One of the great pleasures of my young life was to read the incredibly droll and wry way that young Des Moines Register columnist Donald Kaul would approach the opening of the Iowa legislature every year. Kaul would then follow with three to four months of humorous observations as the legislature would often stumble and bumble through the process of making laws.
While the Iowa legislature still has many moments of stumbling and bumbling much of the humor is gone now. The consequences of many of the decisions made by the legislature are now very negative especially for Iowa’s families. The legislature does nothing these days about low wages, temp employers who exploit Iowa’s citizens in the worst way, pay day lenders, lack of daycare for women seeking employment and many other problems that beset Iowa’s poor and middle class.
What was once Iowa’s calling card across the country – the best schools in the country – are now reduced to begging a Republican led House to do the job they are supposed to do by law. Surely we can expect Republicans to once more kick school budgeting down the road in their annual attempt to make Iowa schools look bad so they can have an excuse to turn to their answer to school problems, profitized charter schools. Who can forget last year when Republicans pushed the budget to the very limit before agreeing to a small compromise. Then to see the compromise blown up by a governor who seems to see his only purpose these days as delivering goodies to Party donors.
On the school front, Branstad has already sent forth a message that he wants to start tapping a sales tax dedicated to schools to use the money for other problems. Once that dam is breached the money will flow from the schools in a flood. This is a play from the book of dismantling public schools systems that has been used by tea bag Republicans across the country. In order to use their solutions first they have to create the problems for which they have solutions. And in case you have missed it, these solutions are handed to republican legislators all written and ready to go courtesy of ALEC.
Branstad is already setting his own course by not consulting the people’s representative on such major matters as extending a tax break to businesses through a “reinterpretation” of current tax laws. Then there is his decision to close the juvenile home at Toledo in a move that appeared to be against existing laws. Of course there is the aforementioned line item veto that was a punch in the gut for most every Iowa school district.
But the coupe-de-grace for Branstad was his unilateral decision to privatize (and profitize) the running of Iowa Medicaid system. Not only did Branstad act on his own without consulting any other elected officials, the implementation has been an absolute disaster. His administration was in such a hurry to give his buddies our tax money that they didn’t even pretend to design a system or think through how it would work.
What can we expect this year from Iowa’s finest? It being an election year you can bet there will be no new taxes or even a mention of anything like that. There will no doubt be a lot of grand standing on how such and such will save Iowa big bucks. That will for the most part be malarkey. We can expect our friends at Iowa Policy Project and Progress Iowa to keep a close eye on such malarkey, but their insightful work will be mostly ignored by the corporate media and the legislators themselves.
We will probably see the usual bills to let Iowans carry more guns and do so in stores and restaurants in the open so we can join other crazy states in bringing back the old west. Probably have the bill to allow silencers on guns again too. Those will keep people from being disturbed by the noise of the gun as a mass murder takes place at the movie.
We can always hope that someday the legislature will somehow feel the pain that average working Iowans go through trying to survive on an ever shrinking income. But last I knew there were very few former wage workers in the legislature and lots of business owners. Guess where their interests lie?
Not sure even Donald Kaul could find much to laugh at these days.