Archive for October 2, 2010
Corporations Don't Die
by David Bradley
Last week my wife’s favorite aunt died. She had lived a full and productive 91 years only to be done in by Alzheimer’s disease. While not an activist she was a supporter of Democrats. Her sister died two years earlier. The last time I saw her alive at a wedding, she hollered across a room at me “You beat them Republicans, Dave.”
As with most citizens they die and thus end whatever involvement in the political system that they ever had. Except of course if you are a corporation and the Supreme Court of the United States declares you a citizen. Corporations generally don’t die as other citizens do.
Whether a corporation is too young to vote such as Google (nee 1998) or well past a normal lifetime such as codgers Procter and Gamble at a ripe 173 years old or a spry General Electric at only 118 years old, corporations are having a huge impact on this election. Money, money and more money is their impact. Or ‘free speech’ as five Supreme Court justices call it.
Many predicted that they would hold their money until late in the game and then unleash it with a fury. And that is precisely what has happened. Money has come pouring in , especially on the Republican side. While there are still some prohibitions on giving directly to a candidate, there is almost no prohibition in giving to third party ‘issue’ groups. These are simply thinly veiled groups promoting one side or the other. Mostly one side in this election.
One of the big reasons to wait is to not tip the opposition to what your plan is. Another reason to wait is that in a busy election season less attention will be paid to the sudden influx of money. Plus there was the nasty little problem that a law was in the works that would force corporations to reveal who they gave money to. But that was dispensed with by the usual Republican obstruction. Now corporations can pour money in to the political system without fear of having to face public scrutiny. They can act without fear of public re-action. So nice for them.
Although one corporation has decided not to hide in the shadows. News Corp, owner of Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and other ”news” outlets, decided to give the Republican Party $1 million in the full light of day, thus ending their charade as an impartial mediator of news.
What does this mean for Iowa? Recall that for the campaign finance reporting periods in Iowa many of the republican candidates reported little and sometimes no contributions? Many folks were wondering what was going on. Their best guess was that there would be an October surprise and the chicanery was a set up to keep opposition (in this case the Democrats) from being able to estimate their money situation.
I believe Iowans can expect there to be an announcement of a PAC buying huge amounts of TV time for the Republicans in the next few days. Like it or not, TV advertising is the big difference in many races.
The experience we have with our new ‘citizens’ this election should give more than enough reasons that these changes must be reined in immediately. Unfortunately, their tactics may be successful enough that any campaign reform will be blocked permanently.
As for me, this is the best example ever of why we need publicly financed elections.
~Dave Bradley is a self-described
retired observer of American politics “trying to figure out how we got
so screwed up.” An
Iowa City native currently living in West Liberty, Dave and his wife
Carol have two grown children who “sadly had to leave the state to find
decent paying jobs.”
Consult your county auditor for details or
Go to IowaDemocrats.org to find out where and how to vote early in your county.
Then head down to your county Dem HQ and volunteer some time to help elect Democrats. You can find contact information for your Democratic county chair here.
Sustainable Iowa Farm Energy & Francis Thicke
by Paul Deaton
Francis Thicke, candidate to be Iowa's Secretary of Agriculture, was in Solon, Iowa this week discussing his vision for Iowa food and agriculture with a group of local residents and the media. He said, “The reason that I am running is that I am seeing that Iowa agriculture is facing some major challenges today and we are not really addressing those challenges. We also have some great opportunities that we are not taking advantage of.” What he said was relevant to Iowans and reflected a common sense approach to improving our agricultural system. He also talked about the end of the era of cheap oil and its impact on Iowa agriculture.
During the interview with the Solon Economist, Francis Thicke said that Iowa agriculture's operations are tied to oil prices and in the current environment, farmers are “held hostage” to price spikes. The organic dairy farmer said reliance on “cheap fossil fuels” is not sustainable and that farmers must become more energy independent to remain viable. In a state where organic agriculture represents a small percentage of cropland, Thicke believes it is time for Iowa to move towards some of the lessons he has learned in his business despite resistance from agribusiness concerns and row crop farmers. He said energy prices will be the game changer as the era of cheap oil comes to an end.
His vision is that Iowa agriculture will make an orderly transition from current energy sources rather than reacting during the inevitable oil crisis. He said, “If we don't have a vision for where we want to go, we don't know where we are going.” Thicke's vision is outlined in his book A New Vision for Iowa Food and Agriculture: Sustainable Agriculture for the 21st Century which has been reviewed by BFIA.
One of the key issues regarding energy is that farmers sell corn to produce ethanol, but then the ethanol is used primarily to fuel automobiles rather than to produce energy on farms. Likewise, the growth of wind turbine electricity generation has been a boon for Iowa, but farmers continue to buy electricity from the grid at retail prices, even though a turbine may be situated on their property. In both cases, the revenues from these renewable energy sources go primarily to large corporations rather than to farmers. Thicke would change that.
Thicke favors transitioning how the Iowa Power Fund is used to support agricultural energy production. While Iowa should protect its investment in ethanol production, Thicke says that no further public funds should be used to build new ethanol capacity in the state. Against the advice of some economists, ethanol capacity was over built compared to the market, resulting in the bankruptcy of some ethanol plants. Ethanol plays a role in Iowa agriculture and Thicke supports maintaining the current level of federal subsidies for corn ethanol. With respect to long term change, his position represents common sense, seeking to stabilize ethanol production, with which Iowa farmers are familiar, and simultaneously to move to the next generation of farm energy sources.
New investments from the power fund should go towards farmer owned, small scale electricity production. Smaller sized wind turbines and the next generation of biofuels represent opportunities for farmers to own some of the energy sources and to use energy generated at cost. At present, farmers buy from the electrical utility companies at retail prices. Farmer owned, small scale electricity production represents an opportunity for farmers to become more energy independent, reduce their operating costs and generate revenue as excess electricity is sold to the grid. Farmer owned electricity production would be more sustainable than constantly buying from the grid.
Thicke understands the challenges and opportunities of agriculture, but is also pragmatic about how to bring about needed change in a state where many farmers like things the way they are now. It is time for Iowa agriculture to begin to address some of the challenges on the horizon, something Francis Thicke is ready to do if elected as Secretary of Agriculture.
Deaton is a native Iowan living in rural Johnson County and weekend
editor of Blog for Iowa. E-mail Paul