Five to one. Iowa republicans are choosing among five candidates, selecting one to carry the party's nomination to represent Iowa in the United States Senate. Tonight we're hearing, and comparing, those five candidates as they debate campaign issues on this special debate edition of Iowa Press, live from Iowa Public Television.
Borg: Hello and welcome to our special live debate edition of Iowa Press. Today was the first day of early voting in Iowa's 2014 primary election, about six weeks ahead of the June 3rd Election Day. Iowa republicans, at that time, will be anointing their candidate for the United States Senate, that seat being vacated by democrat Tom Harkin. First District Congressman Bruce Braley is already campaigning to hold that seat for democrats. Tonight, in this statewide telecast, and with an audience here at Iowa Public Television's Maytag Auditorium, five candidates will be telling us why they're the best choice to move that Senate seat to the republican column. Sam Clovis is a former Air Force pilot, professor at Sioux City's Morningside College and a radio personality. Joni Ernst serves in Iowa's legislature as a State Senator and as an Iowa National Guard Lieutenant Colonel. Matt Whitaker formerly served in the federal judicial system as a U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa. Mark Jacobs formerly headed Reliant, an electric energy company, and he also led education improvement organizations. Sales professional Scott Schaben manages a motor vehicle sales staff in Ames. Welcome to this special edition, candidates, of Iowa Press.
Thank you for having us.
Thank you, Dean.
Borg: Thank you for making time for us. And you may be all familiar with the regular Iowa Press discussion format but we're in a different setting here with an audience, in addition to our TV viewers, but the audience here at Iowa Public Television will be watching and listening, without cheering. As usual, I'll be moderating the discussion on this 90-minute long debate edition of Iowa Press. And much like Iowa Press there are no opening or closing statements, you'll have a series of questions and interactions with our reporters and a discussion or a debate, if you will, among the issues of the candidates. Discussions and questions coming from Des Moines Register Political Columnist Kathie Obradovich, James Lynch who writes for the Gazette published in Cedar Rapids and Radio Iowa News Director Kay Henderson.
Henderson: Mr. Jacobs, let's begin with you. The core of your campaign message has been that it is time to send a businessman to Washington. There are now and have been businessmen and women in Congress. Who among them would you emulate? And who has been the best change agent among them?
Jacobs: Well, Kay, I have a lot of respect for the businesspeople in Congress but I've got to tell you, I'm my own person and one of the things I had an opportunity to do about a dozen years ago was join a company by the name of Reliant Energy, which was financially troubled, and I helped, had the opportunity to lead that company back from the brink of bankruptcy. And I think when I look at the problems that Reliant had they're very similar to what we have today in our nation's capital. And we've got some great people on the stage here today but I'm the only one that has had the opportunity to inherit a fiscal mess and lead a company back from the brink of bankruptcy.
Lynch: Senator Ernst, you bill yourself as a mother, soldier, conservative. Which of those qualities is the most important for a U.S. Senator? And why no mention of your legislative service?
Ernst: Well, I would say that as a conservative that does tie in my legislative, my service to the state of Iowa. I think all of those are very important and they all tie together because as a mother I want to make sure that we are protecting this country and its future. We want to leave a great legacy for our children. And as a soldier I think we do have to have a strong national defense. When the United States is strong, everyone is safer. And then as a conservative I bring in my legislative experience there. I do serve as an assistant republican leader in the Iowa Senate. And we talk about inheriting fiscal messes. Four years ago Iowa was in a fiscal mess and that is when I was elected to serve in the Iowa State Senate and in the past four years we have turned the state around. We were spending about $1.07 for every dollar of revenue the state brought in. Now we're about down to 98, 99 cents for every $1.00 of revenue. So we are doing very, very good in the state. I've had to make those difficult choices and cuts. But Iowa has turned around. So we did inherit a fiscal mess, we're on the right track.
Obradovich: Mr. Whitaker, your democratic opponent, should you win the nomination, is Congressman Bruce Braley and he comes under criticism from republicans, especially recently, for being a trial lawyer. You're also a lawyer. Tell us why your background presents enough of a contrast with Congressman Braley and why somebody with a different background wouldn't be a better contrast?
Whitaker: Right, I'm proud of what I've done with a law degree and serving as United States Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, we protect our citizens from fraud, from Internet predators and worked on really the important issues of the day. But what really also informs me is my small business ownership. I own a daycare in my hometown of Ankeny, I own a trailer manufacturing company in Adel, part of a small local bank. I also was part of Merit Resources, which is a human resource solutions company. And so I've seen the private economy, I understand that every dollar we take from an entrepreneur for spending is a dollar that they can't hire a new employee and they can't take their family out to dinner and they can't give a raise. And so I am uniquely in this economy, as compared to these other candidates up here, and they're good people but my background I think brings a very interesting perspective to the largest challenges we face as a country.
Henderson: Mr. Clovis, Citizens United described you as a full spectrum conservative when they endorsed you. How do you respond to those in your party who worry you are too conservative for a general election in contrast to Mr. Braley?
Clovis: I find it very difficult to believe that anyone can be too conservative. I think that a full spectrum conservative is one that understands that you have the conservatism of the institutions that we have to protect and that includes the Constitution. There's fiscal conservatism, which means we want to be fiscally responsible with what we do. We have to be conservative on national security issues and make sure that we're not adventuresome and making sure that we invest the wealth and blood of this nation appropriately. And you have to defend those issues that are on the social side that are very much important to us and those include life and marriage. And so I'm not sure how one becomes too conservative. I will say that the arguments that we have often times as we're dealing with ideology, as opposed to principle, Mr. Braley is an idealog, Mr. Braley is a progressive, Mr. Braley is so far left it's hard to imagine that he can be that far over. Those issues will come back because that becomes his writ, his religion, his progressivism. The issues that I think focus on are the principles of conservatism and how those provide opportunity to people and not enslave people. Those are the issues that we have to focus on. What principles are we going to withstand? What principles are we going to uphold? And how those principles affect everyone and make everyone's lives better.
Borg: I think that question could be extended just a bit maybe to ask too conservative to win a general election?
Clovis: I don't believe so and I'll tell you why, Dean. I think -- let's talk about economics. I'm an economist. Let's talk about the economics of this country. Could Mr. Braley come up and talk about how conservative principles, economic principles such as tax reform, balanced budget amendment, those kinds of things that we would talk about, freezing spending --
Borg: You're not concerned about the general election?
Clovis: Not at all. In fact, I welcome that.
Lynch: Mr. Schaben, you might be the Sea Biscuit in this race but tell us why republicans should invest a vote in you when you haven't been able to attract financial support and build the sort of organization that most people think it takes to win an election?
Schaben: That's great, that's a great question. It will parley off of the last question because I do represent everyday Iowans. My goal is to represent everyday Iowans in the United States Senate every day. But to appeal to that broader spectrum or to appeal to that independent vote you have to understand the layout of the land. Here in the state of Iowa you've got 620,000 registered republicans, 620,000 registered democrats and you've got 720,000 people in the middle that don't want to be labeled with either party. The fact of the matter is you have to have a candidate that can appeal to them. When you look at the rest of the field here you're going to see that I'm the candidate that actually appeals to Main Street Iowa and I appeal to the broader cross section of our state.
Obradovich: Mr. Jacobs, you also talked about your background as a job creator and knowing how to kick start the economy as a businessman. How many jobs have you actually created over your career? And how does that qualify you to fix the economy?
Jacobs: Sure. Well, my view, Kathie, is that the federal government doesn't create jobs and that may come in sharp contrast to what President Obama and Congressman Braley think. But my view is that that's the private sector that does that, that is our businesses here in the state of Iowa that are responsible for doing that. But the government does create an environment that makes growth in the private sector either easier or more difficult. And I think every step along the way whether it is energy policy, it's the regulatory climate, the tax regime and oh yeah, there's this thing called Obamacare, all of those things have come together to create an environment that is very, very difficult for the private sector to grow. And one of the statistics that jumps out to me is the fact that 47 million Americans today are on food stamps and that has nearly doubled in the last five years.
Obradovich: Let me just ask everybody else. Who has actually created jobs?
Clovis: I have.
Obradovich: Alright, do either of you think it matters? Mr. Whitaker?
Whitaker: I do and it's a difference of the experience of the small business owner is when you're covering a payroll every two weeks and you don't know on Thursday before the Friday payroll where you're going to come up with that money, that's a different feeling than when you're getting paid with all the other employees --
Obradovich: And how does that feeling translate though to fixing the economy?
Whitaker: Well, it translates directly because what you know is that you know that every dollar you spend you are agreeing to tax from a small business owner or from a family. And so every dollar you spend and you vote to spend, that makes a huge difference in that decision to spend that dollar.
Clovis: I think it's a matter of responsibility. You have a responsibility. I started a business in Alabama and I shared a desk with my client and three years later we had 150 employees in six locations that spanned twelve time zones. I know what it takes -- because the responsibility that you have to take care of those people is the same whether you're in private business or if you're an elected representative of the United States Senate. You have a responsibility to grow the economy and you have to do all those things that are there to do that.
Obradovich: Senator Ernst, you haven't --
Borg: Ms. Ernst, you were the only one who didn't raise your hand.
Ernst: No and Kathie, I'd like to jump in. Thank you very much.
Obradovich: So, does it matter that you haven't created jobs?
Ernst: I don't think it does. But we'll get back to that in a second. I would like to make a point. I am one of a number of military folks that reside here in Iowa and as a member of the military, I've worn the uniform for over 20 years, and I've worn that uniform to protect the very freedoms and liberties which have made it possible for the private sector to grow here in the United States. So all of us serve in different ways whether it's a lieutenant colonel or someone serving on the front lines of Operation Iraqi Freedom, protecting those freedoms or whether they're serving as a businessman in the private sector helping out their employees here in the state. But also as an Iowa State Senator I have actually worked in government working to create a climate that allows our private sector to grow.
Obradovich: And Mr. Schaben, I didn't catch whether you raised your hand or not, have you created jobs?
Schaben: Yeah, as a matter of fact, and you're not the only person that has ever turned a store around but that's fine, we'll get there eventually. But the fact of the matter is this, I too walked into a store that was losing money, it was losing a substantial amount of money every month. And in our very first full month we turned it from the red into the black. And I say we because we did it as a team. If you don't understand -- if you think you can turn around a business by yourself you either don't understand the concept of teamwork or you don't understand, you need a lesson on how to be humble. But also we did grow that sales department then too. We grew it by 20%. I mean, yeah, it was going from five to six but nonetheless we still grew the sales department on the show floor that I was in charge of because we turned things around.
Henderson: Mr. Clovis, the candidate you supported in the 2012 caucuses, Rick Santorum, has recently said the GOP spends too much time talking about the job creators and not enough time talking about blue collar Americans. What in your view as an economist would be the best means possible for the federal government to provide a better life for blue collar Americans?
Clovis: Absolutely. I think it's great -- the whole idea of job creation that we have many of us up here talking about, I'm a person that advocates for the fair tax, the repeal of the 16th Amendment, the elimination of the IRS, therefore we get rid of corporate taxes --
Henderson: How does that help blue collar --
Clovis: Well, if you get rid of corporate taxes then you have the opportunity to repatriate trillions of dollars that is housed overseas, brought back to this country for capital investment. Capital investment then comes in the very heart of exactly what you're talking about and that is manufacturing, the blue collar sector of this nation where most of those jobs have been exported because of the confiscatory tax policy of this government. If we can't get rid of the, go to the fair tax, we have to get corporate taxes, my proposal is to remove it down from 35% to 10%, allow that money to be repatriated at the same rate, look at the capital investment we have, it also would no need to have quantitative easing because our cash would be home. We would also have the best incentives for foreign countries and foreign companies to invest in America. That is how you create jobs, bring that capital home and let that capital be invested here.
Whitaker: But seven out of every ten new jobs are created by small businesses and most of those small businesses are one and two and three member LLC's that are passed through and are taxed at their owner's marginal rate. So giving tax breaks to big corporations I don't think is the way that we really spur job growth. All new jobs in the last several decades have been created by startups. Now, they might be startups that grew very large like Facebook and Google but we need to create an environment and I think the one thing that we can do is give certainty from our federal government and that is getting to a balanced budget amendment.
Lynch: Sticking with the jobs issue. Mr. Whitaker, you've said that raising the minimum wage doesn't get us the good paying jobs that we want. But we all know that $7.25 an hour isn't what it used to be. So is it time to raise that minimum wage for the people who can't, or can't now get those good paying jobs that we want them to have?
Whitaker: What studies show, James, is that when you raise the minimum wage, the folks that you're trying to help actually are put under more challenges because they are priced out of the job market. The other thing, you know, you talk about what the government can do to create jobs is one of the things we shouldn't do is legalize 11 million workers that are going to immediately put pressure on those blue collar workers that are having a hard time finding a job right now.
Lynch: Would anybody raise the minimum wage?
Jacobs: I think that's something, James, I agree with Senator Grassley, that's something we could look at. But I think it's another example of our politicians in Washington attacking the symptom of the problem rather than the root cause. And the root cause we had today is a lack of good jobs. And in many cases there are good jobs available. I was over in the Quad Cities not long ago and toured a manufacturer there, they have job openings for welders that start at $30 an hour. I was down at the Iowa Motor Truck Association not long ago, they have job openings for drivers at $16 an hour. So part of what we have in this country today is a skill gap and that is one of the reasons I support the idea of supporting our community colleges and vocational schools and giving a helping hand to those individuals who need it to acquire those new job skills so that they can get a better paying job.
Ernst: I do agree with that. I think we, it is a good thing to have a minimum wage, it is a great safety net for those that need it. However, we do need better paying jobs and I do agree with the skill gap and we need to have skilled labor, no matter what the state is. But community colleges, I believe that is the state's function is working with those community colleges and making sure that we have the skilled labor force.
Borg: But you avoided, to the best of my knowledge you avoided saying whether or not to raise the current --
Ernst: I would not raise the current one. I do believe that we have a number of people that will start in those introductory level jobs and hopefully then progress out of those jobs into better paying jobs as their skills increase.
Obradovich: Senator Ernst, would you get rid of the federal income tax if you could?
Ernst: I would love to see that at some point. It will take a lot of cooperation in order to get there. But I think we need to look at any tax reform --
Obradovich: How do you fund the federal government then if you were to get rid of the income tax?
Ernst: Well, again, we would have to look at that. But I think if we get to a point where we are making our taxes fairer, flatter or simpler it works much better for any American family or small business.
Obradovich: Would anybody else get rid of the federal income tax?
Clovis: I've said so many times and I've talked about it to get rid of the 16th Amendment and get rid of the income tax code as it is. The income tax code is written for special interests. I'm a fair tax guy. That's a national sales tax with a national sales tax and I've run the number and listen, I argued with Steve King about this for four years and so I had to go through this my own self as the analysis of how we would get to the revenue structure we needed to fund the government. And I was able to do that. And now I'm convinced that the fair tax is perhaps the best solution we have to fund the government, sustain the government because everyone then is incentivized to see the economy grow.
Obradovich: Alright, so why keep the income tax then, if any of you want to jump in?
Whitaker: I'm not going to defend income tax because it directly relates to the IRS and I think we have seen time and time again where the IRS is turning into a massive, clunky, bureaucratic organization that is targeting taxpayers, it's our worst nightmare and it is time for it to go and I join the others on this that would prefer a national sales tax if possible.
Obradovich: Mr. Schaben? Oh, go ahead --
Borg: Go ahead, Mr. Jacobs.
Jacobs: No, I think that there's no question to me that the tax code we have today discourages new business investment and encourages our companies to locate factories and jobs overseas and that is absolutely wrong and I think we need to simplify our tax code, we need to get rid of the special interest loopholes and we need to bring down the high marginal rates that we have on job creating businesses.
Borg: But not get rid of the IRS and the federal income tax?
Jacobs: You know, I think that's something I continue to look at for an intermediate and longer term perspective. But I agree with Sam that I would not do that unless we repeal the 16th Amendment because I'm afraid we would end up with both taxes.
Schaben: I think both -- these last two questions really tie into each other. First off, you're talking about the minimum wage but right before that we're talking about ways to create jobs. If you're going to create jobs the answer was in two questions ago when they said we need less regulations, we need a simpler environment for people that want to start jobs. Matt hit the number on the head. Seven out of ten new hires are done in small businesses. These are small businesses where people open up their doors for themselves. Sending people to trade school so they can go to work for somebody else doesn't create jobs. Creating an environment where they can actually maybe go to trade school and open the doors for themselves and then hire people on underneath them, that's going to create jobs. Having a complex tax code, making it so people are afraid of hiring people, making it so people don't understand the tax code, the only jobs that creates is jobs for accountants. Not that I don’t like accountants --
Whitaker: And the tax code now has five times, approximately, the number of words of the Bible and none of the good news and we need fundamental tax reform, we need it now and it really is something that I've been calling for, for the last ten months. Until we get this done we're going to continue to have this stagnation and we need to repeal Obamacare. It is a wet blanket on our nation's economy. It has to go. It is causing doubt and worry among our small business owners and our job creators and it is time.
Ernst: I think -- I'm sorry, Kay, go ahead please.
Henderson: One more tax issue before we move on. The gas tax was set by Congress at 18.4 cents a gallon in 1993. Since then fuel efficiency has risen and there are some who worry about the nation's crumbling road and transportation system. Mr. Jacobs, I'm wondering what you would do if you were presented with a bill as a Senator that would raise the national gas tax?
Jacobs: Well, count me as one of those who is concerned about our crumbling infrastructure and especially here in our state where we are such big exporters of corn, soybeans, pork, we need the infrastructure of our roads and our waterways to be able to move our products to market here. I think it comes down to an issue, Kay, of prioritization and what has happened here is the federal government has grown in scope and scale, infrastructure investments have been easy to kind of push to the side and I think we have been underinvesting in those. And I think that is all the more reason that we need to tackle -- the fundamental problem we have today in our federal government is they spend way more money than they take in and we need to address that problem so that the expenditures that we make are done, we're able to make the ones that have that priority.
Henderson: So that's a no on raising the gas tax?
Jacobs: I think we're taxed enough.
Henderson: Okay, anyone else?
Whitaker: Well, look, we had the stimulus to spend $787 billion and with interest, since we borrowed most of that money, it's over a trillion dollars that we are now raising the taxes on future generations and we still don't have good roads and we haven't made that a priority and instead of handouts to liberal special interests we should have used that money to invest if we were going to do it in the first place. I didn't support the stimulus but if we're going to spend the money we should have made roads a priority.
Henderson: Mr. Clovis?
Clovis: Yeah, I have already -- I have talked about it many times out on the stump about the proposal that we take a look at the -- right now the current tax structure, the corporate taxes that come in, if we were to take half of those taxes, it's only about 12% of the federal revenue comes in, in corporate taxes -- if we were to take half of that revenue and put it into infrastructure that would be repatriated back to the states on a per capita basis do you have any idea what that would mean for the state of Iowa? $1 billion a year in infrastructure money for this state. In order to do that we have to stop this profligate spending that we have going on here, we have to get control of the budget, freeze the spending that we have and then manage the accounts and revenues that come in and apply it to the appropriate place.
Henderson: Senator Ernst?
Ernst: I do believe that we can make the cuts necessary within our federal government to find a way to fund our roads and infrastructure. We have already talked about closing the door to the IRS. I think that would be a wonderful start. Let's close the door, let's scrap the tax code and, again, let's find something that is fairer, flatter and simpler. But then there's other departments that we could be looking at also and I've talked about these before. But closing the doors to the Department of Education at the federal level and not just because it would save taxpayer dollars but because I do believe that our children are better educated when it's coming from the state and the localities. I do believe that we should do that. Another one, excuse me, Dean --
Borg: No, that's fine. Go ahead.
Ernst: Okay. Another area that we need to look at is the Environmental Protection Agency. When we talk about the rules and regulations that are burdening business owners, whether it is in ag, whether it is in industry here in the state of Iowa, let's shut down the federal EPA and focus on those issues here in the state where the state knows best how to protect resources.
Borg: Mr. Jacobs, close the Department of Education and the Department of Energy was it?
Ernst: No, the EPA.
Borg: EPA, I'm sorry.
Jacobs: Well, I had a lot of experience dealing with the EPA when you run 38 power plants, 11 of which are coal fired power plants, you get to know them pretty well. But I think the fundamental problem we have with the EPA and other federal agencies is there's no check or balance on the regulatory environment we have. And I advocate doing what we have done with the Congressional Budget Office. That's an independent group that does a cost benefit analysis of any new legislation and we need that same concept for regulation because today that is housed within each regulatory agency. And I can tell you firsthand when the EPA does a cost benefit analysis it is done to support their point of view and not done honestly.
Whitaker: Now, that being said, we have approaching 1,000 pending regulations that by their own estimates are going to cost $100 million a piece and our regulatory burden is just too high whether it's from the EPA or any other part of this --
Borg: What's the point there that you're saying?
Whitaker: The point is, is that we do need a better estimate of the real impact because if the actual entity that is judging these regulations says it's going to cost $100 million we know it's certainly going to be more than that.
Borg: Should the Department of Education be abolished?
Whitaker: Oh, I think certainly. There are 5,000 bureaucrats at the Department of Education that think they know better how to educate my three kids than their parents. And so we need to get rid of the Department of Education and push that money into the classrooms where it can actually help students.
Borg: Mr. Clovis, would you do the same?
Clovis: Yes, I would. And I'll tell you why. I'm one of the only professional educators on the stage here, a college professor, and I see the impact of what happens with our student loan program being run by the government, which is just subterfuge for the fact that it is funding Obamacare. The Department of Education serves essentially no purpose as far as the K-12 education and higher education goes because a lot of what goes on is now because federal money is part of the educational outcomes and not private money, the federal government has their tentacles into, I can tell you at the private institution level, and they will be soon coming after the Regents and looking for compliance issues and the manipulation of curriculum and who you hire and how you teach.
Borg: You're the only one that hasn't weighed in, Mr. Schaben.
Schaben: Thank you. I believe the original question, before we got off on a tangent on Department of Education and Environmental Protection Agency, was how to pay for the roads. A big part of it comes with the budget. You have to understand the budget. And also when you do pay for stuff you have to plan in your future budgets, just like in your house, you have to plan in for maintenance and upkeep. A couple of years ago I had to replace the shingles on my house. Guess what, we've also got a part of the budget that plans for the next time we're going to replace the shingles. The same thing goes with federal highway systems, with our waterways, same thing goes. You have to have money apportioned for it in the future. Saying that you're going to cut off the Department of Education and then pay for highways with it, it doesn't make mathematical sense. You have to understand the budget. Right now the budget is not balanced, you've got $2.4 trillion out of the $3.6 we spend goes to mandatory spending. The total amount of discretionary spending is $600 billion. Of non-defense discretionary spending, $600 billion. You could eliminate every nickel of non-defense discretionary spending, you could eliminate the EPA, the Department of Education, you could add onto that the NSA, the TSA, the FDA --
Whitaker: We should get rid of the NSA.
Schaben: You can get rid of all of them, the fact of the matter is you get rid of every nickel of that and you still don't have a balanced budget.
Lynch: You're leading me right to my next question and that is the House has passed the Ryan budget, Paul Ryan's budget. When it gets over to the Senate, would you vote for it? What do you like about the Paul Ryan budget? What would you change?
Schaben: Well, I like the fact that eventually it balances the budget but that's 10 years down the road. In terms of United States Senators, that's one and a half terms down the road. Okay? Myself, I support a path to solvency, I support some drastic changes. If you've got a five inch wound and you put a one inch Band-Aid on it that's the same as reducing the deficit. This is covering up your five inch wound over ten years. Okay? The Paul Ryan takes too long just to balance the budget and it still doesn't create a path to solvency so I would not support it.
Ernst: I would agree with Mr. Schaben in that we are headed in the right direction. I don't believe I would vote for it. But we are headed in the right direction. And at least the House has offered up a budget, which we have not seen for years coming from the other side.
Borg: You said you wouldn't vote for it. What's the problem?
Ernst: No, I think we have to get there faster. I agree with Scott on that. We have to get there faster. We are saving $5 trillion in spending over the course of a number of years. We are eliminating funding for Obamacare, which I think all of us agree is something that needs to be done. And we're also getting rid of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, pushing that back to the private sector. So there's a number of things that are good.
Lynch: So, would anybody support the Paul Ryan budget?
Jacobs: I support the idea of starting the conversation. I think it's long overdue. I'm very disappointed that Harry Reid won't even bring a budget bill to the floor of the United States Senate to even debate. It does move things in the right direction. There's some specific concerns I have about some of the cuts to Medicare funding, about some of the cuts to Pell Grants in education, programs that I think are important to get out. But we have so many, James, so many opportunities to rethink how we do our budget. One of the figures that jumps out to me, 15% of Medicare reimbursements are fraudulent. That's $90 billion a year that we spend on fraudulent Medicare reimbursements. Now, I've had my credit card number stolen 3 times in the last 18 months and every single time, my financial institution caught the very first fraudulent charge. And so what we need to do is bring some of the know-how from the private sector that exists to our federal government to solve these problems.
Whitaker: I've been talki8ng about my plan to work towards a balanced budget and that would be getting rid of or reducing our aid to countries that don't like us very much. And then I'd look at our $4 billion we spent at the U.N. I'd like to eliminate the practice of baseline budgeting and actually make the decisions each year as to how much to give to the departments. I saw in the Department of Justice, when I was the United States Attorney, that we still had drug prosecutors fighting the Miami Vice war against Columbian drug cartels well into the 2000s. And then what I’d like to see ultimately is a balanced budget amendment. The Constitution is in place to protect us from government.
Lynch: That sounds like a no on the --
Whitaker: That is an absolute no, James.
Borg: Mr. Clovis?
Clovis: I don't think the budget goes far enough fast enough and frankly it's a tactical issue and if you look at it --
Borg: So you agree with Ms. Ernst?
Clovis: Yes. I think it's microtactical to the point that we're sitting here looking at why don't we freeze spending? Why don't have fundamental tax reform? Why don't we take a hard look at how we're spending money inside? I think Scott raises a good point because if we don't talk about entitlements sooner or later somebody is going to talk about entitlements because there aren't going to be any.
Obradovich: Let's talk about entitlements, Mr. Clovis.
Obradovich: Would you raise the retirement age to 70? Is that the right age? And when I get to be that age, and I can tell you I've got a few years left, I'm not 50 yet, okay, will I recognize Social Security?
Clovis: The first answer is no, I don't think you need to raise the age and I'm empathetic to that. I'm a lot closer to it than you are so, as they say, I have far more in the rearview mirror than I do in the windshield. So I think that we have private models that should be applied and we should phase out the current systems that we have in Social Security and Medicare. And those private models make it very simple that the money belongs to the individual, we have phases that we can go through. And I'll just give you an example. 55 and above, you're sunshined into the system we have. 45 to 55 you can opt in or out. Below the age of 45 you get a new system. And that new system is individualized accounts that belong to you, that that money goes with you. If you die that money goes to your estate. And in Medicare, that money is again accumulated at the very same rate.
Obradovich: Under your plan who manages that money?
Clovis: It can be managed by the government. But guess what? It can also be managed privately.
Obradovich: Okay. First of all, who would raise the retirement age to 70? Anyone? No one would?
Whitaker: I've talked about how we need to get rid of the politics in solving these problems. It is two-thirds of our budget last year. And so instead of coming up with a democrat solution or a republican solution we need to put all the good ideas on the table no matter where they come from and have both parties come in good faith and solve this problem. I was part of a generation that before I could vote my retirement age was raised to 67 from 65 and I just think we have continued to kick this can down the road and there are solutions to these problems that if both sides would come together in good faith we could solve.
Obradovich: So that's a no on raising retirement age?
Whitaker: I don't think so.
Ernst: I think we have to keep the promises that have been made to our seniors but we do have to change the way we do business with our younger workers or those that are just entering the workforce. And I agree, we do have to look at some sort of a personal savings account. But the bottom line is that those savings accounts should not be and should be established so that federal bureaucrats should not be able to raid those savings accounts.
Obradovich: Mr. Schaben, people are living longer. Why should they not wait longer to collect their retirement?
Schaben: Unfortunately the way the market works right now people are still working into their 70s. I look at my dad, he's I think 72, gosh I didn't do the math before I started talking, sorry, it's one of the few times. My dad is over 70 years old. He has been drawing Social Security for a while. But one of the things he still does, he still drives a school bus. It helps bring in additional income for him. I mean, he likes to do it because it gives him something to do but he'd rather be doing recreational activities I'm sure. He also does it for some extra money. And that is just part of the market. You're seeing more and more -- more and more people are seeing their parents and grandparents still working.
Obradovich: What do you do about Social Security then?
Schaben: Something has to be done whether it's the, as Joni was alluding to and one of my sayings that I've been saying out here on the stump for months is, we have to keep the promises we make today, tomorrow. And so we have to ensure that money is there because those are promises that we've made to people. But something with the overall package of Social Security does have to be done.
Borg: Mr. Jacobs, weigh in on retiring at 70.
Jacobs: I think we have a sacred obligation to uphold the commitments that we have made to those that are at retirement age or those that are anywhere close to retirement age. But I agree with Matt that I think what we ought to do is get a bipartisan group together because if we don't solve this problem we're not certain that we're going to be able to uphold our promises to our next generations. But I think -- let me come back to while that's an important part of the puzzle to balance the budget, that the biggest lever we have is to increase the economic rate of growth in this country. If we're able to increase the rate of economic growth just one percent more per year for the next ten years that would wipe out more than half of the annual budget deficits and we can do that by creating that environment that I spoke of earlier where the government has a role to create an environment that encourages the private sector to grow.
Borg: And you're saying that would solve the retirement age and Social Security problem?
Jacobs: Well, it makes the solving of the Social Security problem and entitlements much, much easier because we have other sources. If we look at this as a zero sum game we're going to have to cut some pretty significant spending. But the biggest lever we have is to grow the economy.
Henderson: Folks, let us start discussing Obamacare, as you refer to it, in specifics rather than generalities --
Borg: Well, Kay, before we do that -- let me piggyback here on Mr. Clovis' rear-view mirror comment. Sometimes, in a political campaign, it's interesting, perhaps even illuminating to look back at past campaigns. And we've been doing a lot of that here at Iowa Public Television because it is our 45th anniversary. And we looked back, rear-view mirror, about 35 years when then republican Congressman Charles Grassley was challenging incumbent democratic Senator John Culver in the 1980 campaign. Now, here's a clip from a Grassley-Culver debate with Mr. Grassley defining voters' criteria in choosing their senator.
Charles Grassley - 1980: In every instance, I'm on the side of a majority of Iowans, John is on his own side. This campaign, unlike so many, has nothing to do with which candidate is a nicer guy or which candidate is more wealthy or more moral in the way he leads his own life. There is a clear choice in 1980 between John Culver and Chuck Grassley, two experienced members of Congress with thousands of votes under their belts. John Culver represents the same old tired programs that have gotten us where we are today and he's back to offer us more of the same. Chuck Grassley offers Iowa a clear alternative to the Carter-Culver policies and I have a record that proves it can be accomplished. Thank you very much. I have enjoyed this debate.
Borg: Let me hear that comment.
Ernst: Isn't that a great looking farmer.
Borg: Well, let me just ask, what he's talking about there is that he had a record of voting in the House of Representatives and there was a record by Mr. Culver in the Senate. Voters could judge. You have been in the legislature but the other candidates here have no record of voting and yours has not been at the federal level. How do voters -- because Mr. Braley, who you hope to oppose, does have a record on which voters can choose?
Ernst: You bet, Dean. My record is a conservative record, a record of success and one that I would take up against Bruce Braley's any day of the week. And let's talk about the successes that we've had here in Iowa because, again, we have lowered what we spend as for the dollar that we bring in, in revenue. Like I said, $1.07 of spending for every dollar of revenue. Doesn't that sound like the federal government and Bruce Braley?
Borg: Quickly down the line. Mr. Jacobs, you don't have a voting record.
Jacobs: No, but Congressman Braley sure does and it's pretty clear that he has voted in lock step with President Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, in fact, I call them the Braley bunch, and just like the old TV show on November 4th I'm going to cancel the Braley bunch.
Borg: Mr. Schaben? No record.
Schaben: It's funny -- that's fine. I'll be more than happy to tell anybody how I voted for in any election. As a matter of fact, you might want to check Carroll County Courthouse because when I was forward deployed with the military in the late 90s I did actually do an absentee ballot. And one thing I will promise you is as United States Senator, you won't have to give me an absentee ballot.
Borg: Mr. Whitaker, it's one thing on the campaign trail to be saying, this is where I stand on the issue. But when you get in the U.S. Senate and you have to give and take and compromise voting record stands.
Whitaker: Right. And we talk about where we find ourselves as an economy and it's slow and it has been slow for many years, it is because of the policies of Bruce Braley has voted for. It's Obamacare, it's bailouts, it's TARP, it's stimulus, Cash for Clunkers, it's all of those things.
Borg: But the point is that voters have no voting record to judge you.
Whitaker: Well, they can look at what I've done with my life. And throughout the course of my adult life I've been a small business owner, I've been a federal prosecutor, I have been an advocate for conservative issues, I've supported candidates. You can look at all of who I am and what I'm about.
Borg: Mr. Clovis, you've heard the question. I'm saying you don't have a record either. You have been on a radio talk show and voters know your views but you haven't voted.
Clovis: I have not voted in a legislature, that is accurate. Bruce Braley has. But before you categorize me for something that I did one hour a day for three and a half years, I don't want anybody to miss the fact that for 25 years I was a fighter pilot in the United States Air Force, that I started a business from zero and grew that business. I achieved education, an MBA and a Doctorate. I'm a college professor. I serve in my community. I do a lot more than just be a radio talk show host.
Henderson: Let us go to the Affordable Care Act. Senator Ernst, you have, I will emphasize, cut, a campaign ad in which you brag about being a farm girl. I'm wondering why in the farm bill it's okay to give farmers subsidies to buy crop insurance but in the view of many republicans it's not okay for the government to give individuals a subsidy to buy health insurance?
Ernst: And thank you, Kay. You come from the same rural area that I do. So, have you castrated hogs?
Henderson: No comment.
Whitaker: That's kind of a personal question isn't it?
Ernst: Going back, going back to the farm bill though, I am philosophically opposed to taxpayer subsidies and that is all throughout any sector that is out there.
Henderson: So you oppose the crop subsidies?
Ernst: But, I would say, that we do have to protect our agricultural economy here in Iowa. So knowing that, if we are to get rid of any subsidy that's out there it has to be done across-the-board in every sector and at the same time. We are not willing to risk the ag economy here in Iowa for maybe the sugar crop in Florida. So we do have to make those tough decisions. But the farm bill was not all that it was cracked up to be. So much of that, very little actually applies to agriculture. The brunt of that bill is made up of pork, which we need to cut.
Henderson: Mr. Clovis, what are your thoughts in regards to subsidies for farmers to buy crop insurance and subsidies to individuals to buy health insurance on the exchanges?
Clovis: Well, right now we do have the subsidies available on the health insurance exchanges. I would feel a lot better about the question if I knew the health exchanges were working and we actually knew how many people had bought insurance and how much money was actually going out there. I think on the subsidies for insurance I have taken a long, hard look at this and I have talked to Senator Grassley about this a great deal. And he is the one that really has mentored me on this notion that we can pay for catastrophic failure of our crops or we can subsidize insurance to make sure that we have that backstop for the crops that we have now. Iowans, by the way, they take a claim about every 13 years. We have other parts of the country that claim crop failure every year. Iowans are subsidizing, through our premiums that we're paying, we're subsidizing the rest of the country. That needs to be fixed. That is an aspect of this that nobody wants to talk about and I think that's an important point.
Henderson: Mr. Whitaker?
Whitaker: Well, I would agree that we could have a choice. We can either have some insurance that is subsidized by the federal government or we can lurch from crisis, crop failure to crop failure at an ad hoc basis. It seems to me it's a policy that works for farming because they are uniquely affected by the weather unlike many other industries. I have been fairly outspoken though, that I would like to reduce subsidies, I'd like to reduce mandates. I think the federal government should do very few things, very well and not interfere in markets.
Henderson: Mr. Jacobs?
Jacobs: Well, I would have supported the farm bill. It was not a perfect piece of legislation by any stretch of the imagination. I supported what Senator Grassley was proposing to try to make sure that financial support for our farmers was done in a fiscally prudent manner and I support some of the things that Congressman King was trying to do. But at the end of the day we need to support our farmers here in Iowa. Your question on Obamacare, I do support the idea that people should have access to affordable health insurance. But the way we have gone about this in Obamacare is all wrong. And it is a massive piece of legislation with a government takeover of how we buy health insurance, dictating what is appropriate to be in those policies, and my view is that it's, our families and individuals are the ones who are in the best position to decide what insurance coverage is right for them, not the federal government.
Henderson: Mr. Schaben, as a car salesman, in this state Iowans are required to have car insurance. Should Iowans be required to have health insurance?
Schaben: No. Well, even with the way I understand it here in the state of Iowa you're not required if you're able to prove that you're able to self-insure. The same thing with health insurance, if you feel that you can self-insure, if you can prove that you can self-insure and you're not going to be a burden to society you should be able to not have to purchase health insurance. To go back to the farm bill question, we have -- what makes farmers different is the fact that there's one factor that separates farmers from all other businesses. When you look at a lot of your business on Main Street or a lot of your small businesses, farmers use the same input numbers dollar wise and their margin of profit is just as thin. However, in a business, there are many factors that you can control. If you have staff that is, if you have poor customer service you can fix that. If you have a poor product you can fix that. If your store is never open and you're about to go out of business you can fix that. One thing you can't fix is whether or not it rains and that’s why farmers need to have that safety net.
Lynch: Let's talk again about Obamacare and once republicans have taken control of the Senate and you repeal Obamacare, what are you going to do with the 8 million people who have already enrolled in the Affordable Care Act? Where do you go from there, from repeal?
Borg: Mr. Jacobs?
Jacobs: James, I'm glad you're as confident with a republican takeover in the Senate as I am. So thank you for that. Look, I have said, those people who have signed up for insurance, that that insurance is going to have an expiration date. And, again, I do support the idea that people should have access to affordable health insurance. But, I tell you, as I travel across the state of Iowa what I hear from people is Obamacare is translating into reduced work hours, lost wages, higher insurance premiums, in some cases the outright cancellation of health insurance. And I think the most difficult thing or problematic thing with Obamacare is the analysis that the Congressional Budget Office did, that because of Obamacare 2.5 million less people will be working in this country. Today, 58.8% of Americans have a job. Now, that is 4.5% lower than where we were in 2007. And the President is trying to spin this as, oh this is a good thing because people have more leisure time. I'm sorry, that's a bunch of malarkey. That takes us exactly in the opposite direction of where we need to go. We need more people working and paying taxes in this country. That is how we can get to a balanced budget.
Lynch: Senator Ernst, what do you do after you repeal Obamacare?
Ernst: Well, James, I think there's a number of things that we do need to do and we do have to remember that maybe 8 million people have signed up, how many of them have paid and are actually covered by the Affordable Care Act, or as I like to call it, Bruce Braley's Obamacare? We don't know that but we do know that there are a number of Iowans that had insurance before the Affordable Care Act and because their policies didn't meet those federal requirements they were kicked off of those insurance plans that were perfectly acceptable to them before the Affordable Care Act. And so instead of addressing the issue of a few, we have made a problem for many. But there are some things that we can do and I have talked about these before. But insurance portability, allowing employees to take a product from one employer to another, allowing small businesses to gather together and self-insure, we allow that with larger employers. We should also allow tax rebates for those that privately purchase insurance.
Obradovich: I think Mr. Clovis wanted to weigh in on this.
Clovis: Yes, because James, you're making the assumption that we're going to be able to repeal this and hopefully we can but that won't occur until 2017. We still have, Barack Obama is still the President of the United States and will be there for the next Congress. The next Congress has to be able to come in with republican majorities, probably not veto-proof majorities and be able to start to take piece by piece this legislation and examine it. We need to have the ability to -- we can repeal parts of McCarran-Ferguson and have sale of health insurance across state lines. We can create a federal backstop for Tort reform for the state so they'll have some form of indemnification there to take care of those things. We also have the idea that we can get rid of the Independent Payment Advisory Board. We could get rid of comparative effectiveness research. And we can make darn sure that we don't allow a single federal dollar to go to institutions that provide abortions. Those are steps that can be taken by this Congress that fit right into whatever it is that President Obama wants to achieve.
Obradovich: Mr. Clovis, if you sell insurance across state lines, who regulates it? Is that the federal government? Do I as a consumer, if I buy insurance from Massachusetts have to go after the Massachusetts commissioner of insurance if I get ripped off?
Clovis: That's the whole point of repealing parts of McCarran-Ferguson, a 1940s legislation that established state insurance boards. If you take a look at -- look at the number of vendors we have in the state of Iowa right now for health insurance. We have three. Why don't we increase that to 30? That is a market influence? And who regulates that? The market regulates that.
Borg: Ms. Ernst, you wanted to weigh in on that.
Ernst: Yes, Kathie, I wanted to jump back. Mr. Clovis brought up the Tort reform, encouraged Tort reform and there is a lot of lawsuit abuse out there. And I want to bring up the fact that Mr. Bruce Braley, Congressman Bruce Braley, was just caught saying that he has opposed and fought against Tort reform for over 30 years of his life. And I think that's something that we all agree here is something that we need to encourage is Tort reform. We shouldn't be fighting against it --
Whitaker: What I know is that, I feel a bit like once I was told where everything has been said but not everybody has said it, but Tort reform is primarily a state issue. And we saw in Texas where they passed Tort reform and 30,000 new doctors came to Texas to practice medicine. So Tort reform does work but it's going to have to happen primarily through the states and I'd love to see Tort reform here in Iowa.
Obradovich: Would you also sell insurance across state lines? Would anybody not do that, anybody not allow insurance to be sold across state lines? And should the state that sells the insurance policy be the one to regulate it or should there be federal regulation?
Clovis: It's not the state that's selling it, it's an insurance company.
Obradovich: The state where the company is located.
Clovis: But your assumption is that you have to have that regulated. The market regulates that. The whole issue here is -- that's one of the problems we have, is we have structural aspects of the health care bill right now that a person who is, a family that is well past the child-bearing years is having to pay for issues that have absolutely no impact on them.
Borg: Mr. Jacobs, I think you wanted to say something.
Jacobs: Yeah, Kathie, I would say I think there's some things we can do in insurance market, but I think we're missing the fundamental problem we have in health care and that is the continued escalation in costs. I was up in north central Iowa not long ago and I met with one of our county auditors and she has her health insurance paid for by her employer, she makes a contribution to that. But her contribution cost has gone up faster than her wage growth every year for the last five years. So she has had a net decrease in take home pay --
Borg: But then what's the point, if you run for the U.S. Senate and you win, what are you going to do about that?
Jacobs: Well, what we need to do, Dean, is we need to bring the principles of consumer choice, price transparency. Think about it, when you go to the doctor none of us really know how much it costs, you don't know how much the tests are and then you go check out and for the most part insurance covers it, you pay your co-pay --
Borg: Do you agree with Mr. Clovis, that the market will regulate itself?
Jacobs: I think if you bring consumer choice and price transparency I think that's how we can drive down cost in our health care industry and do it in a way where we maintain that high quality of care that we have all become accustomed to receiving.
Henderson: Mr. Whitaker, earlier you mentioned immigration reform and your opposition to what has been discussed thus far in Washington, D.C. The agribusiness community says it needs immigrants and some of them are using asylum laws to bring in new workers to, for instance, work in meatpacking plants. How would you resolve the difficulty in finding workers for some of our most difficult jobs in America?
Whitaker: Right, well, as a United States Attorney I enforced the immigration laws and I saw it was, what a system and how it is broken. And I visited the borders, both the southern and the northern border, and I see that it's not secure. And so we need to secure the border first. I don't support amnesty for those who are here in our country illegally. But fundamentally I also don't want to give them some sort of a permanent non-resident status that traps them in an underclass that is completely un-American. And so what I would like to see is a rationalization of the needs of our economy together with the folks that want to legally immigrate to our country. Those are the kind of things that in Washington, D.C. they should be working on instead of scoring political points.
Henderson: Mr. Jacobs, you worked in Texas for the majority of your working life. What did you see in terms of the immigration problem there? And how would you fix it from that perspective?
Jacobs: Well, I think we'd all agree that the current system is broken. And I agree with Matt that what we need to do first to secure the borders. I think the second thing we need to do is we need to hold our employers accountable to make sure that the people they employ in their businesses have the legal right to be here. And we need to make sure our federal government provides the tools to our employers so they can do this. But we need to modernize our immigration process. It's horribly complex. We do need to deal with the people who are here illegally. My view is that they have broken our laws and there should be a fine or penalty for doing so. I don't support the idea of amnesty but I do support the idea that once that retribution is made that they could stay under a guest worker program. But I don't believe that anybody that originally came to this country illegally should be allowed to progress to citizenship or to voting rights.
Henderson: Mr. Clovis, what would you vote for in terms of immigration reform?
Clovis: I think I just want to give a little backdrop here. Some of us are old enough to remember there was actually a guest worker program in the United States from 1946 to 1964 that worked extremely well, it was called the Bracero Program. We had guest workers come into this country, worked in a lot of these jobs that were seasonal at that time. And in 1965 we introduced legislation, one of the first pieces of legislation introduced by Ted Kennedy, by the way, that fundamentally changed immigration in this country. We then created the situation for chain migration and that led them finally to the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. What I would support in this whole issue here is securing the border, notification to go through the process of identifying those people who could be habitual criminals and felons, they are deported. Individuals that use identity fraud of some form, they're deported. Everybody else gets the opportunity to stay, they pay their fines, pay their back taxes and they get a temporary residency status here that at no time does a person who comes to this country illegally get the opportunity to become an American citizen unless they repatriate themselves to their home country and apply legally.
Borg: Ms. Ernst, everybody else has said, secure the border. I'm wondering if you'd use the National Guard to do that?
Ernst: Well, I think there's a number of ways that we could secure the border and perhaps the National Guard is one. But we are not a border state so that's not something that I will encourage Iowans to do at this point. But I do believe that we have to secure the borders whether it is our southern border, northern border, we don't talk about that often but we do have to secure the border. And I would support guest worker programs and making sure that we know where those guest workers are. A large percentage of those that are here illegally came here legally but have overstayed whether it is their visas or the passes into the United States. So I do not support blanket amnesty but I do believe that we have to start with securing the borders and then let's enforce the laws that we have on the books right now and then see where we go from there.
Henderson: Mr. Schaben, you live in Carroll where Congressman Steve King represents that district. He has advocated a bigger fence along the southern border. Do you think that's the answer?
Schaben: The fence is not the answer. There's more to our border than a fence. And I liken our immigration situation right now to balancing the water in a swimming pool. Before, one of my multitude of jobs was in the hot tub and swimming pool industry. If the pH or the alkalinity or the chlorine level is off in a swimming pool I can sit on the other side and I can dump chemicals in or balancers in all day, if you're on the other side with a garden hose pouring in unbalanced water, I'm never going to balance the pH, I'll never balance the alkalinity and for that matter I'll never balance the chlorine level. The same can be said with laws in immigration. Passing laws all day, you can pass laws all day. Until you shut off the spigot, until you secure our borders you're still going to have problems with immigration. So that being said though, one of the things we also have to look at is our ports and we have to look at those that have overstayed our visas. In 1996 into 2004 we were told hey we're going to round up everybody that has overstayed their visas. Now, using Department of Homeland Security's numbers, we've got over a million people that still we have no idea where they are. Are they here? Are they not here? We don't know. That's one thing we need to track down. And I'll tell you right now, only 32% of them, Department of Homeland Security numbers, only 32% of them came here through land. So fence is not the answer. I mean, it's a part of the solution but it's not the answer.
Whitaker: I think it's crucial to point out two things and that is under some of these plans that we're talking about, which I don't support, as soon as we give those here illegally some sort of a work status that puts them in immediate competition with American workers that right now are struggling to find a job and it's a lot of those folks on the margins, they're blue collar and they're hardworking Americans and it's just unfair to reduce their wages and put that pressure. And then the second thing is under that procedure that these folks described I don't trust the federal judiciary to not then wave their magic wand and give citizen status or some form of voting rights or citizen rights to the folks that we have made sort of permanent non-residents.
Borg: Just a quick comment, Mr. Clovis, you've talked on this and we need to move on.
Clovis: I will but I just want to make the comment that the jobs that illegal immigrants are competing for, they're also competing with naturalized citizens and native-born citizens in this country that have the same skill levels. It's not, we're not competing with people who work at GM on auto lines.
Lynch: Throughout the conversation tonight you have all talked about the overreach of the federal government and having too much control and intrusion into our lives. So I'm wondering, we'll start with you Mr. Clovis, who would stand with Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who doesn't want to pay the federal government grazing fees for where he grazes his cattle?
Clovis: Well, I think Cliven Bundy is part of a contract. He has a contract with the federal government. The federal government controls that land right now. So if you want to talk about the current situation, that's the situation. He ought to uphold his contract and the federal government ought to uphold its contract. If you want to talk about who should control the land, I believe the state should control that land and not the federal government.
Borg: Mr. Whitaker?
Whitaker: Yeah, and the real concern I had is the way that the federal government, through the Bureau of Land Management, went riding in with significant force to try to impact that situation where there's obviously better, less hostile ways to do that. And so that concerned me significantly. But yes, I mean, if those federal lands are currently under contract then both sides should live up to their contract and I do agree that we should move that federal land back to the states.
Borg: Anyone else who has an opinion on that?
Obradovich: Okay. Senator Ernst, today the Iowa Senate, as you know, voted to approve legislation allowing a limited use of medical cannabis derived medicine. Did you vote for that?
Ernst: I did vote for that, yes I did, Kathie.
Obradovich: Since you're running for Senate, should the federal government take a step back from marijuana regulation and allow states to do things like this without the potential for federal intervention?
Ernst: Well, I do think the states need to regulate this. I did vote in support of this. It is cannabis oil that is being used. And I do need to explain to people that it is not medical marijuana. It is an oil that is derived from marijuana but it has a THC level that is so very low you could utilize it all day and never get high. So the way it has been compared is like an O'Doul's is to beer, you could drink a lot of it but it's not going to get you anywhere. However, it has been shown to curb epileptic seizures in children and adults and that is a very narrowly limited bill which is why I supported it. I am a mom and making sure that we are caring for those children.
Obradovich: And you think the state should be doing that and not the federal government?
Ernst: I do think the states need to be involved. I do think that we do need to take a look at regulating, making sure that the product is safe. But we have sunset the bill, we'll try it for a few years and see how it works here in Iowa.
Obradovich: Does anybody disagree with that?
Jacobs: Well, Kathie, I think at a federal level what we ought to be doing is fast-tracking some of the research. Clearly there is enough evidence that we have all seen here played out in the media, going on in the Capitol this spring, that certainly there are some instances where it has seemed to help families. And I think what we need to do is we need to make sure we understand all of the issues that could be associated with that so if we're going to move forward with that we can do it in a safe way.
Obradovich: Mr. Whitaker, you've been involved in enforcement. Should the federal government step back?
Whitaker: I have -- well, first of all, I know a couple of families that are going to be positively impacted by what has happened in the State Senate today and I applaud them for helping those families that need that help. But what we have now is we have an attorney general that is telling state attorney generals if you disagree with a law you don't have to enforce it. And I am gravely concerned that we are now going to go back and forth between who is in the White House and what their drug enforcement policy is and you'll see under what we have now where you have Colorado and other states legalizing it and really with no federal interference and then when we come back we may have a different regulatory scheme --
Obradovich: Well, what should Congress do? What should the Senate do?
Whitaker: Well, I think Congress should regulate the things that harm people and that is the hard drugs and the like that dramatically hurt citizens, cause violent crime in our communities and those should be regulated.
Obradovich: But not marijuana?
Whitaker: I mean, for me I saw the impact of marijuana on our borders. And if you go to any of the counties in Texas where there is an illegal importation of marijuana there is a tremendous amount of violence.
Borg: Kay Henderson?
Henderson: Candidates, there has been a lot of discussion about a gentleman named Edward Snowden and the work of the National Security Agency. Mr. Jacobs, if you could, tell us what your view is on the collection of data from private citizens and what you believe the role of the National Security Agency should be in the federal government.
Jacobs: Well, we have to balance our national security interests on the one hand with individual liberty on the other hand. And we have this concept in law enforcement called probable cause that I think makes a lot of sense, that in order for the federal government to be looking at records there ought to be reasonable belief that there has been a crime committed and I think that makes a lot of sense. But I'd say more broadly, one of the things I did in the business world here is I think part of the failure we have is a failure of oversight of this program on the part of Congress and also we didn't have appropriate whistleblower programs. I'm glad Edward Snowden raised the concerns he did. I wish he wasn't sitting in Russia, that we would have had the appropriate channels in our country for him to raise those.
Henderson: Mr. Whitaker, I believe earlier you discussed the NSA as an agency that should go away. What would replace it if anything?
Whitaker: Well, we certainly need to gather intelligence on foreign nationals that could do harm to our country and I saw that as United States Attorney. But what we can never do is injure the constitutional rights, especially the 4th Amendment rights, of our American citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures and it does have the standard of probable cause in the 4th Amendment. And so any program that would violate the 4th Amendment and those protections is illegal and should be completely terminated if it is spying on American citizens.
Henderson: Senator Ernst, some of the folks that Edward Snowden revealed were informants for the U.S. military. What is your view about Mr. Snowden? Are you like Mr. Jacobs, glad that he has stepped forward?
Ernst: I think there is a portion of me that says I am glad that he brought to light that we were looking at private citizens' emails, tracking conversations. But, again, we have to protect their 4th Amendment rights, those citizens of the United States. But on the other side, I do view him as a traitor for releasing that information. As someone who has served in a combat zone during a time of war I take issue with that and I think protecting our men and women who are in harm's way is exceedingly important.
Henderson: Mr. Clovis, traitor or hero, Mr. Snowden?
Clovis: I think you could classify him either and I'll tell you why. I'm one of the, probably the only person here who has actually been to Fort Meade, I've actually been to the NSA, I've actually seen what they do, I've actually worked with them on their operations and what they have done and I still hold a very high security clearance. The thing I would say about Edward Snowden was is the fact is that he revealed that we had a considerable violation of the 4th Amendment. I nearly lost my job in 2003 because I spoke out against the Patriot Act. And that’s one thing that I said because this would be the abuse that would take place and guess what, I take no pleasure in saying I told you so. On the other side of it, I see the issue here of him revealing classified sources. That is wrong and he ought to be punished for that.
Lynch: In recent weeks we've seen tensions in Eastern Europe rising as Russia has taken over Crimea and is threatening Ukraine. Mr. Clovis, you fought the last Cold War.
Clovis: Fought it well too, James.
Lynch: What is your red line for boots on the ground in Ukraine?
Clovis: I don't think we have a red line for boots on the ground in Ukraine. I see nothing compelling that would lead us to ever put our troops in position in Ukraine. We have a situation here that simply if you study Russian history we see a Russian, a head of the Russian empire expanding those borders back to traditional lines. Where I think we need to put boots on the ground is what we've started today and that is putting those 600 troops into Poland to make sure that we provide NATO support to our NATO members there that border Ukraine. That's where we ought to be.
Borg: Ms. Ernst?
Ernst: Yes. And I'm going to agree with part of that also. I don't believe that we have gotten to a point where there should be boots on ground in Ukraine and I am tied to that area. I did go to the Ukraine in between my freshman and sophomore year of college on an agricultural exchange and that is what led me to serve in the military. So I do have very strong feelings about Ukraine and their independence as a sovereign nation --
Borg: But you're a conservative about sending people into battle?
Ernst: Because I have been in a combat zone. And so we have to make sure that there are certain boxes that are checked before we ever send anybody into harm's way. We haven't checked those boxes.
Borg: Mr. Jacobs?
Jacobs: Well, I come from the school that the safest and cheapest war is the one we don't fight. And I think the question is how do we get there? And I think we get there through a position of a strong military and a leadership in world affairs in areas that are important to the United States of America. I think what we've seen from the Obama administration is a policy of accommodation and leading from behind and I think that has led to many of the crises we're seeing today.
Borg: Mr. Schaben?
Schaben: I think you've got to be careful there. The first thing we have to do is make sure we're dealing with the proper intelligence. We'd hate to be embarrassed and go into a place on false intelligence. We've had that --
Borg: Well, let me put it this way, did you support intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Schaben: Iraq yes, Afghanistan no. But in both cases, and I'll use my own personal experience, we need to have proper intel. In August of 1998 I was involved with destroying a pharmaceutical company in Sudan. That night the President was on the loud speaker of my ship and he said, that building was full of chemical weapons. A couple of weeks, a couple days later we had an admiral on the flight deck of my ship, that building was full of chemical weapons. I think about my actions that night every day. A couple of months later I find out that building was full of baby aspirin. That's something that I have to live with myself every day and that is something that our troops have to live with every day of their lives. So before we do anything we have to make sure that we have proper intel.
Borg: Mr. Whitaker?
Whitaker: Well, this President's foreign policy has been absolutely feckless. I mean, almost took us to war and wanted to vote out of Congress on Syria.
Borg: But what is your criteria for sending people into battle?
Whitaker: Where our national security interests are threatened and I don't see that in Ukraine. Crimea is a situation that we need to strengthen our NATO allies and we need to increase our oil and energy independence here domestically so that we can export to Europe and strengthen them so they don't have the dependence on Russian natural gas that they currently do and so they could speak with a louder voice.
Obradovich: Mr. Clovis, you mentioned federal intervention in higher education a few minutes ago. It seems like a million years ago by now. Just recently the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the University of Michigan does not have to use affirmative action in college admissions. Do you agree with that? And would you support federal legislation to stop affirmative action not only for college admission but also for employment?
Clovis: I think the decision that was handed down was about the fact that the referendum that had been passed by the people of Michigan was upheld and the people of Michigan told the legislators in Michigan not to use race as an issue there. So it's a very narrow decision. Affirmative action, I think, has hurt minorities in this country far more than it has helped. You look at the evidence we see out of California. You look at the evidence that we see in Michigan. You look at the evidence in state after state where affirmative action has been taken off the plate and what do we see? We see graduation rates for minorities increasing in those colleges. We see their success rate increasing. We see their incomes increasing. So, affirmative action has actually been a hindrance to things and especially economic success of minorities and exactly the people it's supposed to help it has been hurting.
Obradovich: So are you saying get rid of it? Are you saying leave it up to the states?
Clovis: Leave it up to the states.
Obradovich: Leave it up to the states. Who else? Anybody disagree with him on that question? I'd like to hear from everybody actually. Mr. Whitaker?
Whitaker: There was certainly examples throughout our nation's history where affirmative action helped, where it did open up doors. And what the Supreme Court said regarding the Michigan referendum is that the people of Michigan had a legitimate say in how they govern their state and the University of Michigan. So, I'm not calling for eliminating affirmative action. But at the same time I would like to see where the local control of all these issues and we get the federal government out of many of these things after the time has passed where the federal government needs --
Borg: Mr. Schaben, affirmative action, should it stay as it is now or would you do away with it?
Schaben: I think there needs to be something that needs to be tweaked. I wouldn't do away with it.
Borg: Tweaked and how?
Schaben: Well, obviously right now you're having people draw attention to it because there are certain people that are getting left out that shouldn't get left out. But using it -- you have to look at the people that it has benefited and it goes beyond race, it also goes to gender. It has helped out women. So it has opened doors. But after a certain point you have to re-evaluate its effectiveness and is it being effective.
Borg: Mr. Jacobs?
Jacobs: I think with regard to the Supreme Court ruling it's for the people of Michigan to decide.
Borg: But overall in the philosophy of affirmative action I'd like to have you give your opinion if it came down to a Senate vote.
Jacobs: Let me put it this way, Dean. I'm a big believer that everybody should be entitled to opportunity in this country. Nobody in my view is guaranteed success but everybody should have opportunity. There are all sorts of instances --
Borg: Let me interrupt just to ask, is affirmative action necessary to guarantee that opportunity?
Jacobs: In some instances it may be useful. And, again, I think rather than dealing in generalities we need to deal with it in specific circumstances.
Borg: Ms. Ernst?
Ernst: Dean, I do believe it is a state's issue, just as education should be a state's issue. We all have very different populations and so let's let the states decide that.
Henderson: Mr. Clovis, you have already sort of term limited yourself should you be elected to the United States Senate. I'm wondering what your colleagues on the stage would do. Mr. Whitaker, would you limit the number of terms that you serve in the U.S. Senate should you be elected by the people of Iowa?
Whitaker: I already have. I have said twelve years, two terms, if I'm fortunate enough to serve and I would support a term limit amendment to our constitution because, again, we have it for the president because presidents abuse that, at least one did in the past, and I think right now our career political class is abusing their terms.
Henderson: Senator Ernst?
Ernst: Twelve years. I have also publicly stated that and I would like to see an amendment.
Henderson: Does it under undermine seniority? One of the reasons Senator Grassley has said he plans to seek re-election is because he doesn't want Iowa to lose that seniority in the Senate.
Ernst: I think perhaps in some cases that is a problem of seniority where we have people that have served maybe too long and become part of that old boys club, so two terms, two terms.
Henderson: Mr. Jacobs?
Jacobs: Well, I'm not going to Washington to be a career politician. But I tell you, I don't support term limits and let me tell you why. We have term limits, they're called elections and at the end of the day I don't like the idea of taking choices away from our citizens in this state. And I think the fact of the matter is if we went to term limits a state like Iowa would lose a significant amount of influence. Committee chairs are going to be dominated by big state senators.
Henderson: Mr. Schaben?
Schaben: I would not support term limits. I think our founding fathers were very wise when they put term limits, or terms, for each of their elected officials. They didn't arbitrarily wake up one day and say, hey we're going to have representatives for two years, we're going to have the most amount of people for two years, one guy for four years and another hundred guys for six years --
Whitaker: The reason they did it, Scott --
Schaben: They put some thought into this and if you don't like, if you don't like people that are in Washington for more than twelve years, vote them out as a party. Here we have a five-way primary. Why haven't we had five-way primaries on incumbents before? Because people are afraid of it. If you don't like the job your elected official is doing you shouldn't be afraid to primary them, primary them, vote them out.
Whitaker: No, because we had a tradition of the citizen legislature where folks came out of the private economy, served for a limited time and then went back and lived under the laws that applied to them and we need to get back to that tradition.
Schaben: You're right, bring back the tradition, run for office, get involved.
Obradovich: Here's another tradition, candidates like to tell voters that they are going to go to Washington and change the culture or change the climate. Am I right about that? So let's just imagine for a second that you're going to get to Washington and in fact the climate will not be changed. You are going to have to deal with the culture that we have in Washington. Mr. Jacobs, let's start with you. How can you assure voters that you're going to be able to get any of the things done that we have just been talking about for the last 90 minutes?
Jacobs: Well, Kathie, I don't take any of this lightly. There's no question about it, Washington is dysfunctional. But when I joined Reliant Energy back in 2002 the company owed over $9 billion of debt to a group of banks, $6.6 of that was coming due in the next 12 months, the company was in a freefall and the day I walked in I was sitting across the table from 23 of the world's largest banks that thought they were going to dictate what was going to happen next. But I stood up to that group of banks, but I did work with them and I listened to them and ultimately we were able to come up with an alternative plan that was better for the company and it turned out to be good for that group of banks as well because we paid down $7 billion of debt during the time I was at that company. And I think that's what --
Obradovich: We have very limited time so I'm going to have to stop you there. Senator Ernst, how can you assure voters that any of this is possible?
Ernst: Kathie, it starts with one, it starts with one person and I have had so many people share their frustrations with our federal government. But if we don't do anything to change the culture right now, starting with one person, we will never get there so let's start with me. Thank you.
Schaben: The biggest thing is you have to bring people in with a unique perspective. I look at myself, I was an enlisted sailor and I worked my way up through the ranks. In the sales world, in the retail world, I started off on the sales floor and worked my way into management. I tell people I'm bilingual because I speak the language of employer and employee. Having somebody go to Washington that has a broad perspective could prevent a lot of things and also open up your eyes to everything else that is going on.
Obradovich: Mr. Whitaker?
Whitaker: I have the passion, the energy and the fight to go to Washington, D.C. and not just be a vote but be a voice for conservative values.
Obradovich: And Mr. Clovis?
Clovis: I'm an old baseball player and I know that if you change the chemistry in the dugout you're going to change the outcomes on the field. Imagine me in the United States Senate changing the chemistry in the republican conference.
Borg: I'm going to go back to what you said, Ms. Ernst, you said it starts with one. That leads me to say that you think that you're going to have a lot of power as a freshman senator to make a change in culture.
Ernst: I think, Dean, we start with one person. We have to start somewhere, right? So let's start with one person. Maybe it's one person here in Iowa, maybe it's one person in Arkansas, maybe it's one person in Alaska but we have to start somewhere.
Henderson: Let me ask it this way, President Obama will likely be President for two more years. Should any of you be elected, please name one issue on which you would work with President Obama and would see some change. Mr. Clovis?
Clovis: Health care reform.
Henderson: Mr. Whitaker?
Whitaker: Eliminating corporate tax loopholes.
Henderson: Mr. Schaben?
Schaben: The budget, somehow creating a path to solvency.
Henderson: Mr. Jacobs?
Jacobs: Eliminating fraud reimbursements in Medicare.
Henderson: Ms. Ernst?
Ernst: A strong military and foreign policy.
Henderson: Finally, I'm wondering if you can just briefly, since Iowa has had same-sex marriage for five years, if you could in one sentence describe how that has changed Iowa? We'll start with Senator Ernst.
Ernst: I still believe in a traditional marriage and I believe that's a strong way to start a family.
Henderson: How has it changed Iowa, Mr. Jacobs?
Jacobs: Well, as with Senator Ernst, I agree marriage is between a man and a woman. I'll let others decide on how that has changed Iowa.
Henderson: Mr. Schaben?
Schaben: To actually answer your question it hasn't changed Iowa.
Henderson: How so? Why do you believe that?
Schaben: Because what people do in their house is their own thing. In my house I'm married to a woman. I'm still married to a woman. How has it changed Iowa? People are now able to live their lives.
Henderson: Mr. Whitaker, what are your views on this?
Whitaker: I believe marriage is between a man and a woman and I think it has caused individuals' religious freedoms to be under challenge right now.
Borg: Is it really an issue in this campaign do you think?
Whitaker: I think it's important so everyone knows where the candidates stand on this issue. Right now I don't see marriage as a federal issue because it's not covered in our constitution. And the only way we can make it a federal issue is to somehow make it an amendment, a marriage amendment to the federal constitution.
Henderson: Mr. Clovis, will this be a deciding issue for Iowa voters in November?
Clovis: I don't think it will be deciding but I think it will be part of the decision process and they'll take a hard look at the candidates and see where they stand. I want to answer your first question, please.
Clovis: The thing that has happened in Iowa is that decision, the Varnum decision put a chill on the notion that the people of Iowa actually have a voice in what goes on inside their state.
Borg: You've had a voice here tonight, all of you, and I thank you so much for taking time to speak to the people of Iowa.
Borg: That's all the time that we have for our discussion this evening. As I just have, thank you to the republican candidates for the United States Senate, Joni Ernst, Mark Jacobs, Scott Schaben, Matt Whitaker and Sam Clovis. And thanks to our political reporters, Kay Henderson, James Lynch and Kathie Obradovich. And we invite you to join us tomorrow night for our regular edition of Iowa Press. This has been a special edition. Republican activists tomorrow night, Doug Gross, the iowarepublican.com's Craig Robinson and republican State Party Chair Danny Carroll will be here discussing, among other items, the debate that you have just seen. And so for our entire crew here at Iowa Public Television this evening, I'm Dean Borg. Thank you for joining us.