Monthly Archives: April 2017

Fiscally Full of S#!t

People hate being labeled. Or at least being labelled by others. Every one of us bristles when we are summarized within restricting parameters, especially when those parameters are defined by someone from the “other side.”

Yesterday I was called a “far left liberal.”

I countered, “Far left of what? I just try to be right.” (pun intended)

I prefer to categorize myself, thank you very much.

We often create broader categories to define ourselves and one another, perhaps, as an answer to our aversion to being ideologically pidgeon-holed.

“Left of moderate,” or “Moderate-Right,” are bandied about with regularity, but the most common it seems is “I’m socially liberal but fiscally conservative.”

Even the great Chair Whisperer himself, Clint Eastwood, labels himself that way.  Several conservatives that I converse with call themselves “socially liberal” while being “fiscally conservative.”

Basically, what that means, I think, is that they don’t care whether or not gay people get married, but when it comes to finances they are ultra conservative.

When it comes to voting, however, they are conservatives across the board.  Social issues, like gay marriage, civil rights, health care, environmental policies, consumer protection, workers benefits; go out the window at chad-punching time.  When it comes down to choosing ethics or the bottom line, socially-liberal/fiscal-conservatives vote Republican all the way.

Fiscal conservatism means the avoidance of deficit spending and the overall reduction of government spending and national debt, as well as ensuring a balanced budget.  Nothing ignoble about any of that.

Yet…. fiscal conservatives voted twice for George W. Bush who increased deficit spending by reducing revenue while entering two expensive wars.  He spent like a drunken sailor (Clint’s term, not mine), even increasing social spending with ill-fated programs like No Child Left Behind and his Prescription Drug program.  He was the exact opposite of a fiscal conservative.

But…do you know who WAS fiscally conservative?

Bill Clinton, who balanced the budget and created a budget surplus. 

The fiscal conservatives, however, hated him.  “He was a stain on Washington” was the oft quoted refrain.  I thoroughly enjoy revisionists I encounter today who say, “I liked Clinton.  I did well under Clinton.”

You HATED Bill Clinton! Tens and tens of millions of tax payer dollars were spent to topple Clinton!  It was the beginning of hate-media.

Strap in or strap on for this one, but Federal government did not grow under President Obama. In fact, there were less federal workers under Obama than under many past administrations. The “increased spending” under Obama is the result of policies in place regardless of who is President, and discretionary spending, relative to previous presidents, actually rose the slowest under Obama. The truth is that our National Debt and Deficit has less to do with increased spending than with lowered revenues. 35 years of tax cuts, largely for the wealthy, saw to that.

Which begs for us to go back to the beginning of organized, government-led, Trickle Down Economics. Back to President Ronald Reagan who is considered in the history of conservatism to be the Fiscal Messiah.

But, was he?


By reducing overall revenue by 1% yet increasing military spending 40% the United States had to borrow heavily both domestically and abroad.  He raised the national debt from just under $1 trillion to nearly $3 trillion; percentage-wise, the largest increase in history.  The United States went from being a Creditor to a Debtor Nation for the first time.  You could almost say he invented deficit spending.

Yet…the fiscal conservatives loved him and his name is spoken more reverently today than it was even then.

Between the fiscally unsound Reagan and the fiscally responsible Clinton there was George HW Bush.

The conservatives didn’t like him very much and bailed on him when he ran against Clinton.  I don’t think they ever forgave him for going toe to toe with Reagan during the 1980 primaries and coined “Voodoo Economics” to define Reagan’s Trickle Down version of Supply Side theory.  But, GHWB was a true fiscal conservative.  He tried to curb Reagan’s deficits by cutting government spending without raising taxes.  His failure was due to a Democratic Congress that he could not cajole into believing his formula.

This is when I like to start sewing things up by reaching some sort of conclusion.  I have one, but I’m reluctant to share it.  I don’t want to label people with my own restrictive parameters.

Here goes anyway….

Fiscal Conservatism is an honorable, logical, sensible, and viable economic discipline. No resource, including money, is unlimited; we should all weigh priorities before making budgets. Fiscal Conservatives, however, are historically, full of…

Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood

Allow me to show you a classic example of disingenuous political rhetoric. Known also as “mumbo jumbo” or more precisely as “lying.” It is language cleverly designed to appear as thoughtful, truthful, even generous. In reality, however, it is a dishonest form of communication because often a sinister objective has been disguised as compassionate, and in the best interests of all concerned.

I pause when Rep. Walt Rogers is the subject of my scorn, because he defeated me and my criticisms may appear as sour grapes. And, in fact, if that is the case, then I am guilty of the same manipulative rhetoric that I am illuminating here. But, the simple the truth is, I don’t have that axe to grind. The statements that Rep. Rogers makes are exactly why I ran against him in the first place. His position on the following issue, and a host of others, are anathema to what I feel is the better course for our state.

Rogers defends HSB 93 which would instigate voter verification processes in the state of Iowa. The sub heading of HSB 93 is: “Election Integrity and Modernization.”

Rogers writes in his newsletter:

“Iowans should have confidence in their elections. Measures like voter verification and election modernization give Iowans assurance that our system is fair, clean, and ensures eligible voters aren’t disenfranchised. House Republicans have been working with Secretary of State Paul Pate on changes to Iowa’s election process, including voter verification, that make it easier to vote, harder to cheat, and ensures no one is turned away.”

I’m going to respond to this as a letter to Representative Rogers.

Dear Mr. Rogers,
Let’s cut to the chase. Why is there a legislative act to minimize a “problem” that has been shown to be 10 fraudulent cases out of 1.6 million votes cast in Iowa? That’s a fraud probability of 0.000000625%. You are more likely to be hit by lightning while winning the lottery. You are willing to spend the millions it will require to set up and maintain a system to fix a problem that barely exists, but you can’t budget more money for our school children?

Take a big gulp of Truth Serum so we can hear you say: “This is really about voter suppression because a higher percentage of Democratic voters are the ones who have hurdles toward getting such verification.”

I’ll even give you more information for your serum-induced, revealing regurgitation of truth: Many eligible voters will lack the necessary documents and getting them can be difficult. Even expensive. Many will be older voters who can no longer drive and have long lost other documentation. And polls have shown that many poorer voters are hesitant to give more information that can lead to inquiries that aren’t welcome. You can judge that as harshly as you’d like, but whatever their reason may be, it does not mean they aren’t eligible to vote. Voting is a RIGHT not a privilege.

And since, as a Republican, you are a devout Constitutionalist, I’m sure the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits laws that have a disproportionate impact on minority voters, is relevant to you. The requirement of voter ID’s is most challenging to voters who are more likely to be poor and undereducated, and that is traceable to the effects of discrimination in areas such as education, employment, and housing. And so….that would be un-Constitutional.

Serum has worn off? Okay, go back to the BS-Double-Speak-Mumbo-Jumbo that has become your MO. Bear in mind, I don’t dislike you as a person, in fact, I think you just might believe what you say. But that would mean that you are falling for the BS-Double-Speak-Mumbo-Jumbo you are being told. Either way, Iowans lose.

The Guy You Beat

p.s. HSB93 certainly isn’t smaller government, it’s bigger. And smarter? Only if it’s smart to spend valuable tax dollars fixing a problem which is 0.000000625% of…nevermind, you won’t go off script.

The Mayor of Cedar Falls

I just read the news that Jon Crews has died from cancer. Jon Crews, the mayor’s mayor; the heartbeat of one of America’s finest small towns. Condolences framed by sweet memories and tears will go from house to house today and for many days to come.

I first met Jon Crews in 1971. I was a 14 year old just about to enter high school and I wanted to work on anything political that summer. America was involved in Vietnam, there was civil unrest in the streets and I wanted to be part of the movement that was holding elected officials to the fire.

The national scene was disheartening, but then I heard about this young man running for mayor. I said, “Right on!” Yes, “Right on!” was an acceptable term in those days. Jon Crews was only 24 and would be the youngest mayor in Cedar Falls history; maybe any history anywhere; and I saw him as the future. Jon Crews was part of the movement of young America!

I can’t tell you even one policy point that he was running on, but I showed up on Saturday mornings to hand out flyers and go door to door for this Young Turk. Jon won, as we all know, and went on to win many more times. He served our town for over 30 years. 15 terms, I think.

He won because he was the right person for the job.

He was the right person for the job because he showed up. I’m not saying that to be funny or flippant; showing up is the job. He showed up for every function, fundraiser, event, gathering, meeting, congregation and committee. He showed up because he loved this town and all of us in it.

This town was his life and would become his legacy. The streets, the buildings, the schools, the parks, and the shops that made Cedar Falls a showplace of the American dream. He showed up for the owners, customers, students, seniors and children who called Cedar Falls their home.

He connected townspeople with business people, students with entrepreneurs, and politicians from the city to the state. And we are all better off, much better off, because of his leadership.

I used to tease Jon. I think he liked it, because when I didn’t he’d remind me of the last time when I had. One year when I was announcing the Sturgis Falls parade, he emerged from the convertible holding his wife Ronelle’s purse. I commented to the audience “how fashionable our mayor looks in his Palace Clothiers blazer with a matching man purse.”

He laughed, and every time I saw him since he’d comment on how he forgot his man purse. I enjoyed having fun with him because I truly liked and respected the man.

Before he ran for the second to the last time he had intimated to some that he might retire. Candidates put their hats in the ring, committed to continuing Jon’s vision and stewardship of our community. It turned out, though, that Jon wasn’t quite ready to retire and he ran again. And he won again.

He won because he was, and always will be, “the Mayor of Cedar Falls.”

A Tax on Your House!

Taxes. The ugly step child of our Republic. Both political sides share parenting and are responsible for its well-being, but no one wants to admit that taxes are part of either gene pool. The line between what is the right amount of tax and what is too much is as blurry and contested as the Toledo Strip that divided Ohioans from those nasty wolverines to the north who called themselves Michiganders. Blood is shed over the disagreement.

If a politician wants to get elected they promise to lower taxes and even if the truth demands that taxes are insufficient, any promise to raise them will guarantee defeat. Remember Walter Mondale in 1984? Or George Bush Sr., who promised not to raise them, was elected on that promise, then raised them out of necessity, and then lost his bid for re-election? Above all other issues, taxes are the straightest line between victory and defeat.

So…what are they for? Who benefits? What is necessary? What isn’t? What is the right amount? Are you paying too much? Or…God forbid, too little?

The clearest illustration is probably on a local level and the tax that most directly affects the services we require (or don’t, depending on your status) is Property Tax. Here in Black Hawk County about 18% of a property owner’s taxes goes to the county. 38% goes to public schools, 38% to the city budgets, and 22% is split between Hawkeye Community College and university extensions.

The average property tax in Black Hawk County is $1717 but, to clarify our expenses, let’s round that up to $2000. $360 will go to Black Hawk County, $760 goes to schools, and another $760 to the city.

And what is the county providing that requires $360 from you every year?

-It goes to the county home, Country View, with 150 residents, 25% of whom are severely handicapped and have no means of support from family or personal finances.

-The Health Department budget uses the money to inspect all public food dispensers, nursing homes, schools, and restaurants to protect us from conditions that lead to food poisoning. They manage every school nurse, monitor communicable diseases (and STDs), and engineer the removal of hazards and provide emergency operation plans for any outbreak. The Health Department protects all of us, and particularly our children.

-The Sheriff’s Office is funded. 276 beds are maintained in Black Hawk County jails, where nearly 40% of the occupants have been diagnosed as mentally ill. Substance abuse issues raise that percentage to nearly 70%. The Sheriff’s office patrols the incorporated areas of the county, assists all municipal law enforcement, and maintains training for local and regional law enforcement.

-It goes to Conservation. The county manages over 8000 acres of land, with 5 campgrounds, 2 shooting ranges, our extensive bike trails, and the Hartman Reserve. Our quality of life relies heavily on the conservation of these acres.

-And it goes to Veterans Affairs. Black Hawk County supports nearly 20,000 veterans with transportation, medical support and housing for those who would be homeless.

-Additionally, and most importantly from an economic standpoint, the county maintains the 765 miles of roads that we depend on, with 273 bridges. Half a billion dollars of produce are moved to market, annually, on our roads and over our bridges. That is the life’s blood of our economy.

Add to these services other maintenance, civil services, emergency management, the medical examiner, juvenile court services, social services for the impoverished and mentally ill, the county auditor, solid waste management, district court administration, the county recorder, code enforcement, and emergency 911 services…

Is all that necessary? You can decide that for yourself, but not one thing listed here should be considered an extravagance when compared to what is provided and what the benefit to all of us can be.

Property tax, obviously, is only a piece of the “tax” equation. We also pay state and federal taxes (and of course, regressive taxes like sales tax). But the breakdown is not dissimilar to the county “pie.” On average, Americans pay just over 26% of their total income in taxes, including state, federal, and property. To put that in perspective: a little over a quarter of every dollar.

A quarter of a dollar to pay for our national defense and security, roads and bridges for commerce, educating our children, providing health services, support for the veterans who deserve our help, for senior citizens and disabled Americans, for disaster relief, disease control and research, for our system of justice and the enforcement of law and order in our civilized society.

Is that too much?

Of COURSE, we need to hold government on every level accountable. Of COURSE we should look for redundancies and inefficiencies. Of COURSE, we should adapt, re-organize and reconsider local, state and federal budgets as our needs and safeguards change or evolve. But, MAYBE…we should also consider, every bit as diligently, WHO is paying.

I pay 27%. Poor Americans pay less….and many rich Americans pay an even lower percentage. Much lower. Much, much, lower. So much lower. A yuuuge amount lower.

The point of this article is not to say that we should ignore or be less concerned about our taxes, but it is to suggest that “TAXES” are not the evil menace that should be determining our elections. When we look at what we get, for what we pay; even at what may go to some who others feel are undeserving (or “lazy”), the conversation should, at least, be based in rational evidence rather than emotional hyperbole.

THAT might even be the better way to reduce tax burdens.