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Iowa News Analysis: February 12, 2009

posted on February 12, 2009 at 5:10 PM

David Pitt of the Associated Press and host Paul Yeager talk about Ellen Gordon as a finalist for the FEMA head job and her Iowa ties. Also the latest on the federal stimulus discussion and the creation of the populist caucus.

Paul Yeager: David, first of all we want to talk about Ellen Gordon.  She was in the Vilsack administration helping run things for a while and now it looks like she is trying or possibly one of the final two for a federal job to head FEMA. Tell us a little bit of background on her and what her chances are of getting this position.

David Pitt: We had an AP report, a Washington report on Tuesday that Ellen Gordon was one of the finalists for the position.  She has a 20 year record of emergency management.  She spent a lot of years here in Iowa.  She saw us through the 1993 flooding and through a number of natural disasters and then she was appointed to spearhead the state's efforts after the terrorist attacks on September 11th to kind of put together the plan for the state and really become its homeland security manager for the state of Iowa.  So, she has significant experience and she has also worked on a multi-state level to try to bring a consortium of different states together to kind of coordinate their efforts so she is known by governors outside of Iowa, she's known by people on the national level.

Paul Yeager: Someone with experience for that position which hasn't always been the case in times past.  Let's move on to another discussion topic on the federal level and this is about the federal stimulus update.  We're going to talk about it in depth tonight.  There are new developments today.  What are some of those?

David Pitt: Well, the developments are that it is moving forward.  It looks like it may be voted on in the house maybe tomorrow and then in the senate on either Friday or Saturday.  It kind of depends on how they get it through.  But there was a little bit of a dispute today, earlier today over how education spending is allocated and how the states handle it, how much control the governors have over the money that is being allocated to build schools and those kinds of things but it was resolved and the White House became a little alarmed for a while and sent someone over to the Capitol to kind of try to get the dispute kind of under control and they did.  So, it looks like it's done and it looks as if neither democrats nor republicans are totally happy with it.

Paul Yeager: Which sometimes means it's a good thing.  That's the way we always talk about that.  The stock market today was back down just a little bit, yesterday it did go back up but it's been a roller coaster again.  Is that all due to the discussion about this stimulus?

David Pitt: Well, primarily on Tuesday after the Treasury Secretary announced kind of the latest round of funding to try to get the whole situation in the economy under control it wasn't very well received it appears at least by people on Wall Street.  The Dow went down almost 400 points on Tuesday and bounced back a little bit yesterday, 50 points or so, and then today it looked like it was down maybe a couple hundred points again.  So, I think overall the impression is that there's some concern over what the federal government is doing is going to be enough and whether it's going to be effective in the right ways.

Paul Yeager: Hard to tell yet if there's going to be winners or losers when it comes to Iowa and how this federal stimulus money is going to go?

David Pitt: Yeah, until we see the final bill it looks like there are some winners and I think there's some concerns too.  Wind energy, for instance, there seems to be some tax credits for constructing additional wind turbines in the state, it has become a significant industry in Iowa, Iowa is now the second state in the nation as far as wind energy production and we have a number of companies that have moved here to build wind turbines.  And so there could be some impact if those tax credits go through.  I know Senator Grassley was a bit concerned about the state Medicaid formula seeming to think that Iowa didn't get its fair share there and he was kind of lobbying for that.  But I think an amendment he proposed didn't pass.  

Paul Yeager: It was part of his speech that he gave on Tuesday in front of the senate, it was all about Medicaid and continues to move there so we don't know all of that.  The last thing I want to talk about here in the last couple of seconds is the creation of what is being called a populous caucus.  It is 23 democrats chaired by Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley.  What exactly are they trying to address and accomplish?

David Pitt: This is a group of democrats who came together to create this caucus and their focus is going to be on middle class.  They are going to propose tax cuts, exempt for the middle class, good paying jobs, affordable healthcare, fair trade, consumer protections and just a number of things that they are bringing to focus as part of their priorities.

Paul Yeager: All right, David Pitt of the Associated Press thank you for stopping by tonight on The Iowa Journal. 


Tags: FEMA Iowa news stimulus


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