Up to the challenge. Three Democrats vie for a spot on November's election ballot opposing three decade incumbent republican Senator Charles Grassley. We're questioning candidates Roxanne Conlin, Tom Fiegen and Bob Krause on this edition of Iowa Press.
Borg: In a little more than two weeks democrats will be rallying around the candidate they have chosen for taking another seat in the U.S. Senate. It is a seat now held by republican Charles Grassley. In fact, Grassley has held that senate seat for the past 30 years and has represented Iowa in Congress for almost 36 years. The three democrats campaigning to run against Grassley in November's election are at the Iowa Press table today.
Borg: Roxanne Conlin is an attorney, a former assistant Iowa attorney general and a former U.S. attorney and once ran for governor. Bob Krause of Fairfield is also a former state legislator serving six years in the Iowa House. He taught college economics and specialized in transportation and veterans affairs. Tom Fiegen, an attorney from Clarence, Iowa, a former college level instructor serving Iowa's legislature too. Welcome, to Iowa Press, all of you.
Borg: And across the Iowa Press table, Associated Press Senior Political Writer Mike Glover and Radio Iowa News Director Kay Henderson.
Glover: Ms. Conlin, if we could start this with you, primary elections are about activists picking candidates who are aligned with them on issues. But primaries are also about activists picking a horse they think can win in November. Make that case for me. Why should democrats support you because you can beat Chuck Grassley?
Conlin: I can beat Chuck Grassley and democrats ought to support me and republicans and independents too to support me because I have the background, the energy, the intensity and the experience to stand up to the special interests in Washington, D.C. I have spent my whole life standing up for individual human beings against very powerful special interest, the biggest companies in the world I've taken on to hold them accountable. And if democrats send me to Washington, if the people of Iowa send me to Washington, I'll stand up for them against Washington, against -- I'll hold Washington accountable.
Glover: Mr. Fiegen, a version of the same question to you. You've been out there for about a year, you don't have a lot of money in the bank, you don't have a very high standing in the polls. What is going to change over the next couple of months?
Fiegen: Well, one of the things we need to talk about is whether we're going to change the direction of the Democratic Party and change the direction of the country. In my view, Roxanne represents business as usual. And this is really the year of the insurgent. If you look at Scott Brown in Massachusetts, you look at a number of other races, one I'll point to that happened in Pennsylvania that was ignored when Specter was defeated is the lieutenant governor's race. The democrat that won, won with a few thousand dollars, beat the hand-picked insider by the Pennsylvania Democratic Party who had a million dollars.
Fiegen: This is really about connecting with the voters. The other part of this is people ignore the impact of the tea party on the Democratic Party. One of the things I've been hearing from some of the tea party is that they can't tell the difference between a democrat and a republican. They feel betrayed by democrats who run on one thing in Iowa and do something different in Washington.
Glover: Mr. Krause, we'll get to you in just a second. But Ms. Conlin, you've just been attacked, do you want to respond?
Conlin: Well, I don't think that I'm an insider, I've never held public office. I tried, Lord knows I tried, but I have not held public office. I have lived as a private citizen, I've met a payroll, I've been a small business person for more than 25 years and certainly I have friends in the Democratic Party. I've been an activist democrat, I have participated in every campaign since 1960 and I'm proud of being a democrat and participating in electoral politics not as a candidate, but as a supporter.
Glover: Mr. Krause, the same question to you. You've been out there for a good long time, you don't have a lot of money in the bank, you haven't made great in roads with the democratic establishment. What is going to change over the next few months?
Krause: I think we need to look at November, who is going to win in November and I think I'm the best candidate to win in November. I have a strong base with the veterans, I can talk on national defense issues with confidence and we have two wars going on right now. We have an incumbent that has got a terrible record on veterans, he has been a hawk that encouraged us to get into the wars that we're in. I think that's a strong point for me.
Krause: I think that this race in particular has not been measured. All the polls that have been taken have been Conlin/Grassley, Fiegen/Grassley, Krause/Grassley with, of course, Ms. Conlin because she's got some short-term money here helping her out.
Glover: But don't those polls tell us something?
Glover: Don't those polls tell us something?
Krause: Nothing has been taken of the activists who are likely to vote in a low turnout election between Tom Fiegen, Roxanne Conlin and Bob Krause. I am targeting my veterans, I am targeting labor, I am targeting peace activists and those are the people that are most likely to vote in this election.
Henderson: Mr. Krause, should you win the Democratic Party’s nomination Chuck Grassley will argue that democrats like you are just big government socialists and that Iowans shouldn't throw away his seniority. How will you counter his general election argument?
Krause: Well, Mr. Grassley has not used his seniority very well. I think we all remember the rainforest idea, $100 million in never never land and first in Coralville and then Pella and then nowhere else. He had a plan to put light rail in Sioux City that nobody had heard of and all of a sudden they had a $10 million grant. He is not a cohesive legislator in his strategy of getting money for Iowa. He pops the thing that happens to sound good to him and he has made some huge mistakes. I think as Mr. Fiegen said, this is the year of the outsider. People are upset that this fella has been in there for 52 years and that he is parroting a hard, partisan line. They want somebody that can make things different.
Henderson: Mr. Fiegen, one of the reasons Chuck Grassley has been in office for 52 years is because he is popular. How do you counter the argument that Chuck Grassley is the most popular incumbent in Iowa history?
Fiegen: Kay, this year is different. Chuck Grassley's stock and trade has been he's honest. He has said to Iowans since 1958, you may not agree with me but you can trust me. And I've actually had democratic legislators say to me that when they served with Chuck Grassley if he told you he would support your bill it didn't matter what the republican leadership did, he was with you. That changed this last year. Chuck Grassley has broken trust with Iowans. That is why he's vulnerable, that's why we're all here. And it's on health care. He started off with Senator Baucus and the group of six, then he came out and did the town hall meetings where he said outrageous things, if we pass the democrat's bill Ted Kennedy won't get treatment for his brain cancer, if we pass the democrat's bill we're going to have bureaucrats pulling the plug on grandma.
Fiegen: Then he goes back to Washington and pretends to be bipartisan but ends up, in essence, trying to stalemate the healthcare bill. After it passes, he then says I want to take credit for the non-profit provisions for hospitals. Now he's writing letters to the editor, including the Cedar Rapids Gazette, where he said, I never said pull the plug on grandma. Today as we sit here, Kay, I'm not sure Iowans know where Chuck Grassley stands on healthcare. And once you've broken that trust no amount of money is going to get that back.
Henderson: Ms. Conlin, how do you counter the argument of seniority and the argument he will throw at democrats that you're a bunch of socialists and in favor of big government spending?
Conlin: Well, if anyone is in favor of big government spending in this race it's Chuck Grassley. I know that's counterintuitive, I know he's very popular and I think that that popularity has waned significantly since he started talking about pulling the plug on grandma, something that embarrassed most of the people in Iowa and which nearly everyone realized was not true, including him. And then at the same time he is pretending to work towards a bipartisan solution he's sending out a fundraising letter in Iowa saying, don't worry, I'm never going to vote for Obama care. And so I think that his seniority hasn't really done much good for the people of Iowa. What good does it do if it's not being used to answer the needs of the people of Iowa? And I think at this point we can safely say that Chuck Grassley is answering the needs of big oil and Wall Street in voting for the bailout.
Borg: You mentioned big oil and I want to take a question on big oil and what is happening in the Gulf right now to Mr. Fiegen first of all. President Obama has imposed a moratorium on any further drilling, consideration of for I think 30 more days if not longer.
Borg: What should happen during that moratorium? What questions need to be asked? What would you, if you were in the U.S. Senate right now, what questions do you think ought to be asked and answered during that moratorium?
Fiegen: Dean, I think the first question we need to answer is, is our technology up to the task of deep sea drilling and with the protectors failing and not having back-up protectors I think the first thing we've got to determine is whether or not our technology is really at the level to allow deep sea drilling. The second question we need to answer is do we have too cozy a relationship between our government regulators and the regulated? We've always had this problem of the revolving door where people that previously worked for energy or worked for minerals management go to work for a private industry and then private industry executives retire, if you will, to government regulation.
Fiegen: During these days let's figure out if we've got the technology. If we don't, let's stop. And if we have the technology then we need to make sure that it's used in every well, every drill head and make sure that our regulators are enforcing what we have on the books in the way of laws.
Borg: Ms. Conlin, the question is how would you use this time to answer questions and what needs to be answered?
Conlin: Well, I think the ultimate question is, can we do this safely and we already know the answer. The answer is no, we cannot.
Borg: So, the answer is in as far as you're concerned?
Conlin: As far as I'm concerned.
Borg: No more ...
Conlin: I watch that oil gushing out of that well into the Gulf of Mexico and I say, what in the world were we thinking. I think most people in the Department of Minerals should be fired, these are people who were literally sleeping with those that they were supposed to be regulating and snorting cocaine off of toaster ovens in 2005. They are still there so it's not surprising that they waived, they waived the law and we are suffering the consequences, all of us. Eleven families have lost family members and so I just think that at this point the moratorium should continue until we have cleaned out the Department of Minerals Management, until we have assured the people of the United States and of the world and our children and grandchildren that we are not going to follow the ocean for all time.
Borg: Well, I thought I heard, just as you were concluding there, an equivocation. You said until we've cleaned out the bureau. Are you saying that maybe we will resume in the future deep sea drilling?
Conlin: Well, I think that there are plenty of alternatives to deep sea drilling, some of them right here in Iowa. Let's use solar and wind and biomass and corn and let's not take the chances. I need to understand how that will impact the people of Iowa in terms of gasoline prices which I'm sure are going to shoot right up as a result of this even though there may be no justification for it.
Borg: Mr. Krause, would you have drilled in the first place?
Krause: Yes, I would have drilled in the first place but the problem was basically during the Bush administration when the guard was taken down. It's no secret to anybody in this world that we had tremendous problems with coattail regulation during the Bush administration. Bush put cronies in, he was tight with the oil industry and those ties stayed but the magnitude of the thing is such that we can't walk away. Worldwide there are 800,000 wells in ocean today, 800,000 and probably a couple hundred thousand that affect the United States .
Borg: Mr. Krause, what would you want answered during this time?
Krause: I would do a rebrush of where the environmental degradable areas are. I would place everything in Alaska and the North Slope off seas. I would relook the coast for sensitivities and I would look at the technologies involved in the safety conduits of the wells themselves as well as a military response structure. When this happened I looked through the Army inventory on pumps and there are quite a few pumps but there's no deployment plan for those pumps. One thing that surprised me that happened was that there was no emergency headquarters called up. When Hurricane Andrew occurred, when Katrina occurred, some of these others a military headquarters was called up to put the structure, the response structure in place.
Krause: To the best of my knowledge that never happened. That stayed with BP and that was a huge mistake.
Glover: Ms. Conlin, there is a debate right now over repealing the don't ask, don't tell policy in the military. The house has already approved that. In the senate, would you vote to repeal that policy?
Conlin: Absolutely and I think that it is way past time that we acknowledge that we have gay and lesbian soldiers, have been serving in the military since the Civil War, at least. It's time that we permit them to serve openly, with dignity and with honor. There is no excuse for not doing that. These are people who are willing to give their lives for us, these are people who want to serve and by eliminating them we have lost some of the most talented soldiers in our military. Arab linguists have been discharged because of what they are, not because of what they do.
Glover: Mr. Fiegen, the same question to you. If you're elected to the senate you'll have a vote on that. How will you vote?
Fiegen: I will vote to repeal.
Glover: Mr. Krause?
Krause: I will vote to repeal and I came out in favor of repeal in the spring of 2009.
Henderson: This past week President Obama announced that he was sending troops to the border with Mexico . Mr. Krause, would you support such a move?
Krause: I would but I understand the problems on the border. Why the border is sensitive on troops is because several years ago they sent down a Marine team to do policing on the border and, of course, the rules of combat are a lot different than the rules of engagement for picking up illegal immigrants and a young, innocent goat herder along the Mexican-American border was slain in that incident. That is why the training is very important. It doesn't matter whether or not a person wears a uniform or not to police the border but they need to have the proper kind of training. It's a different kind of war down there. You're preventing smuggling, you're preventing the smuggling of drugs, people are fearful of the border incursions we've had. There was an Arizona rancher that was just slain in an immigrant related incident not very long ago.
Krause: There is real fear on the border. The thing is to treat that enforcement equitably and make sure that the people down there on the border are properly trained to deal with it.
Henderson: Mr. Fiegen, has the U.S. government figured out border control?
Fiegen: It has not, Kay. 1200 guard members are not going to seal the border or make sure that we don't have any more narcoterrorism. I've called for sending in Army troops and I agree with Bob that they have got to be adequately trained. But I think the first thing that we have to do in this national debate is we have to feel secure, that our states of Arizona, Texas and other states do not feel as though their citizens are at risk of death or harm.
Fiegen: The electric fence hasn't worked, the virtual wall hasn't worked, we need to do more and I think at this point the President should call up the Army, bring out troops from Fort Hood, secure the border with whatever number it takes, 10,000, 20,000, we need to do more than just 1200 guard members backing up the border guards that are there.
Henderson: Ms. Conlin, what would be your answer to border security?
Conlin: It is time for Congress to stop kicking the can down the road. This requires a permanent solution. I do support sending the 1200 guardspeople down there to help out the border patrol and it is important to know that border patrol people do have a different kind of training and they will be in charge, they will be overseeing the work of the guardspeople. So, I don't support sending a lot of troops down there, I do support increasing border patrols. It is clear that the fence is not working and it's never going to work.
Conlin: I just read an article about the number of tunnels that have been dug underneath it and they have built some kind of a truck, this is for the narcoterrorists, these are for the drug dealers. They built a truck where a thing comes out of the back of the truck, goes up over the fence, they drive stuff up and down. So, let's not engage ourselves in hugely expensive and ridiculous efforts. Let's do it for real. We do have to make people secure, not only drugs, but human trafficking is happening at our border.
Glover: Ms. Conlin, let's stick with you for a second. You're a pretty prominent lawyer here in the city of Des Moines. There is a nominee before the senate, Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court. Would you vote to confirm her? What standards would you apply to justices of the Supreme Court?
Conlin: From what I know I would certainly vote to support her. I think the standards have to be legal knowledge and a willingness to adhere to precedent, good judgment would be helpful. I don't think it matters that she does not have judicial experience. I would really like to have someone, you know, from Iowa, not all from Connecticut and Yale and Harvard but Drake would be good or the
Glover: Mr. Krause, same question to you. Elena Kagan's nomination is before the senate, would you vote to confirm her? And down the road, when other justices are nominated, what standards would you apply?
Krause: Yes, I would vote to confirm her. In terms of future judges I think that we basically have a New England court now and that has developed over a period of time and it is a terrible precedent for this country. We have, I think, even the religious breakdown now, I believe it's six Catholics and three Jewish, no protestants, that is going to be a sharp point for some people. It doesn't bother me but some people that really bothers.
Krause: Not having anybody from west of the Mississippi at all is a huge problem. I think geographic balance is important simply because it states that we're all the same country and we're not guided from a tiny pocket up in the northeast part of the country.
Glover: Mr. Fiegen, assuming you're not nominated to the Supreme Court, would you vote to confirm Elena Kagan? And what standards would you apply? You're a lawyer.
Fiegen: Mike, first thing is of what I know of her I believe she should be confirmed. That said, between my law practice and campaigning I have not reviewed her record and one of the things with any future justice I would want to review their writings. The other thing is my philosophy I think is very similar to Harry Blackman and he was one of my favorite Supreme Court justices. The question he asked the court every time a case came before them is how will our decision affect the individuals in front of us? And he really had a focus on the human beings that were there, not simply an abstract area of law.
Glover: Does the geography bother you?
Fiegen: Mike, I think qualified people can come from anywhere in the country. I was happy when we had two justices from Minnesota but I don’t' think that there should be any litmus test, including a regional litmus test. Let's find people who are qualified, let's find people who are compassionate. One of the things about the law that they taught us in law school is there is this tension between certainty and justice, that if a contract is written a certain way that favors an insurance company certainty says the insurance company wins all the time, justice says there's times where the widow did not get the benefit of the contract and justice should prevail.
Borg: Mr. Fiegen, just a quick question to all of you and then we'll go onto Kay. If you were on the senate judiciary committee what question would you ask her?
Fiegen: Dean, I think the first question I would ask her is to tell me those times in her life where she exercised compassion and where she maybe backed away from the power that she had as the dean of the
Borg: You'd ask a compassion question, then.
Fiegen: Yes, I would.
Borg: Ms. Conlin.
Conlin: What are your values? What matters to you?
Krause: What bothers me -- the one thing that does bother me about Ms. Kegan is that she has come down on the side of executive authority very strongly.
Borg: But what would you ask?
Krause: What is your view on the power of the executive relative to the legislative.
Henderson: Let's shift to deregulation. All of you have expressed interest in financial reform. I'm wondering in what areas you would have the senate address deregulation of other industries. Ms. Conlin?
Conlin: Well, I think that where the last administration most dramatically failed was in deregulation of simply every industry. That was a goal and it was a goal that they were very successful in. Then, of course, also they put people in charge of agencies who did not believe in the mission of the agencies. It's going to take quite a while, I think, to turn that around and we've seen the evidence of that with the oil spill and with people in the Department of the Interior who still don't believe in the mission of the agency, apparently. So, I think we need to look at each agency and determine what needs to be regulated to fulfill its mission. I don't support regulation, crippling regulation but government has a role to play in keeping us safe and we have seen such enormous failure of government in terms of Wall Street, they drove the economy off the cliff, they cost our nation trillions of dollars while they enriched themselves and then they took $700 billion and enriched themselves even further.
Henderson: Mr. Fiegen, how would you re-regulate business and industry in this country?
Fiegen: Actually I think the media field, Kay, that all of you are in, we have had tremendous consolidation in ownership, we've had tremendous consolidation in resources and I think that it has affected the news that we receive. I mean, I've got to tell you, Iowa Press and National Public Radio are about the only two sources I trust now. I read a few blogs but the media control and the consolidation is so intense you're really questioning are we getting the news. And so as a junior senator from Iowa I would certainly look at bringing back the fair use doctrine, I would bring back breaking up the media industry, let's have news outlets that are independent and are regional. When you listen to radio stations we get the same news here they get in Dallas, Texas on a couple of the big ones where they play the disc or they punch up -- where is the Iowa news on those stations? Is it 30 seconds or what?
Henderson: Mr. Krause, are you concerned about regulations? Are you concerned about monopolies?
Krause: My thought on it is that a republican is a person that believes that government cannot work and then when selected sets out to prove that fact. I think that's what got us in trouble in the first place, we've got too many republicans doing our regulations. I think anti-trust is a huge thing. When you look at a section of land today it costs, in terms of putting seed corn on 640 acres, it's going to cost a farmer about $100,000 today. That is probably at least quadruple what it was maybe ten, fifteen years ago before Monsanto got its patent rights across the board.
Krause: It's a huge shift of wealth. I think it's probably between a quarter and a half a billion dollars per year that comes out of Iowa and goes into these pockets. We need to look at the farmer and what these rural monopolies are doing and it's primarily the economic thing where things are spinning out of control. We need to look at safety and regulation there. We need to look at antitrust. We need to look at our financial regulations.
Glover: You all three have said in the past that you favor raising the threshold for social security taxes. Is that still your position?
Krause: No. I take it back, I do favor it some to balance. I was inverting the question.
Glover: Ms. Conlin, do you favor increasing the threshold?
Conlin: I am willing to let the deficit commission look at all the options and decide how best to solve the problem of solvency for social security.
Glover: Mr. Fiegen.
Fiegen: Mike, let me clarify the question. The question is whether or not people who are drawing social security may earn more wages without paying tax on it? Or is it that we would take the cap up? My answer is I don't want to do anything more to retirees and I think there has been some confusion on that. I am in favor of removing the cap so that somebody who is making $400,000 a year pays social security tax all the way up just like I do, just like the other people at this table.
Glover: Ms. Conlin, we're talking about a fairly large deficit, we're talking about a commission that is looking at what to do about the deficit. Is it inevitable that higher taxes will be a part of that solution?
Conlin: Well, we set up a trust fund for social security into which people, workers, paid money. It was supposed to be used to keep social security solvent. That was the promise made to the American people. Well, now all it's got in it is IOUs from the government, they took the money out and spent it on other things. They should pay that money back, the government needs to be fair to us, to all of us who paid taxes for social security. In terms of is it inevitable that taxes are raised? I don't think so but as I said I want to let the deficit commission work, I want to see what options are available. I do not want to break our promise to seniors.
Glover: Mr. Krause, same question to you. Is a tax increase inevitable as Congress wrestles with this deficit?
Krause: Not across the board. I think that what we need to look at is the automatic repeal of the Bush tax credits that were established in major part by Grassley in 2001. That is going to happen this year and that is going to trigger a whole bunch of things that become automatic. I think that what we need to look at is that two or three percent of that huge tax cut that actually went to the average person, the taxes on people $100,000 and above or more that I believe they said that tax generated -- 90% of the benefits went to the top two percent is I believe what they said. That needs to happen.
Glover: Mr. Fiegen, same question to you, is a tax increase, as Mr. Krause suggested for the wealthier, inevitable?
Fiegen: Mike, I think the answer is yes. We're going to have to have a balance. Right now one out of three dollars, one out of three spent by our federal government is borrowed. We've got a deficit through April of $800 billion. We're not going to be able to close that through savings alone. So, we are going to have to look at a combination of leaner, tighter government but we're also going to look at taxes and let me say unequivocally I am in favor, if we have to increase taxes, of increasing those taxes for people that make more than $250,000. I feel as though they receive great benefits from our society, the stability of our country, they need to pay a greater share.
Fiegen: There is a United Way slogan that says sometimes we ride in the red wagon, sometimes we push. I don't think the wealthy Americans have been doing their share to help push the red wagon along for our economy and our nation.
Conlin: I hope my answer is clear, I thought you were still asking about social security but I do favor, I'm sorry, Mike, I do favor repealing the Bush tax cuts for the very wealthy, I do favor that.
Fiegen: And they don't have to be repealed, they are sunset, just simply allowing them to sunset.
Glover: But you would all let them expire.
Conlin: Yes, I think so.
Henderson: Let's turn to trade policy. You all have articulated a vision of renegotiating trade pacts with other countries, with an ITOre environmental regulations and labor laws. Moving beyond that, Mr. Krause, you have advocated tariffs on certain countries on the importation of certain goods. How would you counter the republican argument that protectionism never works?
Krause: Well, if you look at the historic republican argument it's on Smoot Holly which was a tariff that was passed in the 30s. The thing about when they use that as an excuse and say the tariffs never work, in that time period, only about one percent of the gross domestic product of this country was tied up in international trade and they blamed the entire Depression on that. That was patently wrong and it was a political thing. Back in the 1880s, if you want to go way back into history, we had nearly 90% of the federal government's tax revenue came from import duties which are the only authorized constitutional levy that we have, import duties.
Krause: And so if we look at what we need I have been advocating a national job strategies commission that will look around at the different categories, we have national defense where we've made some terrible mistakes in outsourcing jobs relating to national defense that are causing us security problems. We've made terrible mistakes in sending jobs overseas where there are huge human rights abuses. We have made terrible mistakes overseas where there are environmental abuses. We need to look at those and see where we need to pull those jobs back into America through this national job strategies administration.
Borg: They have to be jobs back here, though, you can't just go to Guatemala and pull ten jobs back.
Krause: Well, if you were somebody in Lake Mills, Iowa you might say yeah, pull them back. Up there in Terry Branstad's hometown there's 400 jobs that are going from Lake Mills down to, Cummins Filtration, and they are going down to San Luis Potosi, Mexico. They are paying $14 an hour up in
Borg: But what would you do to get the job back?
Krause: Well, we put up tariffs, we put up import duties that creates the competitive wall to bring those back and they can be manufactured in the United States .
Henderson: Ms. Conlin, do you think that tariffs are the answer? And if you were to renegotiate trade deals how would you deal with competitors like Brazil who are aggressively moving into the Chinese market?
Conlin: I don't think we want to start a trade war. Many people in Iowa are employed because of exports. I learned, however, from a pork producer who I flew with recently that we are not -- that tariffs are being imposed, they're called something else I think, by China on our pork and we need fairness in our trade agreements, we need aggressive negotiating by skilled negotiators who won't start where they want to end. We need to renegotiate, obviously, our current trade agreements which have put us and our workers at a terrible disadvantage. They have not worked out how they were supposed to work out. We need to be sure that people who are competing with us across borders are doing so not by employing, for example, child labor. We are subsidizing child labor.
Glover: You said you don't want a trade war. Aren't we already in a trade war?
Conlin: Well, it hasn't been declared and I think we can make peace but we can't make peace by disadvantaging people across the country, it's not hypothetical for Iowa. We've got Maytag, we've got Electrolux, we've got Cummins, it's not hypothetical. These are problems that we have got to solve.
Henderson: Mr. Fiegen.
Fiegen: Let me bring an economic perspective to this because I taught economics for eight years. In economics we view trade as good because of a principle called comparative advantage. That is, if I can raise corn better and cheaper than you can, Kay, maybe I buy machinery from you and I raise the corn and I trade wit you. And that is the premise of all this free trade. The problem with that is when countries put their finger on the scale to make their products less expensive than they really cost them.
Fiegen: The second thing is, we view in economics that if there is a trade imbalance the currency of a country that is running the trade deficit will decline, the dollar will go down in value so that those imports become more expensive.
Henderson: So, what is the answer as a United States Senator?
Fiegen: The first thing the United States Senate has to do is adopt a national trade policy. China has one. Right now when our companies like Cummins or Caterpillar or Boeing go to China they are one-on-one with the Chinese government. It is a mismatch and the problem is we don't have a national trade policy that says, here is what the rules are, here is what we're going to play. And when I talk to people about whether or not we need protectionism or whether or not we need to have health, labor and safety rules incorporated they say first of all, we've got to have a national policy. We don't have a national policy.
Borg: We're talking about jobs here. Ms. Conlin, is a second stimulus program necessary? Unemployment remains stubbornly high and yet we have a massive deficit.
Conlin: I think that there are targeted things that we need to do. We need to invest in infrastructure, we need to invest in green energy, safe, sustainable, homegrown energy that replaces all that oil streaming out into the Gulf of Mexico.
Borg: Government spending to stimulate?
Conlin: To invest in energy. My gosh, we spend $36.5 billion on subsidies to big oil, for which Senator Grassley has voted repeatedly. Take that money and build new sewers, build new roads, make our bridges safer and employ people while doing it. These are things that need to be done. The weatherization programs can be expanded not just to private homes but to public buildings and to commercial buildings. There is a lot we can do to put people back to work and we need to do it. I won't rest until every single person who wants a job has a decent job at a fair wage.
Borg: Mr. Krause, second government spending stimulus program?
Krause: We need another stimulus program. I have advocated that we need to basically shut down the war in Afghanistan . But we also need to look at what we can do to stop the, staunch the bleeding of jobs overseas. Right now we're losing about 300,000 a month to international outsourcing. Nouriel Roubini, a prominent economist, estimates that one in every four jobs in America will be internationally outsourced in the next decade. How can we get people to work if one in every four jobs is going to go away?
Borg: Thank you for that. Mr. Fiegen.
Fiegen: Dean, yes we need a second stimulus bill, a second jobs bill. Talking about the deficit is like saying to the firemen that are putting out your house fire, conserve water. And my answer to republicans is let's put the house fire out first, let's get unemployment down to at least five percent, then let's address the deficit.
Borg: Where should the stimulus be? Ms. Conlin targeted some specific areas.
Fiegen: Dean, I think it has to be on public works projects and infrastructure. What I'm hearing from Iowans is most of our communities have 150 year old sewer and water systems. They are collapsing underneath them. Davenport and Bettendorf had a consultant come in, $220 million, they don't have that kind of money and many of our communities have what is called a combined system. That is, when you flush the toilet and when the water runs off the curb there in a single pipe. That works fine until you have a big rain and then it all goes right out into the river.
Borg: But where are you going to get the money to stimulate the economy?
Fiegen: We're going to borrow it, Dean. We're borrowing money right now at zero percent interest. If you're a homeowner or the government, if you can borrow at zero percent interest and put 26 million people back to work, borrow the money until everybody is back to work.
Borg: Ms. Conlin.
Conlin: Well, we borrowed money for an awful lot of things we didn't need including two wars that Senator Grassley supported. We borrowed money to give two huge tax breaks mostly to the very wealthy. We borrowed money to give it to the drug companies and the Medicare Part D. If we have to borrow money in a targeted way to put people back to work I think that is something that the nation supports.
Glover: Ms. Conlin, you're a Des Moines lawyer but one of the things you're going to have to do if you're elected United States Senator is vote on a farm bill. Can you tell Iowa farmers that traditional farm subsidies will continue in any farm bill you support?
Conlin: Yes, I can tell Iowa farmers that subsidies will continue but only for people, only for people who don't make $2.5 million a year.
Glover: So, you'd continue subsidies ...
Conlin: And not for people who live in Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia . The 2008 farm bill was supposed to be targeted to independent family farmers but it hasn't worked out that way and 75% of the money goes to 10% of the farmers. I want to support Iowa's family farmers. I did so by fighting against foreclosure during the farm crisis, fighting to save centennial farms and I would so in Washington, D.C. It's the family farmers who deserve the nation's support.
Glover: Mr. Fiegen, same question to you. Can you assure Iowa farmers that any farm bill you support will continue to have what we know as traditional farm subsidies?
Fiegen: Dean, the first thing I want to say is I'm not sure Roxanne knows enough about agriculture to vote on the bill. I asked her last night about number two corn, she didn't know what number two corn was. The other thing is, she claims to defend farmers from foreclosure. I did a database search before I came here today on three databases, I couldn't find a reported case where Roxanne Conlin or Conlin Associates appeared on behalf of the family farmer defense. And I guess I would ask her to produce today a published case where she saved a family farmer from foreclosure.
Fiegen: I have brought with me two published cases of many where I have saved family farmers. Now onto the farm bill. We do need to protect established practices but we need to wean farmers from the subsidies and we need to target them to beginning farmers and we need to target them to local food production.
Glover: Ms. Conlin.
Conlin: Thank you. There are -- I don't know if there are published cases or not. There may not be because much of the work that I did was dealing directly negotiating for the farmer with the bank in an effort to solve a problem. That is a lot of what I do, it's not a matter of doing it in public, it's a matter of truly solving the problems that exist and I'm not surprised that there are no published cases but indeed that was the kind of work that I did in the 80s.
Borg: Are you going to brush up on number two corn before you're elected to the senate if that happens?
Conlin: Yes, I promise that I will and other esoteric subjects and definitions and the like. I think that I'm a pretty quick study and my grandfather was a farmer.
Glover: Mr. Krause.
Krause: We need to prevent farm subsidies to become the engine of farm consolidation and that is something that has happened in the past. A farmer will go in, a large farmer, if his neighbor has got a cash rent he might bid that so low that the farmer that depends on that cash rent for a substantial portion of his income can't compete and is driven out of business. And then the farmer that bid low on that will use his farm subsidies to make up the difference. We need to have some firewalls in that to prevent aggression by one farmer against another when there is a battle over cash rents.
Krause: I think a cap is part of it but there are probably other internal dynamics that we need to deal with because farm consolidation is still going on, we still have older farmers that are retiring and we have small farmers that can't get into business.
Henderson: Mr. Krause, there are industries in Iowa built around federal tax credits for ethanol and biodiesel. How would you, as a U.S. Senator, convince your colleagues that that's not just pork barrel spending?
Krause: Well, I was the fella that helped start the ethanol subsidies in Iowa back in 1978 when I was involved in passing a gas tax increase, it had the very first ethanol tax break in it and it was about a penny if I remember correctly and there was a zero fiscal note attached to it because nobody thought it would cost any money. Now it's a huge industry. I think that we need to be very proud of what we've done in ethanol, we need to expand that over into the biofuels such as soy diesel, corn Stover, these kinds of things.
Krause: And I think that what has happened in the Gulf is a, it's terrible to say for the people that are living down there, but for Iowans and Iowa farmers it's a tremendous shot in the arm. It says, hey, we've got to get rid of this oil, we've got to look at what we can do to be self sustaining in wind power, we've got to look at what we can do to be self sustaining in our agriculture productions and I think we have the window and we can drive a diesel powered, soy diesel powered truck right through that door.
Henderson: Ms. Conlin, the oil spill happened more than a month ago. The senate has yet to pass the biodiesel tax credit. How would you change the debate?
Conlin: Well, changing things in the senate there are a lot of road blocks to doing that but obviously right now there is a bill that includes a biodiesel tax credit and I can't understand why they went home in December and left that on the table. And Senator Grassley was there, Senator Grassley had the power to move that and he didn't do that. So, we have disrupted our own industry tremendously. How can people plan? How can people move forward? People have been laid off because Congress is sitting on its hands and not doing what needs to be done in terms of an industry that is pretty much a baby industry, just starting out and needs support. As I said, let's take the $36.5 billion in oil subsidies and give it to clean renewable energy.
Henderson: Mr. Fiegen.
Fiegen: Bologna, bologna.
Borg: What is bologna?
Fiegen: Our subsidies of ethanol and our subsidies of biodiesel. We're subsidizing our ethanol plants to the tune of 45 cents a gallon and yet they're still failing in bankruptcy. VeriSun's plants are now owned by international firms. As the junior senator from Iowa one of the things I'll say to the other senators in terms of deficit reduction, I'm willing to step away from that, I'm willing to reduce that to prove to you that I'm serious about deficit reduction. One of the problems about the Gulf, we're drilling for natural gas because all of our ethanol plants are fired by natural gas.
Fiegen: And it takes as many BTUs of natural gas as you get from a gallon of ethanol. It's a net exchange. Let's burn the natural gas. I was at the onset of the ethanol industry during the Carter administration. I worked in it. I know how it works. But they have sold Iowans and they have sold American taxpayers ... biodiesel the subsidy is $1.50 a gallon so if we've got $3.00 diesel fuel and you're going to buy biodiesel half of that is paid by the federal government. That is way too much money. Either they have got to get more efficient or we need to wean them. It's not an infinite industry.
Glover: Mr. Krause, did you want to respond?
Krause: Yes, the VeriSun bankruptcy was actually a hedge fund scandal if you want to know about it. The farmers got caught -- VeriSun got caught in a hedge operation where speculators were getting out of the stock market and they were moving into commodities. They wound up with nearly a half a billion dollars being on the wrong side of a hedge and it forced them into bankruptcy. I don't think that has a thing to do with our national policies towards ethanol.
Krause: Ethanol has been an important thing for Iowa because we've been able to keep the protein of the corn and get rid of the carbohydrates of the corn. I think that if you talk to anybody, yeah it's an infinite industry, yeah there are some substantial subsidies but if we don't push in that direction what else are we going to have. Are we going to go out and deep drill some more and give those subsidies or subsidize with troops in Iraq ? Are we going to do that? That's a subsidy too.
Glover: Ms. Conlin.
Borg: Bologna, as Mr. Fiegen said?
Conlin: I don't agree with that at all. One point that he made is that they need to become more efficient. I agree and the way they become more efficient is with subsidies. Again, how can we be subsidizing the richest industries in the world with our tax dollars and not subsidizing efforts to make us energy independent. We need to be energy independent for jobs, for the environment and for our national security. We're sending all kinds of money to people who hate us, $100 million a day to Iran .
Glover: Ms. Conlin, let's stick with you for a second if we could. It's a longer Iowa Press show than usual but it wouldn't be an official Iowa Press show if we didn't talk just a little bit about politics. I'd like -- you've been around the state quite a bit. Tell me a little bit about the mood of this electorate. What is driving them?
Conlin: People are hurting, people are afraid, people want a change. People say to me in all 99 counties where I went, they came to me and said I voted for Chuck Grassley in the past, I'm not going to vote for him again because he has lost touch with Iowa. People feel isolated from their senior senator. They feel as though he is doing the bidding of Wall Street. One of the things that I heard every single place I went was about the bailout and as much as he has tried to conceal that vote he voted yes, he voted to do that. He also supports privatizing social security. Nobody that I have found in the whole state of Iowa thinks that is a good idea. Imagine what would have happened if social security funds had been in Wall Street when they drove the economy off a cliff.
Conlin: So, I think that lots of people are interested in Senator Grassley's record and are not pleased with what they see when they examine it and they want a change. They want somebody who will go to Washington and try to fix it.
Glover: Mr. Fiegen, the same question to you. What is driving the electorate out there? Are they mad? Are they angry? Are they hurt?
Fiegen: Mike, I think first of all they are struggling and I see people come in my front door -- I just filed bankruptcy for two widows that when they lost their husband couldn't keep their homes between their small pension and their social security. There are lots of Iowans that are stringing together two and three jobs. So, first of all, they're struggling.
Fiegen: Second of all, the tea party really has two parts. The first thing I'm hearing from the tea party are from the true fiscal conservatives who thought when they voted for republicans in '94, 2000, 2004 they were electing people that were in favor of smaller government. They found out that the republicans, including Chuck Grassley, are as big spenders as the democrats. But instead of giving the money to people who need it they are giving it to the biggest pigs at the trough and that infuriates the fiscal conservatives.
Fiegen: The second branch of the tea party that I'm seeing are the ones that feel betrayed by the democrats. They vote for democrats that run as blue collar democrats, as willing to help them and then when they get to Washington they vote for the fat cats. There is a bumper sticker I saw in the Cedar Rapids post office this week that said, democrats and republicans same, let me clean it up, stuff just different piles.
Glover: Mr. Krause, the same question to you. You travel around the state a fair amount. What do you think is driving this electorate?
Krause: I think they are hurting. I think especially small town America . When I was down in Dallas when I unfortunately missed my plane for yesterday I had a chance to look at the Dallas news down there and one of the headlines was no growth recovery. That's what we have. Why are we having a no growth recovery? Because when we get a little money to buy a new refrigerator or a new stove or a new washing machine or a new diesel engine with a Cummins filtration system on it or something like that is that stuff being manufactured in Iowa or the United States ? Usually not. It's going back overseas.
Glover: I assume you would all say that it's an anti-incumbent mood. Ms. Conlin, starting with you.
Conlin: Clearly that's a part of it but I think also that Senator Grassley has said things that have really caused Iowans a lot of concern about where his heart is and where his head is.
Glover: Mr. Krause, throw the bums out?
Krause: There's a lot of that going on, yes.
Glover: Mr. Fiegen?
Fiegen: Anti-incumbent and anti-insider, both.
Borg: Ms. Conlin, I want to follow up on something you said. On the financial bailout of to big to fail financial institutions you would not have voted to provide those financial incentives to keep those institutions afloat?
Conlin: I would not have voted for the bailout. I would not have voted to give $700 billion to Wall Street with no strings attached on the hope that they might do the right thing with it and they didn't. They used it to pay themselves obscene bonuses. They did not loosen credit. There was another way to do it.
Borg: Even though President Obama at that time was not president but he was advocating that?
Conlin: Even though -- I am a fiercely independent person, I would be a fiercely independent citizen legislator.
Henderson: Mr. Fiegen, you mentioned the 2004 election. Democrats heading in thought they had a good shot of John Kerry winning the presidency. That didn't happen because republicans argued that democrats can not keep you safe. In regards to the military tribunals versus domestic trials for terrorists, in regards to taking some of the people from Gitmo and moving them to a prison across the border in Illinois Senator Grassley is likely to make that same argument against whomever the democratic nominee is he will face in November. How will you counter his arguments that democrats can't keep you safe?
Fiegen: Kay, the first thing I've got to say is that I feel as though our civil liberties have been eroded by surveillance of our phone lines, by domestic surveillance. That scares me as an American. With regard to people that we classify as terrorists I do believe they are entitled to Miranda rights, I do believe they are entitled to civil trials. When I served in the legislature, and the two of you covered me, we reclassified terrorism so that a kid putting a firecracker in a mailbox in Iowa could be classified as a terrorist and when we lower that standard that says to me, wait a second here, we're maybe classifying too many people as terrorists and we're taking away their civil rights. That said, let's put that aside and say how do we keep America safe?
Fiegen: The answer to keeping America safe is not scare tactics but it is teaching Americans awareness, it is making sure our troops are here and it's making sure that our military expenditures are for national security, not no big contracts of people who happen to be friends of congress persons.
Henderson: Ms. Conlin, how do you answer that core argument that democrats can't keep you safe?
Conlin: That is the kind of fear mongering that the United States of America rejected in 2008 and I believe that they will reject in 2010. Democrats can keep America safe. You don't keep America safe by starting an unnecessary war in a foreign nation. You don't keep America safe by remaining in Afghanistan long after any useful activities are occurring there. We are having our soldiers build schools. I think we should take care of the people in Afghanistan, I think we should not abandon them but I don't think we need soldiers there, I think we need teachers, I think we need builders, I think we need people to help restore the infrastructure in Afghanistan and the issue of whether people who are charged with terrorism -- let's remember before people are convicted we as Americans we insist that they be found guilty, that is one of the core values. Any time we let terrorists dictate a change in our basic core values we have lost.
Henderson: Mr. Krause.
Krause: Well, I think if you look back in history Iowa has had prisoner of war camps here. There was one up in Algona. The mistake that the Bush administration made right off the bat was when Rumsfeld made the decision that the prisoners would be declared as enemy combatants rather than prisoners of war. Had he decided to make them prisoners of war there was an entire international body of law that was well accepted across the world that we would have been able to use. Instead they invented their own category and they have been having problems ever since.
Krause: I think in terms of what we can do to say, yeah, we're making America safer, a strong America is a safer America . If we have our troops scattered hither and yon all through the Middle East without a strategic reserve, which we have right now, if North Korea blew up where would we be? Our troops are all in Central Asia in a place that they can't do anything. We're stuck. We need to get them out of there, back home so we can redeploy our forces. We are unsafe because Senator Grassley wants us to stay in Afghanistan and put us in Afghanistan , put us in Iraq . We need to be safe and not being in Central Asia is part of it.
Borg: And that gives you the last word, you said you have to get them out of there and that's what I have to do is get us out of here right now. We're out of time. Thanks so much to all of you for spending time with us today.
Conlin: Thank you for having us.
Krause: Thank you.
Fiegen: Thank you.
Borg: On our next edition of Iowa Press just days before the Tuesday, June 8th primary elections we'll be talking with Iowa's two major political party chairmen, republican Matt Strawn and democrat Michael Kiernan will be here discussing the nuances of this election year. You'll see our conversation with Strawn and Kiernan at the usual times, 7:30 Friday night and 11:30 Sunday morning. I'm Dean Borg. Thanks for being with us on this extended Iowa Press.
Funding for Iowa Press was provided by Friends ... the Iowa Public Television Foundation. The Iowa Bankers Association ... for personal, business and commercial needs Iowa banks help Iowans reach their financial goals. Iowa Community Foundations, an initiative of the Iowa Council of Foundations ... connecting donors to the causes and communities they care about for good, for Iowa, for ever. Details at iowacommunityfoundations.org. And by the Associated General Contractors of Iowa ... the public's partner in building Iowa's highway, bridge and municipal utility infrastructure.