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December 2011
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Archive for December 2011

The Courtney Report

Thanks to everyone who shared their concerns, ideas and hopes with me in 2011. Your input helps shape what happens in the Legislature.

Last session, the bipartisan effort to provide every Iowa four-year-old with high-quality early education was at risk of being shut down. When Iowans got involved, they made it clear that Iowa’s preschools should stay open.

Iowans also told us that job skills and economic opportunity for workers and businesses was their top priority. In the Senate, we responded by approving a variety of jobs measures, including help for the small businesses that create jobs. Some of those bipartisan ideas became law. Others are still on the front burner for the 2012 session, which begins January 9.

Creating jobs and a strong economy means providing quality public education at every level. That’s how Iowa wins the jobs of the future—jobs in renewable energy and in the global economy.

As I prepare for the next session, it’s clear that the economy is what matters most to the people I represent. While unemployment in Iowa is lower than most other states, it’s still too high.

Fortunately, Iowa’s state government is in good shape. We’ve got more than a half-billion dollars in our rainy day funds, and last year’s budget ended $400 million in the black. That means we’re in a great position to invest in job creation and improving education.

Thanks again to those who take an active part in making our state a better place to live, work and raise a family. If you didn’t contact me this year to put in your two cents, I hope you will in 2012.

A victory for job seekers

A recent court decision overturning Governor Branstad’s veto of a bipartisan effort to keep 36 local workforce offices open is a victory for out-of-work Iowans.

As our state recovers from the worst national recession since World War II, the Governor’s decision to close dozens workforce offices could not have come at a worse time. Many of those offices are in rural communities with some of the highest unemployment rates in Iowa.

I’m always looking for ways to save money and become more efficient when it comes to state services, but closing employment offices when 100,000 Iowans are looking for work is like laying off firefighters and closing fire stations when your town is burning down.

Senate File 517, approved on a bipartisan vote during the 2011 session, included specific funding to keep local workforce offices open in Iowa. These offices help Iowans find jobs, prepare for interviews and learn new skills, and they help businesses find qualified employees. No wonder the overwhelming majority of Republican and Democratic legislators voted to keep them open.

Let’s focus on putting Iowans back to work and strengthening the middle class, not making it harder for Iowans to find a job.

Creating jobs with a small business tax cut

Tough times mean Iowa’s small businesses aren’t able to create the jobs Iowa communities need. One smart way to help small businesses grow is to cut their property taxes.

A Senate proposal to cut commercial property taxes was approved during the 2011 session by a bipartisan vote of 46-4. While the Senate plan gives every business a commercial property tax cut, it focuses on helping small businesses the most. In fact, the Senate plan slashes commercial property taxes for four out of five businesses by 45 percent.

One reason commercial property tax reform has been stalled for years is that property taxes provide stable support for local services, such as schools, roads, police, fire, libraries and economic growth. Under the bipartisan Senate proposal, these services are protected by a dollar-for-dollar state-funded tax credit. Unlike competing proposals, there is no shift of the tax burden onto residential property taxpayers. This has made our Senate proposal popular among property taxpayers, as well as business, school and community leaders.

To start creating jobs again, Iowa’s small businesses need help. The Senate’s plan to cut commercial property taxes provides that help without giving millions in tax breaks to huge out-of-state corporations.

I’ll be working this spring to convince the Iowa House and Governor Branstad to join the Senate’s bipartisan effort to cut taxes for our small businesses.

Program takes girls from classroom to Capitol

Iowa high school girls can win a chance to spend a day at the Statehouse and learn how laws and budgets are developed and approved. The third annual Capitol Girls program will take place in Des Moines on February 8. The event gives students an inside look at the Iowa General Assembly by pairing them with women legislators for the day. To participate, girls must complete an application available at and submit it via e-mail to or by fax to 515-242-6119 by January 13.

Students can help ‘Write Women Back into History’

To celebrate March as Women’s History Month, Iowa students are invited to enter the 28th annual Write Women Back into History Essay Contest.

Students in grades 6-9 are encouraged to choose a woman, preferably from Iowa, past or present, and write about her accomplishments and how she made a difference for the better. Essays are due by January 27. Winners will be honored during a ceremony at the State Capitol, and cash prizes will be awarded.

The competition is sponsored by the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women, the Iowa Department of Education and the State Historical Society of Iowa. Complete details are available here: For more information, contact Lori Schrader-Bachar at 515-281-4470.

Protect yourself when buying online

With the holidays upon us, it’s good to take extra precautions if you shop online. Here are a few tips to follow:

>> Don’t use public computers for your online shopping. They could have malware that steals your credit card information when you place your order.

>> Look for the “lock” icon on your browser’s status bar and be sure “https” appears in the website address before making an online purchase.

>> Never e-mail credit card information, as there is potential for other people to access it.

In addition, you’ll want to make sure that your computer has the latest security updates installed, that your anti-malware software is running, that you’re using the most recent version of your Internet browser, and that you’ve checked your browser’s security settings.

For more information, check out the Federal Trade Commission’s new publication about shopping online here:

Contact Tom

Iowa Statehouse
Des Moines, IA 50319

2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601

If You Do The Math – Republicans Don’t Add Up.

Unless you have been living in a hole for the past 3 years, one thing should be pretty apparent – the Republican Party has become a wholly owned subsidiary of the wealthiest one tenth of one percent in this country. Stated in raw numbers that means that the Republican Party is beholden to the richest 300,000.

If you look at the US congress, that means that with 242 Republicans in the House and 47 in the Senate the richest 300,000 have close to 300 congress critters ready, willing and able to do their bidding. Throw in a few blue-dog Democrats and the ratio is easily one representative for every 1,000 rich folks. The rest of us have to contend with about one representative for every 3 million of so of us.

Actually it is even more lopsided than that. Some 400 families have more wealth than the lowest 50% (@100,000,000 families) and the Walton family alone has more wealth than the lowest 30% of American families.

Since our political system is based on money raising and the cost of even a simple state legislative seat can be astronomical, let alone a congressional seat, where does that leave the politicians but to go where the money is? But of course, one does not become rich by giving money away. Investing makes one rich. Therefore money given to candidates is “invested” and as such is expected to reap a return. As the history of the US since Ronald Reagan’s presidency we note that the rich have been doing quite well. At the same time those who have invested little – wage workers – have done poorly.

This makes me wonder over and over why anyone outside that little bubble of wealth – let’s go all the way down to the top 1% or 3,000,000 people -would vote for a Republican. Certainly they can easily see that policies have been loaded to favor one segment and one segment of society only and that is the rich and their corporations. Even if the next 4% joined them that is still 15,000,000 tops. Even if we went to the top 10% that is 30,000,000 total. Some of them would be below the age to vote so let’s just estimate that there would be 25,000,000 votes in there.

Why would anyone else vote for Republicans when their policies are clearly not only for one segment, but often seek to punish lower strata simply for their lack of wealth? This is a question that simply bugs me no end.

– Why would a teacher, any teacher ever vote for a Republican? Their policies have been overtly anti-teacher, especially public school teacher since I can remember.

– I often wonder why a farmer would ever vote for a Republican. Sure taxes may be lower up front, but the cost of that one plus in so many other farm expenses and other costs of doing business that the whole economic outlook for farmers is usually much, much better under democrats.

– Why ever would a small business person vote for a Republican. Republican policies are built for the major, multi-national corporation and also built for them to swallow up or drive out competition. that competition is usually that very same small businessman. If you doubt that, look back about 50 years and tell me how many local retailers are still in business?

– Why would the very religious vote for Republicans? They would thrive best in an atmosphere of religious freedom. What the Republican Party offers them is only a narrow window of acceptable beliefs. And for most there are now forced to accept certain tenets of the Republican Party which appear to be the antithesis of Christianity.

– and why oh why would any person working for a wage ever vote for a Republican? Republican policy has always been anti-worker. Republicans seek not only to shackle the worker, but to punish them for not being one of them. Why a worker would vote for someone who will do everything he can to lower his wage, take away benefits and make life much harder is beyond me. Perhaps they believe that voting Republican will somehow get them to heaven. I simply can’t think of another reason why a worker would vote for a party whose mission is to destroy them.

– Finally, why ever would anyone over 60 vote for a Republican unless they are part of the very rich. I am old enough to remember the very tail end of a time when Social Security provided little and Medicare did not exist. Believe me when I say that life for the elderly was really bad. Why would anyone vote for a party whose mission is to destroy the very programs that have given the elderly dignity in later life?

I do know one other thing. That among those richest of the rich, they also control most of the media in this country. And making sure that the American voter is poorly informed at best and totally confused at worst is their current goal. They are doing a great job of hitting that goal, by the way. Well informed voters would not be so indecisive were they to truly see what policies their votes were turning into.

And that is Scott Walker’s problem in Wisconsin. He was unable to hide what he was doing and why behind a barrage of misleading media.

The Other Iowa Caucus Tuesday, January 3rd

Here’s a chance to discuss actual issues.

“Hawkeye Vision 2012: Caucusing for Working Families“
Presented by the Americans for Democratic Action Education Fund.

Please join us for a political roundtable featuring key Democratic leaders who will offer the progressive viewpoint on the important issues facing working families and the role those issues will play in the 2012 elections.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012 (Caucus Day!) at 10 a.m.
Cowles-Kruidenier Auditorium
Iowa State Historical Building
600 East Locust
Des Moines, Iowa

Many voters are interested in participating in issue discussions that do not revolve around the ambitions of individual candidates.  This expert roundtable will focus on jobs, health care, education, and other pressing issues facing our nation’s working families.  Speakers will address how the 99% of Americans can win economic security and social justice in 2012 and beyond.

◦ State Senator Joe Bolkcom (D-IA), Chair of the Progressive States Network
◦ U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (DFL-MN), Co-chair of Congressional Progressive Caucus
◦ Celinda Lake, President of Lake Research Partners & leading political pollster
◦ Ken Sagar, President of the Iowa Federation of Labor

Admission is free.

Reserved seating and other benefits are available to Hosts and Friends.  For a $50 tax-deductible contribution, become a Host and receive reserved VIP seating, a name listing in the event program, and an invitation to a special debrief session with our speakers following the roundtable discussion.  For $25, become a Friend and receive reserved VIP seating and a name listing in the event program.  Host and Friend contributions to the ADA Education Fund’s programs and services will help educate voters and elected officials on key issues and empower tomorrow’s liberal leaders.  All contributions are tax-deductible.

Sponsored by our friends at the UFCW Region Council No. 6  — Northern Plains

Local 79, Esterville             Local 431, Davenport
Local 179, Cherokee         Local 440, Denison
Local 222, Sioux City        Local 617, Fort Madison
Local 230, Ottumwa         Local 1149, Marshalltown

The Most Disturbing Thing About The GOP Selection Process

We could not agree more with this sentiment or have said it better. 

John Nichols on the Thom Hartmann show today said this:

“…The most unsettling thing is what the Republican contest has said about our media.  By and large, the debates have allowed the Republican candidates to say absurd things, to make wild, bizarre claims and for the most part to go unchallenged by journalists.  And so we had a situation where most of our mainsream media for the last 6 – 8 months has really collaborated with a Republican infomercial that, as many of the Occupy folks have suggested, ought to be interrupted.”

Congressman Braley Under Assault By Tea Party Candidates

[Editor’s note:  This was a close race in 2010.   Please chip in if you can.]

Already, three Tea Party Republican candidates have declared that they’re running against me, including the chosen candidate of the secret donor-funded, Republican-backed American Future Fund, which spent $2 million in 2012 on false campaign attack ads trying to beat me.

That’s why I need your help right now. We’ve set a goal to raise $15,000 from supporters like you before the end of the year. We need a strong showing to make sure my opponents get the message: I have real grassroots supporters — not one or two shady Wall Street donors.

Will you chip in $5 or more right now to help us reach our $15,000 goal?

So what will the 2012 campaign bring?

More Tea Party extremism. More secret, unlimited spending by big corporate interests. And a renewed effort by these special interests to expand their majority in Congress.

I know I can count on you. You can bet your bottom dollar that Republican front groups will try again in 2012 to buy this seat with another truckload of secret spending. And my opponents need to know that we’re running a campaign in 2012 based on grassroots support, not secret corporate donations.

Together, we’ve fought to create jobs for the middle class, help veterans find jobs and stay in their homes when they return from war, and lower taxes for Iowa working families – not millionaires.

But we can’t continue fighting for you and your family without your financial support.

Please chip in $5 or more before December 31 to help us reach $15,000.

Thanks for all you do,



Happy Festival Of Lights, Etc.

Dear Folks,
Happy Festival of Lights,
Happy Yuletide, Happy Winter Solstice
Merry Third
Day of Christmas
Look up,
Stars are real close All around here,
Let’s get ready for the Cruise,
Peace that Passeth All Understanding to You
and Yours,


ah but I may as well as try and catch the wind
and the Joy of this day
comes in a rainbow array of Ivy and Holly
this aeternal now
hey na
na na na
hey na
and the Breathe
and a call goes out past the city sirens
out into the Country
Out into the Far Land
Out into the Cosmos
Your Aeternal truth
beyond fear of 3d third planet scream
and it’s all part of You
and the steerage cruises
past Light Speed
and E=MC2 Relativity
into psipher space resonance FREEquency
and all 3d scientists think this is woo woo stuff
and it sings FREELY
this is wu wei stuff
wu WE stuff
You We Stuff
I~Thou We Stuff
Thou~We Stuff
Thou Art That We Stuff
Tat Tvam Asi
Thou Art That WHEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!
And the Rime of the Ancient Mariner
sings of XANADU
Merrily Laughing
as Merry Prankster
Hey You’ll Do
and the Mystic Crystal Sailing Ship comes Forthe
Are You Ready for This Universe Trip
Are you Ready to Travel the Cosmos
You who are so Beautiful
You who have gathered such Favor
Are you ready for these glyme rings
Are you ready for these glittering wings
Are you ready to BE
It’s the TRIP of a Lifetide
All Systems are
on JUMP Street

John Shumaker
w(h)eee hours of AM
I Am That I Am

The “People’s Caucus” Will Be Televised

Support the “people’s caucus,” support the Occupy movement, support a progressive agenda, support progressive Democrats,  attend the official Iowa caucus, support the Democratic party and support our President, Barack Obama.  There is no reason why Democrats or progressive activists have to choose between supporting our Democratic president and supporting a progressive movement.  Things do not always have to be done in just one way.  You do not have to choose between working outside or inside  the Democratic party.  It is possible and more effective to do both.  Maximum participation is good.  Keep in mind that if we are not careful about too much infighting, things could backfire and we could end up with a Republican in the White House.  This must be avoided.  Have you forgotten the Bush years?   Are you too young to remember what the Reagan years did to working people in this country?  If so, ask somebody.

Moving on..

“People’s Caucus”, 7 pm, Tuesday, December 27, at the Occupy Iowa Caucus headquarters, 504 East Locust Street, downtown Des Moines.

David Goodner said that this event will be covered by C-SPAN.  As of this posting time we did not see it on the C-SPAN schedule, so we don’t know if this means live coverage or a delayed broadcast.  We’ll keep checking.  Here’s the blurb about it on FB:

“Join everyday people and hardworking families from across the county for a participatory and empowering event where we will discuss the pressing issues facing the 99 percent, turn sentiment into action, and prepare to take the power back from Wall Street and the puppet politicians who push the corporate 1 percent agenda.”

And don’t forget the official Iowa caucuses next Tuesday, January 3rd.   Here is a message from IDP Chair Sue Dvorsky:

“Iowa friends, we’re heading into Get Out the Caucus (GOTC) Week!   This matters, a lot.  Four years ago to the day, Iowa Democrats across the state stood with our neighbors, for our candidates, and for our issues. Let’s show the world we’re still standing! Click on commit yourself, find your location, then spread the word. See you at the caucus!”

The people united will never be defeated, so let’s be united out there.


Building The Progressive Movement Inside And Outside The Democratic Party In 2012

Building the Progressive Movement Inside and Outside the Democratic Party

When:  Friday, December  30, 2011, 

1:30-5:30 p.m.

Where:  First Unitarian Church, 1800 Bell Avenue, Des Moines IA 50315


Welcome/overview—John Nichols, from The Nation, will moderate and lead a guided conversation.

Holding Democrats Accountable from Iowa to Charlotte, North Carolina


Ed Fallon, Radio Host/Former State Legislator
Jeff Cox, Healthcare NOT Warfare Iowa
Andrea Miller, Deputy Field Coordinator, Progressive Democrats of America (PDA)
Jay Howe, Iowa People’s Alliance
Steve Cobble, Institute for Policy Studies (IPS)/Progressive Democrats of America (PDA)

Building support for the Progressive Agenda in 2012

Rep. Barbara Lee
Tom Hayden
Jean Ross, Co-President National Nurses United (NNU)
Tim Carpenter, National Director, Progressive Democrats of America (PDA)

4:30 – 5:30: Reception following Forum

Organized by Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), National Nurses United, (NNU) and The Nation.

Endorsed by the Progressive Coalition of Central Iowa, the Iowa Healthcare NOT Warfare Caucus Campaign, The Prairie Progressive, and the Fallon Forum.

This event is free and open to the public.

This Week On The Fallon Forum: Pre-Caucuspalooza, John Nichols

Monday – Thursday from 7:00-800 pm, join us for the fusion of politics and civility at 98.3 WOW-FM and on-line at  Call (515) 312-0983 or (866) 908-TALK to participate in the conversation.  If you miss the show, you can hear it as a podcast and please help support local progressive talk radio with an online donation  or by check to PO Box 13421, Des Moines, IA 50310.

Dear Friends,

As you know, the official Iowa Caucus is on January 3rd. Well, the Peoples Caucus is tomorrow at 7:00 pm at the Occupy Caucus Headquarters, 504 E Locust in Des Moines. You should definitely plan to attend.

The Peoples Caucus is modeled after the Iowa Caucus. Resolutions will be offered and participants will break into candidate “preference” groups. But the twist is folks will indicate preference not for the best candidate but for the worst one, the candidate whose headquarters they want to visit over the next few days as part of the Occupy Caucus campaign. (And to reiterate: THERE WILL BE NO DISRUPTION OF THE JANUARY 3rd CAUCUS!)

Now, to be clear, if one were to overstay one’s welcome at a candidate’s campaign headquarters, one could possibly be arrested. But simply visiting candidates’ headquarters to deliver a message about the grievances of the Occupy Wall Street movement is an important action to take. If you feel that corporate power is out of control in America, come tomorrow night and let your voices be heard. A big turnout will send a big message to Wall Street and K Street.

Monday, Charles Goldman and I talk with peace activist Tom Hayden.

Tuesday, attorney Kimberly Graham fills-in for me to discuss divorce law.

Wednesday, John Nichols of The Nation is my guest.

Thursday, comedian Bob Zany joins me. What, you don’t think the caucuses have provided ample comic material? Think again.

Bob’s funniness is known coast-to-coast, and he’ll be in Des Moines for some pre-caucus laughs on January 1st, 8:00 pm at Java Joe’s Fourth Street Theatre. I’m hosting the show, though it remains to be seen whether I can be funny for a full ten minutes. Tickets are $15 at (515) 282-5282. Thanks to Open Sesame, Tinker Heating and Cooling, and Tally’s Restaurant Bar & Catering for sponsoring.

Also, I want to make a plug for “Building the Progressive Movement Inside and Outside the Democratic Party.” It’s a forum organized by Progressive Democrats of America, National Nurses United and The Nation Magazine. Three local folks – Jay Howe, Jeff Cox and myself – will offer our perspectives during panel discussions. National leaders are participating too, including Rep Barbara Lee, Tom Hayden, John Nichols and Jean Ross. It’s free, open to the public and at the Unitarian Church in Des Moines, 1800 Bell Ave, 1:30-5:30 pm., December 30th.

So, tune in at 98.3 WOW-FM and online. You can download the Fallon Forum as a podcast, too.  And don’t forget to visit The Fallon Forum website at  Thanks!



Thanks To “Obama Cares,” Medicare Doughnut Hole Is Shrinking

[From USA Today, not exactly a liberal propaganda machine.]

WASHINGTON – More than 2.65 million Medicare recipients have saved more than $1.5 billion on their prescriptions this year, a $569-per-person average, while premiums have remained stable, the government plans to announce today.

That’s because of the provision of the health care law that put a 50% discount on prescription drugs in the “doughnut hole,” the gap between traditional and catastrophic coverage in the drug benefit, also known as Part D.

And, as of the end of November, more than 24 million people, or about half of those with traditional Medicare, have gone in for a free annual physical or other screening exam since the rules changed this year because of the health care law.

Starting this year, seniors who reach the doughnut hole in prescription benefits receive a 50% discount on name brand prescription drugs. Drug companies must provide the discount to participate in the prescription plan. Before the health care law took effect, Medicare patients had to pay full price for their prescriptions once they reached the gap in coverage.

Medicare beneficiaries can learn more about changing their plans at or 1-800-Medicare.

(click here to read the entire story at