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Iowa Lawmaker Gets A Laugh Not In A Good Way

iowa lawmaker reading book

Ross Paustian Republican Party State House District 92 Scott County 389 West Parkview Drive Walcott, IA 52773 563-284-6783 Ross.Paustian@legis.iowa.gov

Friday, March 20, 2015:

Another testy week in Des Moines.

We all certainly could use a laugh to lighten the mood in the Capitol building, but, once again, an attempt at such got very lost in translation. A silly book title (with blank pages inside, I am told), an inappropriate caption for a picture of a representative holding said book, and social media converged to send an inaccurate picture of Iowans nationwide.

No laughs, and less motivation to dialogue and work together.

Today we have the third example in little over a week of how far we are from substantive debate. Republicans brought forth HR 8, encouraging a constitutional amendment to restrict the authority of the federal government. Yesterday, we had the discussion on changing the collective bargaining procedures for teachers. Last week we had discussion about prerequisites for performing abortions.

Hopefully, all three of these are dead, dead, dead in the Senate chamber. Republicans were likely aware of this fate, and although referring to the proposed changes as minor in scope, and knowing that there would be principled opposition to each, they engaged all of our legislators in a certain waste of time and money.

I would feel better about the floor time spent on these, if anyone had brought up sincere points that had a chance of educating and changing minds on these issues. But there were none. There was no attempt to present a thorough picture of all the tangents in each issue. No one started these floor “debates” with even the slightest intention of listening for new information, and that is where the disrespect of bringing these issues up at all, solidifies into rancor and distrust.

We get it, that you disapprove of abortion. But making it illegal, or harder to access, doesn’t end it. Doesn’t even lower the numbers substantially. Punitive laws that make no difference to reducing those numbers are not Christ-oriented, just vengeful.

We get it that you hate taxes. Change the debate to focusing on our current and future common needs, not finding arbitrary levels of “low taxes.”

We get it that you want to root out inefficiencies in education. Show us that this is not a backhanded attempt to dismantle public education, by being as vigorous about finding inefficiencies in other areas.

We get it that you don’t like “government.” But there will always be “governing” by some process, and a representative democratic republic is always a better choice than the oligarchy/theocracy that republicans are pushing for, no matter what size it is. Smaller does not equal efficient, period.

Republicans Play The Outrage Card Over Netanyahu Speech

obama netanyahu boehnerby Laura Twing

There are many words available to describe how the Iowa GOP felt about Congressman Loebsack not personally attending the Israeli Prime Minister’s speech to the U.S. congress joint session. But they chose to use the word “outrageous,” a word that is highly charged emotionally, a word that deliberately moves away from engaging in productive, adult discussions of the issue at hand.

Let me offer some alternative uses for the word “outrageous.”

I find it outrageous that people who say they are concerned about eminent domain and property rights, are completely silent about the families who lost land that had been in their families for generations, when we “gave” land “back” to someone who left it two thousand years ago.

I find it insulting that people who are intensely determined to stop abortions, turn a blind eye to the injustices done to innocent children by America’s ally. Displacement, torture, murder and callous disregard to their needs for medical attention – those actions are outrageous. As long as it isn’t via abortion, killing Palestinian children is not a problem for you?

I find it very sad that people who think they are the “serious adults” in discussions of any kind, see no irony in basing our policies, that affect lives, on religious allegories.

I find it intensely depressing that those who bring us “peace through strength” fail to see that our current volatility in the MidEast is directly tied to our destabilizing of Iraq.

I find it outrageous that people who supposedly value “honor and integrity” hide from discussion of all of the relevant history of this issue, and ignore injustices that interfere with their personally desired outcome.

I am deeply troubled that claiming a special relationship with the people of Israel based on our shared religious background, is resulting in violating one of the most common themes presented in our shared religious writings, that of championing justice. We cannot build peace on the back of injustice. I fully understand the emotional appeal at the end of WWII, of providing a homeland, a safe place for our Jewish neighbors, but the majority of Jews left that region two thousand years ago. The people now known as Palestinians, who were there before the Jews in the first place, never left. In my opinion, the Palestinians have the rightful claim to this property.

The corresponding problem to this, is that outside of the Holy Land, anti-semitism is on the upswing again. We must also fight injustice to people of Jewish heritage everywhere, outside of Israel. Here, in the U.S., those least tolerant of Jewish people as our neighbors tend to vote for the party that is spending $8 million dollars per day to perpetuate the above-mentioned injustices. Does anyone else find irony in this?

Supporting Jewish people and Jewish heritage? Absolutely! Tolerating the injustices done to Palestinians for a political homeland? Never. Not in my name.

Fiscal Responsibility Is A Moral Issue

budget signAt church this past Sunday,  I was reminded of our state’s balanced budget.  Part of the reason that it is “balanced” is due to cutting funding for food pantries.  Was that funding cut because need has gone down? Apparently not, since church members were again asked to increase their donations to the local food pantry, because more people need the help.  Yet we found room in this balanced budget to lower taxes for the business community. Why? We have thirty years of recent history showing that lowering taxes on business does not create jobs. The increase in need at food pantries is directly tied to a lack of decent jobs.  The money from that tax cut would have given us a much better return from investing in jobs and infrastructure.

Fiscal responsibility is not defined by a balanced budget alone.  Without the context of needs being met or adequate inclusion of responsible revenue options, “balanced budget” is little more than a feel good sound bite.  While we will always dispute what government should cover under the common welfare,  we should do a better job of reckoning future costs and how they are affected by what we choose to invest in today.  Better long-term financial outcomes might result from making pragmatic mathematical decisions, rather than putting too much emphasis on emotionally based principles. Do our communities not have a vested interest in educating people to be self-reliant?  Reality is that many parents fail at this, and the rest of us pay the price.

Why don’t we invest aggressively in educating kids to succeed, early, when we can make the most difference?  Why, for the sake of being able to remind people that they failed at personal responsibility, do we forsake the mathematically better option of investing in their potential at the earliest chance?

I understand that “small government” people want to believe that government can’t create jobs. But that is not accurate. One can believe in the principle that government shouldn’t create jobs, but we can’t have productive conversations about fixing our economy without acknowledging that government can and does create jobs.  Government can spend money to create jobs improving our infrastructure.  People working those jobs would pay taxes from those wages, and at the same time need less taxpayer assistance.  We are in critical need of the improvements.  Win. Win. Win.
Math, morals and recent history all support raising the minimum wage.  All of the states that have recently raised the minimum wage have seen better economic growth than those who haven’t.  Raising the wage has been proven not to cost jobs.

If we raise the minimum wage, people working those jobs will have more money to spend in their local economies. Less of them will need assistance.  Win. Win. Win.  Morally, if a business can’t complete its mission without certain tasks being done, the people doing those tasks need to be appropriately valued financially for that.

Math, morals and recent history also support keeping and widening the Affordable Care Act.  Math projections not influenced by the ” principle” of “make it on your own, buddy” indicated that the ACA would slow the rise of healthcare costs, and this is indeed what is happening.

Discussing “tax and spend” issues need to include long term fiscal outcomes also. Businesses do better when we have good infrastructure. Why aren’t they willing to support proper maintenance of it? How can I take seriously any arguments against “entitlement” spending when tax breaks for businesses is off the table?  Why are successful corporations “entitled” to my tax dollars? Why is a tax for the military and the long term costs for veterans not part of the conversation?  We spare no expense for wars and equipment, with no return on that investment. Why won’t we spend money on things that will bring a positive return?

Taxes should be as low as possible.  They should be as fair as possible.  Low is defined how?  Fairness across the board, and meeting needs should be our first concerns.  Fairness depends upon including everyone, especially financially successful businesses.  The more exceptions that are allowed makes the system less fair for all of us.

Our national budget deficit is only half of what it was when Obama took over.   We can reduce this further in the long run, by investing wisely in education, infrastructure, health care and clean energy industries.

Laura Twing
Tipton

Americans Need To Work Together To Solve Our Nation’s Problems

together we will standLooking for a way forward, a new vision for our country calls us to step outside of our comfort zones.  How can we work together to solve our county’s problems? One of the first steps will be to properly identify problems, and their causes. Another is to let go of ideas that may have worked in our past, but aren’t working now – being willing to take pieces from our favorite “isms” and join them with others to form paths forward.

Could our national “character” use a little tweaking towards more gentleness and cooperation, and less fear and competitiveness?

Separating the ideals of how we would like government to work, from the pragmatics of what we actually have available to work with, and what is actually possible.

Can we solve the debt issue? If we (temporarily!) value the principle of low taxes less than the solving of our debt, yes we can! Through restructuring our tax systems (temporarily!) by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy, and changing loopholes, we can erase our enormous debt.

While doing that, we also need to discuss the deficit in our budget using sound mathematics and accounting principles rather than ideological principles. We need to be willing to reassess priorities. We need to debate respectfully how our “scope of government” and “the general welfare” might be different in this century, from the time period when our nation began.

We spend a tremendous amount of money on public assistance of various kinds. Romney’s figure of 47% will do for an example. Mathematically, is this percentage of “non-producers” in our economy sustainable? Of course not! In a perfect world, that percentage would be zero, but that is not a realistic goal. This is where accurately identifying the underlying causes of this problem comes in if we want to lower that percentage permanently.

If we are assisting people who can’t make ends meet because they are not educated enough for “good jobs,” wouldn’t investing more up front for their education be both more economically sensible and offering them more dignity as humans? If we are assisting people who can’t keep a job due to health issues, isn’t investing in supportive, early intervention health care that keeps them more productive both more logical and dignified?

The only thing keeping us from investing properly in our citizens and our future, is our fixation on the principle of “making it on our own.”  This principle needs the perspective of properly defining average versus exceptional. Our American “rags to riches” dream celebrates the success of exceptional people. We are not all exceptional people. By definition, very few of us are exceptional. Most of us are average, some of us are below average, no matter what category we discuss.

Can we solve our off-kilter political system? To perfection, no. Since so many of us are too frustrated to participate in elections, should we come up with a different form of governing? Should we limit who “qualifies” to vote, or should we pay more than lip service to educating voters?

Governing, or managing happens. In business contexts, we value the concept of managing. We seem to view managing/governing in our civil lives as evil. Either we manage our society with accountable elected officials, or we let others manage it, i.e., religious groups or business interests who are not accountable to us.

Our management needs are different now than when we began and “small government” is another principle that distracts us from improving how government does its job.

Let us admit that we cannot reach any of our desired Utopias, and work on things we can fix, together.

Laura Twing

 

 

Bobby Kaufmann Disappoints Constituent

iowa capitolA disappointing week.  Too many reminders of why I didn’t vote for Bobby Kaufmann last time and won’t next time.

Despite a good bill regarding increases in penalties for animal abuse, and support for increasing the fuel tax in order to maintain our roads, he is still headed the wrong direction on the big items.

Nothing affects our state’s future course more than education.  Education needs to be our first order of business, and be the very first priority on the budget.  The Iowa House failed to invest in Iowa’s future this week.

This past week, Bobby chose to help “enable” the Iowa Taliban agenda.  In a bill that solves absolutely no problems, adds no safety to a private medical procedure, but restricts access to abortion for those most in need and disregards the fundamental rights of half of his district, he has chosen to govern by ideology. Obstructing the freedom to make personal choices about child-bearing gives conservatives a warm fuzzy feeling, without solving any actual problems.  Pretending that fetuses have a right to finish developing into a full term live birth strips rights away from women already fully involved in their lives.

Conservatives are wrong to view abortion as the apex of immorality.  In a time when contraception is safe and reliable,  producing children that you are unprepared to raise well is a far greater sin.

Parents have a moral obligation to prepare properly for child rearing. Responsible child rearing involves knowing what they will need to be taught and provided with to grow into healthy, productive adults.  Children cost money, and “God will provide” is not a financial plan. Sometimes the hard but correct choice is to terminate a pregnancy where the necessary elements for child rearing are not in place yet.

Placing requirements on women such as proving rape or proving health issues is a very slippery slope, and beyond demeaning.

Why does the party of personal freedom and individual rights exempt women from that concept?

Laura Twing lives in Cedar county, with her husband and various animal companions.

How My Mom Made A Difference

candleThe church choir sang at her funeral.

She was in the church choir nearly all of her life, starting at age six in the children’s choir, and all of her adult life, until dementia stole her ability to concentrate.

She brought us to every choir practice, Lenten dinner, fall soup suppers.  Mom became a church elder as soon as women were allowed to do so.  She helped with nursery duty, the food pantry, Sunday school and fixing dinners for various events.  She loved the community that had nurtured her parents and grandparents and great-grandparents.

She also served Jesus and her community through her career as a nurse.  She worked many years as a nurse practitioner at the local Planned Parenthood office.

She did cancer screenings, gave women accurate  science-based information regarding sexual activity and family planning, and listened! to women who had no other place to discuss their fears and dreams for the future.  As she listened to women lacking in financial security, or personal safety in relationships, or damaged senses of self-confidence, she kept in mind the overall message of the Gospel, that Jesus’s gift of grace frees us from the unachievable goal of gaining heaven through our own works.  Imperfect people caught up in imperfect lives still receive love and forgiveness from Jesus.  She loved being able to offer this grace to women seeking control of the reproductive aspects of their lives.

The last part of her nursing career was spent working for a doctor who did in-vitro fertilization.  She made babies.  She loved this approach to reproductive freedom as well.  She loved sharing the joy of bringing a healthy baby into the lives of these families who wanted with all their hearts to be parents. Every time I came home from college, I would find pictures of my new “sisters or brothers” on our mantel.   To this day, my parents receive Christmas cards from this “side” of the family, and several of these people attended her funeral.

From the joy of helping parents through infertility problems, to being a calming, non-judgmental source of information to women overwhelmed by circumstances or bad choices, my mother touched many lives outside of her immediate family.

Rest in peace, Mom, job well done!

Laura Twing lives in Cedar county, with her husband and various animal companions.

Why Population Growth Should Be Part Of Our National Conversation

population growth chartOur current tax system is unsustainable. Legalized tax evasion allows corporations to be “persons” in the political influence arena, yet excuses them from paying “income” taxes along with the rest of us. Estimates of tax monies lost this way range up to 140 billion dollars annually.

The “Bush” tax cuts have not resulted in jobs or economic growth for anyone except the wealthiest 1% in this country. Real wages and buying power are significantly lower than ten years ago.  Trickle down doesn’t.Is there a “correct” percentage to tax formulas? Top tax rates one hundred years ago were near 90%. Currently they are under 40%.

We need to address the damage to our fiscal security done by the financial crisis of 2008.  Risky business practices by financial institutions caused the crisis. Those entities were bailed out, costing taxpayers both the damage to the economy plus the money paid to bail said companies out. It is unjust to allow them not to pay the taxpayers back.

We need resolution on paying for our most recent wars.  A war tax needs to be implemented before we ask the the poor and voiceless to bear this cost.  Many companies and government contractors made tremendous profits off of these wars. They need to pay their share.

We need to remove corporate welfare and subsidies and tax protections for industries that don’t practice good community and conservation values.  They cost us real money in the present, and more in the future with their destructive practices.

We need to address our deficit in a comprehensive manner.  Ending all social assistance programs alone will not close the gap between income and payments.  We need to address the cultural reasons why so many of us are needing assistance. This will mean hard conversations involving childbearing, child rearing and population growth.  Ignoring these issues leaves other problems festering.

We need to put aside utopian ideals of low/no taxes and limited government.  We live in both local and global communities. We depend on infrastructure. We all need to pay in, to keep costs as low and fair as possible.

The fiscal year 2010 deficit was 1,294 billion dollars.  The deficit for fiscal year 2014 is projected to be 744 billion.  This is down by nearly half!

We still have a long way to go, and we need to fix more than welfare to get there.  There is no fiscal or moral justification for cutting off social assistance before revamping tax rates and corporate welfare.

Laura Twing lives in Cedar county, with her husband and various animal companions.

 

Freedom And Health Care Go Hand In Hand

freedomWhy does the song lyric “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”  keep running through my head these days?

Government is not “the problem.”  Government is the tool we have for managing our society.

Taxes are not evil, but an unjust system of who pays them is.

We have a very complex society these days compared to the years between the Pilgrims and the Founding Fathers.  The definition of “the common welfare” needs to include a different depth and perspective than it did before.

Our health care system needs to be separated from the insurance business.

People don’t die from a lack of insurance, they die from lack of medical care.

Freedom is expanded when we choose jobs because of  interests, abilities and personal  family needs, rather than on what healthcare benefits are offered.

Freedom and prosperity win when people don’t face bankruptcy over pre-existing conditions, or reaching insurance company pay-out limits.  Freedom is having a doctor advise you on health issues, rather than an insurance company employee.

I trust my insurance agent and company to advise and insure me in many areas of my life, but they add nothing to the healthcare issue beyond increased cost.

Laura Twing lives in Cedar county, with her husband and various animal companions.

Balancing The Exceptional With The Unexceptional Is Good For The Economy

rich get richer chartRecently, another adventuresome daredevil walked over a deep canyon, on a tightly stretched wire about 2 inches wide.  Using a balancing pole, he  crossed the canyon, in very windy conditions, with no nets below to catch him if he did slip. One slight miss-step and….

While most of us don’t need his level of skill and precision with balance in our own physical activities,  balance in other areas of our lives always needs more attention than it gets.

Many things are out of balance in our country right now.  One of the most pressing issues is the unsustainable percentage of our population that need financial support.  We must somehow increase the percentage of people who are actively and productively engaged in our economy.

How do we do this?

We already do a lot of blaming, and finger-pointing, and moralizing, and getting nowhere.

Americans love a good “rags to riches” story, and celebrate our opportunities for anyone to rise up out of their current circumstances into the good life.  Exceptional people can achieve any goal they work at in our country. Where this American ideal loses its balance is in defining exceptional.

Exceptional means not average, not normal.  Exceptional means the few, not the most.  Most of us are not exceptional.  Our growing gap between wealthy and average people changes the balance of opportunities, with more going to the already wealthy at the expense of the rest.  Our standard of living is sliding downward for the many, and rising for the few.

How did we end up thinking that only exceptional people are entitled to a decent standard of living?

Our current political attitudes and policies are lop-sidedly pro big-business and profit-only oriented.  We need to balance these with the needs of ” main street” and the external costs of products and lifestyles that cause damage.

Economic policies based on ever-increasing population growth, rather than on increasing the percentage of the population productively engaged in the economy, are short-sighted.  Combining these policies with vindictive social attitudes are cutting the throat on our future.

We need more balance between “personal responsibility” and community values.  I can chant “personal responsibility” all day long at my friend’s severely autistic child, but I will never succeed in getting her a job that will pay all of her bills, buy health insurance, and leave some savings for retirement. There will always be people that need the community’s financial support. Let us build stable support systems into our economic system.

One concept missing from the “personal responsibility” chatter is that parenting matters.  People learn most of their attitudes and life skills from their parents. When children are not taught good nutrition, financial management, civility skills and work habits at home,  there is a ripple effect in the community.  This is neither fair to the children who have been  raised inadequately, nor to the communities who end up helping them.  We continually evade this issue by claiming that all parents figure it out eventually, or “they are doing their best.”  We have too many people raising children whose “best” is never going to be adequate.  Why do we value children so little? Why do we not stress to the next generation that we need to value children enough to prepare ahead of time as much as humanly possible?

Procreating like rabbits is not “honoring” the God who gave us both brains, and the task of caring for his creation.

This past week, our national lawmakers chose vindictiveness over balance.  They chose to chant “personal responsibility” at hungry children, fully aware that most of these children won’t end up being exceptional enough to overcome their upbringing and improve their own parenting skills, contributing to another, larger generation of children needing community help.

It is time to consider new attitudes towards defining families and their role in society.  They truly are the “building blocks” of any community, and at the same time,  they can be our most destructive wrecking balls.

Parenting matters. It is time to stop pretending that everyone will be good enough at it.  It is time to acknowledge that some people have better gifts to give the community than additional children. Time to say that all children deserve prepared and committed parents. Time to acknowledge that people can be valuable members of their community without holding the title of mother or father.

Balancing our society’s needs in a sustainable future is going to shake a lot of us out of our current comfort zones.  Better that than the path we are on, with a dangerously unbalanced economy.

When we start treating child rearing as a responsibility worthy of prior thought and preparation, mindful of our children’s impact on the rest of the community, maybe then we can reduce the percentage of our population needing assistance.

Laura Twing lives in Cedar county, with her husband and various animal companions.

Another Feel-Good, Useless Chant from the Right

woman writing letter“Welfare should not be a career option.” Another feel-good, but useless chant from the Right.

How does chanting “personal responsibility” actually help solve anything?

There is no doubt that nationally, we have a an unacceptably high percentage of our population dependent upon help.

Why do some people think a good lecture is all we need to fix this?

That a lack of any help will motivate enough people to correct their situations on their own?

It doesn’t work that way. A tiny percentage of welfare use can be blamed on genuine laziness or gaming the system, but the vast majority of people receiving our various types of assistance have gotten to that point with help from circumstances beyond their control.

From people born with physical or mental disabilities, to those who develop them later in life, what kind of civilized societies abandon them to a life of poverty, or demands that the rest of their families bankrupt themselves to provide decent care?

What is harder for many people to comprehend, is that parenting actually does matter. No matter what your home life is like as a child, good or bad, that life to each individual child is seen as normal. Patterns learned in childhood tend to be repeated, and many people never get far enough away from their view of normal to gain perspectives that can help them choose a different normal.

While exceptional people can break out of destructive family patterns, most of us are not exceptional. Most of us are average, and need help from people outside the family to unlearn destructive patterns. Without offering this help, we risk increasing the percentage of people needing help each successive generation. The Right’s feel-good chants are actually less than useless, they are digging the holes deeper.

If you want less people on the dole, we need a larger percentage of our population productively engaged in our economy. How do we do this? Not with Republican type economics. Those policies reward only exceptional people, and depend upon maintaining a large pool of uneducated and desperate workers to take advantage of.

Our world is changing and growing (as always). It is time to consider new attitudes toward family definitions, expectations and community values.

Families are frequently glorified as the building blocks of our (and any) society. However, they are also our most destructive wrecking balls.

Parenting matters. It is time to stop pretending that everyone will be good enough at it. It is time to acknowledge that some people can contribute better gifts to the community than another child. Time to say that all children deserve prepared and committed parents. Time to acknowledge that communities are only as good as the building blocks they are built with. Time to accept that people can be valuable parts of their communities without having the title of mother or father.

Economic policies based on ever increasing populations, rather than increasing the percentages of our population actively involved in stable economies are foolish. The pro-business, profit-oriented right wing policies of Republicans combined with short-sighted and vindictively oriented social attitudes are cutting the throat on our future.