We already know what the themes will be in 2018 race for Iowa governor.
Republicans will run on more tax cuts for the families that control Iowa. These are the same families who supply free jet planes and six-figure political contributions. They want more wealth and power. They’ll talk about God, sin and maybe “greatness” to distract us. It’s worked for them since Reagan.
The message from most of the Democratic candidates will also be about big money and vague slogans condemning the other guys. Fundraising has been dominating the campaign so far, rather than solutions to our problems.
The biggest issue facing us has so far been ignored by both parties: The legalized bribery destroying our democracy that is sticking us with laws “purchased” by the highest bidder. It is the elephant in the room.
Need more proof? Democrats have been insisting they’re “fighting for working families,” which is code for giving back public employees their Cadillac health insurance and arbitrator-awarded raises. It may be a good primary strategy because unions write the big campaign checks. But it does nothing for the 90 percent of Iowans who are not union members, or for rural and low-wage workers who pay the taxes to support public union perks.
Where’s the bold vision to find and grow the next great Iowa company? What about requiring employee stock ownership or profit sharing for companies that get economic development grants and tax breaks?
Democrats are also talking about “adequate funding for schools.” That’s another play for union campaign money. Yes, some of our schools are slowly being starved for resources. But the “more money” chant does nothing to address current funding disparities, special-needs children getting passed along, the use of detention boxes, and shortchanging our children not going to college.
Where is the call for real education reform like one superintendent per county? Returning to one-room schools in depopulated rural areas? Using more technology and paraprofessionals? Vocational training for students not college bound?
U.S. Senate candidate Tom Fiegen talks about local food and the farm bill during an editorial board meeting with the Des Moines Register on Thursday, May 12, 2016.
Finally, neither party is going to discuss the crises in rural Iowa that are killing us and destroying our quality of life: poisons in our water and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Why? Because Big Ag money exerts extraordinary power and essentially owns the leaders of both parties. No one will discuss the odor and flies from 22 million hogs, producing as much solid waste as 220 million humans. Nor will you hear calls for criminal prosecution of repeat polluters. Or imposing fees on ag poisons and manure to address our water pollution. Or a CAFO moratorium and a “good neighbor” law.
The bottom line: Both parties care more about money than solutions to reshape and heal our future. We need to find an alternative to an election model that allows wholesale purchase of politicians by a few families. If we do nothing, we will continue to be at the mercy of the 1 percent who own both parties.
TOM FIEGEN is a lawyer from Clarence who served in the Iowa State Senate and ran for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 2010 and 2016.
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