine, and civil rights for all Iowans.  That is where I carry my standard and promise to challenge any movement that compromises those garyhasissuesvalues.  It is why I’m running.

 

Though Love and Life make tearful intercession…

dc82853e7904b0731f4e903e56980211Theologian, A H Strong, defined the human will as “the soul’s power to choose between motives and to direct its subsequent activity according to the motive thus chosen.”

No more apt description of the duty of a true politician has ever been written.  Such reflection is what strengthens our moral purpose, and as a candidate for public office, the convergence of my ideas and motives are what will reveal to voters what kind of a representative I will be.

Strong continues his description of will as “The soul’s power to choose both an end and the means to attain it.”  Within our soul is our moral purpose.

The journey I am on has led me to biographies of political leaders to learn more about their motives and recently I have been drawn to biographies about Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and James Garfield.

universe-wallpaper-20It would be easy to develop a fatalistic point of view, considering that each of these men were assassinated, but my belief is that life is a series of capricious events orchestrated by our capacity for reason; we attach meaning to stories drawn from the collision of our will and forces outside of our control.

My point of view does not deny the existence of God, it only admits that I cannot define God any more clearly than I can define love for my children; the concept transcends the confinement of words.

Lincoln, Kennedy, and Garfield each seemed destined, yet their demise was the result of careless mistakes; a lack of attention when they should have been more aware of their vulnerability.  As purpose and fate comingled in my mind, I began to think about my own mortality.  Not in a morose “Oh-my-God-I’m-past-the-halfway-point-and-the-last-half-includes-incontinence!” way, but in a reflective “What-is-the-sum-of-this-journey-so far?” kind of way.

Life will always reveal a lesson when our awareness is heightened.  I was on a flight from Chicago to Cedar Rapids in pitch-black darkness, zero-visibility cloud cover, andplane-lightning-100610-02 buffeting crosswinds from a huge storm system passing through.  I fly a lot, but this was one of those flights where the wings tilt dramatically side to side and simultaneously hit air pockets where the plane drops several feet, and I’ll admit that I said a prayer.

It wasn’t a fear of dying at that moment, but I thought to myself, “What if I did?  What was the sum of my life?  What would people say?  Would I be remembered as a good man?  Did I remember to pay the cable bill?”

I try to tame the tendencies of self-indulgence by mediating such thoughts, but I think it’s a primordial human desire to want to be worth something to others.  Suddenly a moment with my father entered my thoughts.

The memory was from an evening only two months before he passed away and he asked me if I was happy.  Not willing to accept that my father wouldn’t be here for years to come, I replied, “Yes…why are you asking me?”

GE DIGITAL CAMERA“Because I’m not going to be around forever and I want to know that my family is happy. I can believe that I had something to do with that.”

I asked him if he was scared of mortality and he said, “No.  I raised good sons and that’s how I want to be remembered.  And maybe you’ll tell your children that there was once this man named Glenn Kroeger…”

I found solace in his words because I already knew that my memories of my father would always construct a story about a good man, who was kind, wise, intelligent, and who loved his family. It would be the story of a man who achieved great success by giving his children the safety, comfort and dreams that his own childhood was denied. His flaws would be as forgiven in death as they were in life; they were not the measure of the man.

On this flight I asked myself, “Will my children feel the same way about me?”

There was an unsettling vibration under the fuselage as the plane banked against the wind to land.  But as we touched down softly and safely, it occurred to me that the answer lies in the question itself.  In these moments of perceived peril that turn into the fortune of living, our vanity is arrested by reality.

The present is a moving target that passes seamlessly into the future and instantaneously becomes the past; and it was within that infinitesimal space where my lesson found words:  To live the best of my life from each moment on.  Value is not measured by quantity, but quality. The number of years, the amount of wealth, or the accumulation of things, have no bearing on the value of a life.

My motive in this quest to become a public servant is exactly that.  As I serve the purpose of being a father by sharing with my children the best that I have to give, I will serve my constituents with the same resolve.

As my father could have proffered:  “We are immortal when our sincerest motives live in the memories of those we’ve loved. And served.”

 

United We Stand

john-kennedy-ask-not-what-your-country-can-do-for-you-inaugural-speech-1961When President John F. Kennedy changed the tax structure to lower the highest marginal rates, while closing loopholes, it was effective because it was a balance of the right amount and in the right way. It was a confluence of fairness, equitability, and accountability that led to economic stimulus.   But, numbers alone are not why our economy stabilized and grew; Kennedy also instilled a vision that Americans could share, so that equal parts of sacrifice, generosity, and prosperity would comingle in a united concept of greatness.

“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

That was not a call from President Kennedy simply to diminish public responsibility; it was a call for participation with compassion and personal responsibility so that better government can prevail for all of us. It was his vision that we could create something better, together.

Today, as we argue over budgets, bottom lines, and what does, and does not, comprise fiscal responsibility, we must be mindful of the fact that our success, regardless of who wins seats in the House, the Senate, or the White House, is contingent upon our goal; an inspired purpose for our communities, our state, and our nation.

That is a big concept, and there will be many shades of grey in the realization of what it means to be great, but just as Kennedy’s call to action was not a litany of demands or even ideas, our “vision” can also inspire us to unite in an ideal to create a greater community with prosperity, peace, and justice.

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” was our founding ideal, echoed by Kennedy nearly 200 years later.  We can do the same.  May I offer:

“Let us look unto ourselves to better our communities, with a resolve to secure justice, for the purpose of peace, and to reap the rewards of living united.”

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. And Wrong.

My oldest son, who is now 17, likes to talk politics now and again.  I love that he is showing interest in what has been his father’s passion, and he has been coming to the table with his own ideas.  Occasionally he will come right out with what is on his mind.

“Dad, why you don’t like Big Business?”

“Where did you get that idea??!”

“Well…um…someone said that about you…” and he trailed off.

It’s hard enough to discuss politics and actually get anywhere but when you have to completely correct perceptions of your position before even making your case, it can become nothing but an exercise in futility.  But, this is my son, for whom I have the patience of Job.

The truth is, my son’s comment is something that I’ve heard before.  It comes from a misperception that Democrats, a) Don’t like big business, b) Don’t like the rich, c) Don’t like wealth accumulation or success, and, d) Want a Communist distribution of money earned by the wealthy.

Wrong.  Wrong.  Wrong.  And wrong.

I’ve never met a Democrat who didn’t like money, success, or who wants America to become a Communist state.  Maybe there are some, just like there are some people who don’t like butterflies and babies, but, as I said, I’ve never met any.

I also don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy money, or who wouldn’t like to have more of it. In fact, I know a lot of very wealthy Democrats and they aren’t embarrassed, nor do they feel that they don’t deserve what they have.

Big Business creates 50% of America’s Gross National Product.  It employs nearly half of all working Americans and when you consider that small business comprises 99% of all businesses; one can easily see the relevance of big American corporations.

No one wants to impede their success because it benefits all of us.  What we DO want to pay attention to, however, is HOW they succeed and we want to keep the power afforded to wealth balanced with the interests of the public.

I’ve heard or read so many blanket criticisms of the Occupy Movement, for example, from people who dismiss the cause as “hatred of success and American business.”  It is not.  It is hatred of unfair pandering and greed which compromises the wealth and the success of most Americans.

It was (and remains) a protest against cronyism and bailouts of financial institutions whose unscrupulous tactics to amass wealth contributed heavily to the collapse of our system.  That collapse resulted in a lot of Americans, who didn’t wield influence, to lose their savings and pensions (and jobs).

So, I’ve come back to where I always come back; a wish for more truth in our arguments.  If I am accused of “hating the wealthy and big business,” then I have to spend too much time correcting that fallacy before I can even get to a rational and factual debate.

My son and I are fine and he benefits by learning early in life how truth and rhetoric are not necessarily joined in Holy Matrimony.

Here’s what I suggest:  Conservatives should stop calling liberals “anti-business socialists who hate America,” and liberals, maybe we can stop calling them, “Greedy fear mongers who hate America.”