Austin Frerick: Koch Brothers Are Modern Day Robber Barons

There is a lot to like about this Democratic candidate for Iowa’s third congressional district. The first thing I noticed is that his communication style doesn’t rely on tired platitudes and repeated talking points.  Your eyes don’t glaze over when listening to him talk; you actually learn something.  None of the dull, over-used political red meat candidates think we want to hear.  He doesn’t sound pre-packaged and when he talks you get the feeling that is what he really thinks.  This quality is rare in a politician and, in my humble opinion, will serve him well. If you haven’t checked him out yet, take a listen here.

Check out the campaign website and subscribe to Austin’s Rurally Good Newsletter here.  Follow on Twitter and Facebook 

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Upcoming Democratic Events in Sioux Center, Okoboji, Sioux City, Council Bluffs, Marion, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids

A note from Senate Democratic leader Rob Hogg

“Taste of Fall” Wednesday in Des Moines plus Upcoming Events in Sioux Center, Okoboji, Sioux City, Council Bluffs, Marion, Iowa City, and Cedar Rapids

Dear Friends:

Please join me for the Iowa Senate Democrat’s “Taste of Fall” fundraiser today, Wednesday, October 11, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the Jasper Winery, 2400 George Flagg Parkway, in Des Moines (near the Des Moines Water Works).

This is one of the Iowa Senate Democrats’ best fundraisers of the year. Refreshments will be provided. You can contribute to the “Senate Majority Fund” by bringing a check with you, by sending a check to the Iowa Senate Democrats, 5661 Fleur Drive, Des Moines, IA 50321, or by contributing online:

Please join us and contribute as generously as you are able, to the “Senate Majority Fund” or to any of our individual Democratic Senators.

Other Upcoming Events

Sioux Center, Saturday, October 14, 10:00 a.m. to noon – Join me at “Plain Conversation” with the Sioux County Democrats, Terrace Room, Dordt College Campus Center, for an opportunity to visit about the 2017 legislative session and prospects for 2018 with Dordt College Democrats and the Sioux County Democrats. For more details, visit:

Okoboji, Sunday, October 15, 12:30 to 2:00 p.m. – This is a fundraising event for “Citizens for Rob Hogg” with the Dickinson County Democrats and other northwest Iowa Democrats at the Arrowwood Resort, 1405 Highway 71 North, in Okoboji. Please join us and contribute as you are able. For more details, visit:

Sioux City, Monday, October 16, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. – This is a fundraising event for the Iowa Senate Democrats’ “Senate Majority Fund” at the Diving Elk, 1101 4th St., in Sioux City. I will be joined by State Rep. Chris Hall of Sioux City. For more details, visit:

Council Bluffs, Tuesday, October 17, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. – This is a fundraising event for the Iowa Senate Democrats’ “Senate Majority Fund” at Barley’s Bar and Grill, 114 W. Broadway, in Council Bluffs. I will be joined by former Senator Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs and State Rep. Charlie McConkey. For more details, visit:

Des Moines, Saturday, October 21, noon – This is a fundraising event for the Iowa Senate Democrats’ “Senate Majority Fund” with former Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Jason Kander at the Rooftop, 525 E. Grand Ave. second floor. For more details, visit:

Iowa City, Saturday, October 21, 3:30 p.m. – This is a fundraising event for Senator Joe Bolkcom and Senator Bob Dvorsky with Jason Kander at Van B’s Brew, 505 E. Washington St., in Iowa City. For more details, visit:

Marion, Saturday 21, 5:00 p.m. – This is the Linn County Democrats’ “Hall of Fame” Banquet honoring Senator Wally Horn, Phyllis Peterson, Helane Golden, and Harvey Ross. Keynote speaker is Jason Kander. It will be at the Longbranch Hotel, 90 Twixt Town Road, Marion. For more details, or to buy tickets, visit:

Cedar Rapids, Monday, October 23, 7:00 p.m. – After a successful “social hour” last month, State Rep. Liz Bennett and I will be hosting another social hour at the Iowa Brewing Co., 708 3rd St. SE, in Cedar Rapids. For more details, visit:

Senator Rob Hogg
Senate Democratic Leader
Cedar Rapids

P.S. You can contribute to my campaign committee, “Citizens for Rob Hogg,” today by going to the “donate now” button at Thanks for your support!

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How Right Wing Media Makes White Supremacy and Neo-Nazis Seem Normal

Fox News and right wing media, including internet sites and talk radio are turning minds to mush.  If you would like to help fight the propaganda machine in Iowa, join this Facebook group:  Hogwash! Fighting the Right Wing Propaganda Machine in Iowa


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The Five Extra Words That Can Fix The Second Amendment

Justice John Paul Stevens

Time once again to review the second amendment.

John Paul Stevens served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court from 1975 to 2010. This essay is excerpted from his book, “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution.”

By John Paul Stevens April 11, 2014

Following the massacre of grammar-school children in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012, high-powered weapons have been used to kill innocent victims in more senseless public incidents. Those killings, however, are only a fragment of the total harm caused by the misuse of firearms. Each year, more than 30,000 people die in the United States in firearm-related incidents. Many of those deaths involve handguns.

The adoption of rules that will lessen the number of those incidents should be a matter of primary concern to both federal and state legislators. Legislatures are in a far better position than judges to assess the wisdom of such rules and to evaluate the costs and benefits that rule changes can be expected to produce. It is those legislators, rather than federal judges, who should make the decisions that will determine what kinds of firearms should be available to private citizens, and when and how they may be used. Constitutional provisions that curtail the legislative power to govern in this area unquestionably do more harm than good.

The first 10 amendments to the Constitution placed limits on the powers of the new federal government. Concern that a national standing army might pose a threat to the security of the separate states led to the adoption of the Second Amendment, which provides that “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

For more than 200 years following the adoption of that amendment, federal judges uniformly understood that the right protected by that text was limited in two ways: First, it applied only to keeping and bearing arms for military purposes, and second, while it limited the power of the federal government, it did not impose any limit whatsoever on the power of states or local governments to regulate the ownership or use of firearms. Thus, in United States v. Miller, decided in 1939, the court unanimously held that Congress could prohibit the possession of a sawed-off shotgun because that sort of weapon had no reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a “well regulated Militia.”

When I joined the court in 1975, that holding was generally understood as limiting the scope of the Second Amendment to uses of arms that were related to military activities. During the years when Warren Burger was chief justice, from 1969 to 1986, no judge or justice expressed any doubt about the limited coverage of the amendment, and I cannot recall any judge suggesting that the amendment might place any limit on state authority to do anything.

Organizations such as the National Rifle Association disagreed with that position and mounted a vigorous campaign claiming that federal regulation of the use of firearms severely curtailed Americans’ Second Amendment rights. Five years after his retirement, during a 1991 appearance on “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,” Burger himself remarked that the Second Amendment “has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud,’ on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

In recent years two profoundly important changes in the law have occurred. In 2008, by a vote of 5 to 4, the Supreme Court decided in District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment protects a civilian’s right to keep a handgun in his home for purposes of self-defense. And in 2010, by another vote of 5 to 4, the court decided in McDonald v. Chicago that the due process clause of the 14th Amendment limits the power of the city of Chicago to outlaw the possession of handguns by private citizens. I dissented in both of those cases and remain convinced that both decisions misinterpreted the law and were profoundly unwise.

Thus, Congress’s failure to enact laws that would expand the use of background checks and limit the availability of automatic weapons cannot be justified by reference to the Second Amendment or to anything that the Supreme Court has said about that amendment. What the members of the five-justice majority said in those opinions is nevertheless profoundly important, because it curtails the government’s power to regulate the use of handguns that contribute to the roughly 88 firearm-related deaths that occur every day.

As a result of the rulings in Heller and McDonald, the Second Amendment, which was adopted to protect the states from federal interference with their power to ensure that their militias were “well regulated,” has given federal judges the ultimate power to determine the validity of state regulations of both civilian and militia-related uses of arms. That anomalous result can be avoided by adding five words to the text of the Second Amendment to make it unambiguously conform to the original intent of its draftsmen. As so amended, it would read:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.”

Emotional claims that the right to possess deadly weapons is so important that it is protected by the federal Constitution distort intelligent debate about the wisdom of particular aspects of proposed legislation designed to minimize the slaughter caused by the prevalence of guns in private hands. Those emotional arguments would be nullified by the adoption of my proposed amendment. The amendment certainly would not silence the powerful voice of the gun lobby; it would merely eliminate its ability to advance one mistaken argument.

It is true, of course, that the public’s reaction to the massacre of schoolchildren, such as the Newtown killings, and the 2013 murder of government employees at the Navy Yard in Washington, may also introduce a strong emotional element into the debate. That aspect of the debate is, however, based entirely on facts rather than fiction. The law should encourage intelligent discussion of possible remedies for what every American can recognize as an ongoing national tragedy.

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ICYMI: Ajit Pai Reconfirmed For Five Years

From This Week Tonight from last May 20 minutes

Expect An All Out Assault On Internet Neutrality Next

From Lucia at

Yesterday (Monday) the Senate reconfirmed Trump’s FCC chairman, Ajit Pai. The 52–41 vote split mostly along party lines, with just four Democrats voting for Pai.

In case you forgot, Pai is hell-bent on ending Title II Net Neutrality, is pushing through the dangerous Sinclair-Tribune merger, and is jeopardizing the FCC’s Lifeline program, which provides phone and internet service to low-income families.

During the vote, Pai faced outspoken criticism from many Democrats, and received a record number of “nays” for the reconfirmation of an FCC chairman. But it wasn’t enough.

We need our lawmakers to create policies that protect the public — and to hold accountable destructive figures like Pai. And we need to hold our lawmakers accountable when they mess up.

Could you tweet at senators who voted to reconfirm Pai against their better judgment?

Click to tweet: These senators just sold you out to ISPs by reconfirming Trump’s FCC chairman: @clairecmc @Sen_JoeManchin @SenGaryPeters @SenatorTester.

Click to tweet: .@SenatorTester just endorsed the end of the internet and sold you out to Verizon and Comcast by reconfirming Trump’s FCC chairman.

Click to tweet: SHAME: @clairecmc voted to reconfirm @FCC Chairman Ajit Pai who wants to end #NetNeutrality & push through the dangerous #Sinclair merger.

Click to tweet: .@SenGaryPeters just sold you out to internet service providers by voting to reconfirm Trump’s @FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai.

Click to tweet: SHAME: @Sen_JoeManchin just sold you out to Verizon and Comcast by voting to reconfirm Trump’s @FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai.

Senators really do pay attention to their social-media accounts, and they need to know that this betrayal hasn’t gone unnoticed.

If you don’t have a Twitter account you can still help by donating $5 to our fight to protect the open internet.

Thanks for speaking out—

Lucia, Candace, Dutch and the rest of the Free Press Action Fund team


Corporations already have near complete control of television, radio, newspapers and magazines. Control of the internet is all that eludes them in their quest to control the media in this country. This is not the “free press” that our founding fathers envisioned. They envisioned a press which would openly debate the various side and implications of policy. This would help bring decision makers to good choices for all and voters to choose good candidates. 

Control of the media in a few corporate hands that vary little in their outlooks does not accommodate views that do not jibe with their outlooks. When the internet comes under their control corporations will have nearly total control of our press.

A free and open internet has been as scary to corporations of today as the the back room printing presses were to our British overlords in the 1770s. Who knows, maybe those back room presses will once more need to be brought back into service.

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Sunday Funday: Paying The Consequences Edition

2.5 minutes

Safety signs are posted for your benefit and that of those around you. Please pay attention or you will suffer consequences.

Why didn’t someone post a sign saying “Voting For Republicans Will Result In Loss Of Freedom And Possibly Life”

I still can’t keep up – what a whirlwind.

1) One person who has called BS on the administration’s poor performance on hurricane relief is Carmen Yulín Cruz. Who is this person?

2) The current president told people in Puerto Rico that Maria was not a real disaster like what other hurricane was?

3) The US House voted in favor of a budget that will take large chunks of funding from what two safety net programs?

4) “Bump stocks” are suddenly in the nation’s vocabulary. Bump stocks are associated with what other item recently in the news?

5) Game show host Monty Hall died last week. Hall is also famous in math circles where a problem in what mathematical field is named for him?

6) In her continuing series of bad days in office, Gov. Reynolds was defending her decision not to ask what state senate leader to step down because of the sexual harassment lawsuit?

7) Iowa Democrats gathered in large numbers in Des Moines Sunday in a renewal of what former fall get together?

8) The current president’s first wife (he’s had 3 so far) stated on CBS that her former husband offered her the ambassadorship to what country?

9) After receiving large “campaign contributions” from attorney Marc Kasowitz, the New York District Attorney dropped a fraud investigation against what well connected siblings?

10) Hugh Hefner died last week. Besides Playboy, what other men’s magazine did his company publish?

11) The current president threw paper towels to what suffering people causing one critic to say “he treated us like animals.”?

12) Oct. 9th, 1941 President roosevelt signed authorization for what world changing program?

13) Sixty years ago last Wednesday (Oct. 4th), Americans were shocked to wake up to what news?

14) Secretary of State (for now anyway) Rex Tillerson called an impromptu press conference where he failed to deny the report that he called the current president what?

15) The father of Las Vegas mass shooter Stephen Paddock (Benjamin Hoskins Paddock) had a career as what?

16) And another one bites the dust. What GOP senator announced he would not run for re-election next year?

17) Leading pro-life crusader Republican congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA) announced his retirement after reports of what surfaced?

18) Tomorrow is Columbus Day. What other major explorer became the first to reach North America on this date in the year 1000?

19) Republicans in the US House passed a bill limiting what medical procedure for women?

20) Reportedly Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is trying to head off what presidential power that could render his investigations impotent?

From the internet: “I think I know where we went wrong; we have gun care and health control.”


1) She is the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico

2) Hurricane Katrina. uh – unbelievable

3) Medicaid ($1T) and Medicare ($500B). Backdoor Republican health destruction.

4) guns semi-automatic rifles specifically

5) probability

6) Majority Leader Bill Dix

7) the Tom Harkin Steak Fry

8) the Czech Republic

9) Ivanka and Donald Trump, Jr.

10) Oui

11) Puerto Ricans during his visit Tuesday.

12) the Manhattan Project

13) the USSR had launched a satellite (Sputnik) into orbit

14) a moron – or by some reports a “f—king moron”

15) bank robber. Was on the most wanted list in the 60s and 70s

16) Tennessee’s Bob Corker

17) he asked his girlfriend to get an abortion. Murphy is also married to someone else

18) Leif Ericson

19) abortion – note Rep Murphy voted for this after he had asked his GF to have an abortion.

20) Pardons. There is fear pardons will be handed out before charges may be filed.

Andy Borowitz:  New Law Would Require Waiting Period Before NRA Could Buy Politician.

Posted in Blog for Iowa, Humor | Leave a comment

Some Good News From Next Door

Image (1) labor-movement.jpg for post 17588

Seems like we are swimming in a veritable ocean of bad news on an almost hourly basis. Therefore a story that shows even a small glimmer of sanity must be spotlighted in hopes that whatever caused it to happen is contagious.

Wednesday we have a story out of Illinois of all places that shows at least a glimmer of hope to the lowliest on the labor scale. Temp workers in Illinois have gotten some protections against at least some of the abuses and injustices they suffer as part of their status in society.

What is surprising is that Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, a billionaire whose assault on workers in his state created a huge budget crisis actually signed this bill. Based on Rauner’s public persona one would think that there would be no bottom to what he would allow workers to sink to. Maybe even the coldest of the cold are feeling some heat?

Temp workers throughout this country exist in a dark limbo that is seldom exposed to the public. Employers often get good workers for extremely low pay and no benefits. Labor laws seldom apply to their situation. Employers exploit these workers and then they are tossed away like refuse. Temp work is literally a dark corner of our society that most politicians (especially Republicans) prefer to leave dark.

That is why this bit of good news of a bill passing and being signed in Illinois was so astounding – especially given the history of their governor. I mean imagine Branstad signing such a bill – wouldn’t happen.


The Responsible Job Creation Act, or HB690, represents the most ambitious attempt to date by any state to regulate the growing temporary staffing industry. Introduced in January, the bill gained bipartisan support in the Illinois General Assembly and was signed into law by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in late September. The law will take effect June 1, 2018.

The legislation, which addresses job insecurity, hiring discrimination and workplace safety, was championed by the Chicago Workers’ Collaborative (CWC) and Warehouse Workers for Justice (WWJ), as well as the Illinois AFL-CIO and Raise the Floor Alliance, a coalition of eight Chicago worker centers.

The law will require staffing agencies to make an effort to place temp workers into permanent positions as they become available—a step forward in the fight to end “perma-temping.” To address racial bias in hiring, the new law requires temporary staffing agencies record and report the race and gender of all job applicants to the Illinois Department of Labor. And in an effort to reduce the workplace injuries that temps frequently suffer, agencies will also now have to notify workers about the kinds of equipment, training and protective clothing required to perform a job.

State Rep. Carol Ammons—a Democrat from Champaign-Urbana who supported Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign—was the bill’s chief sponsor. Activists credit her with getting the bill to the governor’s desk.

“Legislators don’t always get down into the deep part of the process, but this was so personal to me,” Ammons tells In These Times. After her son told her about the problems he had experienced as a temp worker in another state, she began looking into the temp industry in Illinois and became convinced that it needed reform.

With the onslaught of anti-worker, anti-union and especially anti-public-union legislatures across the country this is indeed raises some hope. With the spate of anti-worker “right to work” laws going in at state levels with talk of a national “right to work” law – let’s be honest – these are really right to exploit workers laws – this is a truly unexpected turn.

Electing Democrats next year will change the anti-worker direction in this country.

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Party Of Death?

Note: US House votes for budget that has deep cuts to Medicaid and Medicare:


 “The time is always right to do what is right.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

As quickly as the news spread about the massacre in Las Vegas came the almost automated warnings from politicians on the NRA “donation” list that “now is not the time to politicize guns.” When then? Is it not yet time to start talking about the deaths of the first graders in Newtown, Connecticut. Even thinking about that one makes tears well up in my eyes.

It has been fifty-one years since Charles Whitman took his spot in the tower at the University of Texas, killing 18 and injuring 39. Is it time to talk about that one yet.

Death from guns is one of the leading causes of death for young Americans. We kill ourselves at a pace of nearly 100 a day, 32,000 a year. Yet Republicans in congress have blocked anyone from doing serious study about gun deaths.

Republicans obstruct. They especially obstruct any legislation to do with guns. They obstruct studying guns and gun deaths. They obstruct proposed laws that will check backgrounds of purchasers. They obstruct laws that would limit the capacity of firearms. They obstruct, they obstruct, they obstruct. And Americans die at the hands of other Americans at a pace rivaling, even surpassing most of our wars.

They obstruct because the NRA pays them well to do so and they obstruct because their distorted messaging on “gun rights” gets votes, lots of votes. They don’t care that 32,000 die a year and over 100,000 are maimed for life by guns.

Obstructing sensible gun control is only one of many ways that the Republican Party makes life miserable for Americans.

Just last week Americans narrowly avoided a Republican bill that would cut access to health care for tens of millions and would cut Medicaid to the most vulnerable in our society. Just because these bills did not pass last week doesn’t mean they are dead in their crusade to take health care from Americans. It will be back, and back and back. They will not give up until they have successfully taken healthcare from the poor, the sick and the vulnerable.

Since they weren’t able to kill it legislatively, the administration has been planning to hobble the ACA from day one. Currently, the Children’s Health program has been suspended with no hurry apparently to kick it back in. This is a tremendous burden on the poor. 

While killing the ACA and cutting Medicaid to nothingness isn’t cruel enough, how about slowly ending Medicare for the elderly? It is on the agenda. If they can’t kill it through legislation, they will soon be working on changing Medicare through regulatory action that will dramatically raise costs for seniors.    

Republicans are also doing what they can to raise tensions and cause rifts and strife in our country. The current president has made statements filled with racial overtones and dog whistle. White supremacists have become empowered in their efforts. A young woman died during a protest in Charlottesville, Va. The administration was very slow and fuddled in its condemnation of the racism.

Tensions around the world have been raised dramatically as the current Republican administration has insulted governments everywhere and threatened leaders in North Korea and Venezuela. They have also threatened to simply walk away from a nuclear treaty with Iran.

Reviving racial antagonisms and cutting access to healthcare are both policies that will lead to unnecessary deaths long term. Refusal to face climate change, even rolling back policies that may have helped is another policy decision that will lead to unnecessary deaths. We are just now beginning to see the predicted effects of climate change coming to fruition. It will get worse and many more will die unnecessarily.

Ancillary to ignoring climate change is the policies that let businesses and manufacturers pollute, from spewing crap into the air to farm fertilizer runoff to blowing the tops off of mountains.

Another policy that Republicans choose to foster in practice that contributes to unnecessary deaths is poverty and wealth inequality. Besides making private health care hard to obtain, poverty limits diet choices and choices such as where to live. Grinding poverty raises tensions that lead to interpersonal violence.

When you add it all together from preventing anything being done about guns, to trying to cut health care or at least hobbling it however they can, to climate change and pollution to heightening racial tensions and heightening world tensions, the Republican Party has turned itself into a party of death.

When a Republican declares themselves “pro-life” it should make you laugh. They may be pro-birth, but their party is working hard to take away the very things that will help those babies live a decent life by American standards. Instead they want that baby to survive without healthcare, in a polluted atmosphere that will cause sickness, in a world where the climate will get forbidding and very possibly ending up in poverty.

Democrats have been working on creating jobs, cleaning the atmosphere, ameliorating climate change, truing to pass sensible gun legislation, getting health care for all and education for all. The difference between the two parties is the difference between life and death.

Posted in #trumpresistance, Affordable Care Act, Blog for Iowa, Budget, Climate Action, Climate Change, economic inequality, gun control, Medicare, poverty, Racism in America, Republican Obstruction, Republicn Policy | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Costs of Business Subsidies

by Ralph Scharnau

Today all levels of government—municipal, county, district, state, and federal—try to entice businesses to relocate, expand, or simply continue operations. The commonplace incentives to new or existing businesses include tax cuts/exemptions, rebates, monetary awards, and waiving/easing regulations.

All of these schemes bear price tags with the top 20% of “already haves” benefiting the
most. Meanwhile, the United States experiences economic and racial inequality. The wealth gap between whites and non-whites continues to grow.

Many large American corporations play the tax breaks and loopholes game. Their huge
tax savings have enriched executives, not workers. And when tax time rolls around, they receive preferential treatment. While millions of Americans file last minute income tax returns, some major corporations won’t pay a dime despite reaping record profits thanks, in part, to incentives.

Many cities and states desperately try to attract and retain jobs by playing the subsidies
game. We now have a “subsidy industrial complex” of site-location consultants, industry groups and industrial realtors and professionals who track, arrange and promote deals between companies and governments. The result often doesn’t create any new jobs, but merely moves existing jobs around while fostering economic war.

A number of states, moreover, face budget shortfalls, but this has not stopped Republican
governors and Republicans lawmakers from offering generous aid packages to businesses. Iowa, for example, offers tech giant Apple $213 million in tax inducements to build two new data centers in the state. Headlined as “Apple incentives not necessarily a sweet deal,” the Dubuque Telegraph Herald editorialized that the “deal . . . promises to create a mere 50 jobs. Is more than $4 million per job the kind of economic development for which the state should strive?”

This notion of job creation is at the center of the debate about business subsidies. It turns
out that often the promised employment increases are not realized. As a result there are layoffs and reduced job-related consumption and tax revenue. Some companies have also engaged in a form of job blackmail by threatening to leave and shaking down states and cities to stay.

To make up for failed economic development plans, governmental bodies cut employees
and social services while trying to meet their civic responsibilities. The tax-paying public, not corporations, support the children, elderly, poor, and disabled who make up the majority of the recipients of life-sustaining programs. The business world seeks to make profits and please shareholders. Governments look after the long-term needs of residents, including minimum wages, building infrastructure, and managing health-care.

The large corporations reap huge tax savings from public subsidies. Recent studies reveal
that AT&T enjoyed an effective tax rate of just 8 percent between 2008 and 2015, despite
recording record annual profits each year by exploiting tax breaks and loopholes. At the same time, the company reduced its total workforce by 80,000 jobs, accounting for acquisitions and spinoffs each involving more than 2,000 workers

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Grit Alone Won’t Protect Local Food Systems

Red Delicious Apples

The marketplace of home vegetable gardens, community supported agriculture, farmers markets, road side vegetable stands, restaurants, retail interests and direct farm sales hasn’t coalesced into a sustainable local food system, and may not.

One should never doubt the resilience of farmers. At the same time, due to unwelcome changes in society, our local food system is at risk before it has become sustainable.

A small group of pioneers made progress toward a sustainable, local food system. People like Denise O’Brien, Dick and Sharon Thompson, Fred Kirschenmann, Francis Thicke, Laura Krouse and Susan Jutz took ideas about sustainability and put them into practice. Their work enabled a new generation to enter the local food business — people like Tony Thompson (New Family Farm), Kate Edwards (Wild Woods Farm) and Carmen Black (Sundog Farm).

The idea of a return to diversified farms producing food for local markets begs the question how did we get away from it?

If markets for local food become stale or disappear due to changing tastes or financial stress, increased commodification could erase slim margins and lead to bankruptcy.

A local food system is about cooperation and support: between farmers, and with their customers, suppliers, workers, volunteers and bankers. Without that a family may have their dinner on the table, but the entire system is risked if such individualism is the prevailing attitude.

Change is in the air. Change driven by economic hardship and oppressive policies originating in Des Moines and Washington.

It doesn’t look good for growers, retailers or consumers, not because business models have changed, but because we are entering an era when wealth flows to the top, leaving the rest of us struggling. How will farmers get health insurance if the individual market becomes too expensive? They may take a job in town and let their agricultural aspirations go.

These changes and the challenges they bring will test the sustainability of a fledgling local food system.

Climate change is impacting society negatively as well. What we assume about Iowa’s growing conditions — adequate rainfall and predictable temperatures — is subject to change as the oceans and atmosphere warm, increasing the number and intensity of extreme weather events. Likewise, increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may be reducing the nutritional value of food, according to a recent study published in the journal Nature.

I don’t doubt the resilience of farmers I know. If a local food system can be sustained, they will do it. Isn’t it time you got to know your farmer? We could all use a friend during these turbulent times.

~ This guest opinion first appeared in the Saturday, September 30, 2017 edition of the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

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