Iowa Public Television


Candidates for Governor

posted on October 12, 2010

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Thirteen days remain until the general election of 2010, when Iowa and the nation return to the voting booth. There’s a lot on the line. On Monday and Tuesday of this week, we discussed the campaigns for the United States congress with seven candidates seeking to represent Iowa in the U.S. house and the U.S. senate.

This evening we shift to statewide elections and we start at the top of the ticket with the office of chief executive, Governor of Iowa, and we also have with us three candidates seeking that four-year term.

Yeager: Let’s meet those candidates who are with us now. From Ames is Eric Cooper who is on the ballot as a libertarian candidate. Next to him is Gregory James Hughes. He’s from Cedar Rapids and an independent candidate for governor. And also at the table is David Rosenfeld from Des Moines, seeking to be Iowa’s chief executive as a member of the socialist workers party. Welcome each of you to Iowa Public Television, this forum that we have here, to the Iowa Candidates 2010. First of all, we want to get to know a little bit about each of you. Mr. Cooper, I’ll start with you. Why should voters pick you on November 2?

Cooper: I’m an associate professor of psychology in neuroscience at Iowa State. I’m also the vice chairman of the libertarian party of Iowa. There is only one reason why you should ever vote for a libertarian candidate, and that's because you'd like to see the government get smaller. What we advocate is a return to the libertarian notion, the Jeffersonian notion, of limited government.What Jefferson pointed out is that the government in the society is the institution that's allowed to use force, physical violence. There are certain activities that require force, and the reason why we have a government is in order to perform those activities. The activities that would require force would include: first, protecting people from body crimes like murder and rape and assault; second, protecting people from property crimes like theft and fraud and pollution; third, enforcing the terms of a contract when there's a dispute; and then fourth, there are certain economic activities known as public goods that, for one reason or another, the market left to its own devices can't supply in the optimal amount. That would be things like laying roads. Those are the activities that require force. And having the government do anything beyond the limited set of activities that require force is foolish because the government is a monopoly.Like all monopolies it has very little incentive to please its customers and very little incentive to be cost effective. When we give more and more responsibility to the government, we're giving more and more responsibility to the least efficient institution in our society. What I’m trying to do in this election is get 2 percent of the vote. The reason why we need 2 percent of the vote is under Iowa law, a minor party can gain major-party status if their governor candidate can get 2 percent of the vote in the governors election. If I can get 2 percent of the vote, what that would allow us to do is run lots and lots of candidates in the next election cycle, and that would put pressure on the major parties to start adopting small government positions.

Yeager: We've talked to a couple of the libertarian candidates already during this forum this week. If you were successful in getting that 2 percent of the vote, would you continue and would you run out more candidates in the next cycle?

Cooper: Absolutely. That would be the primary goal of the party would be to recruit more candidates and then try to run candidates for every partisan office in the state. We just want to get 10 percent of the vote for our candidates. We’re not trying to win elections, but 10 percent is enough to force the major parties to start adopting our issues to steal our voting.

Yeager: You covered many of those things but, gain, just boil it down for a little bit what exactly does a libertarian party candidate mean.

Cooper: Libertarian party candidate always means you want a smaller government. You want it reduced to just the basic set of functions that require force, and we want to stop doing things beyond that.

Yeager: Okay. All right. Mr. Hughes, give your pitch. Why should people pick you on November 2?

Hughes: First off, I’d like to thank Iowa Public TV for having us on, and I admire my candidates for even stepping up to the plate. I think sometimes it takes a little bit of a warrior to put yourself out there and decide that you want to make a change. But rather than tell you why you should vote for me, I’d rather tell you why you shouldn't vote for me. You know, I’m honest, I have common sense, and I wasn't born with a gold spoon in my mouth. Those three things right there should disqualify me. But there's too many issues just to stand back and not do something about. I’ve been lobbying for the last ten years, and I’m just absolutely upset and appalled at the waste in government. Until you get somebody outside the system, that's never going to change. An example is earlier -- I’m the co-chair for the Iowa Child Support Advisory Committee. I went into that committee not thinking too much of the people that's on it, but I’ve actually earned a lot of respect for them.But they waste $53 million a year collecting child support, and it's appalling and it's not about dead-beat dads or moms. It’s about making a lot of money for the attorneys, and that has to change. And unless we get somebody outside the normal political system, the democrat or republican, it's just absolutely, absolutely never going to change. And there's too many issues to go through right now and I won't be able to touch on all of them, but -- anyway, again, I just want to thank Iowa Public Television for having us on today, and I want to thank my other people here today. I think -- like I said, it takes a lot to step up.

Yeager: I want to ask you about an independent. One of the hardest things to do as a governor is to work with leadership if it's the same party or not the same party. If you are elected, there's not going to be many independents in the house or in the senate. How are you going to be able to do things from an independent if you are governor?

Hughes: You know, that's a great question and I think that's something I hear a lot of. Being an independent I think puts me in a -- kind of in the middle of the road. I can try to get both parties to work together. I’m on the board of four Iowa corporations. I work for a large corporation, and politics is in everything that you do. And the idea is to try to create a consensus that's going to be good for the people. You know, one of the problems that we have in the state of Iowa, the only people that seem to be benefiting is the upper 2 percent, you know. As Mr. Cooper said, the 2 percent he wants to get I think is at the bottom. So we need more of the middle class, more of the low income to actually decide that they're going to step up. One of the things across the state, I always get this thing, people tell me they don't vote. I always tell them, yes, you did. And they'll go, no, I didn't vote. and I’ll say, yes, you did, you just chose to let government do it for you, because if they can make you complacent, then they know they can automatically put you in the win column because you're not going to be there to vote against them. Everybody has to step up. And stepping up doesn't mean give money to candidates or whatever you're going to do. It means getting out and voting.

Yeager: All right. Mr. Rosenfeld, let's get people out to vote for you. Why?

Rosenfeld: Well, I’m a production worker at the Firestone plant in Des Moines. I’m a member of the Steel Workers Union. I’m a long-time unionist and I’ve been a fighter for the rights of the working class for many, many years. The starting point of all of the socialist workers party's campaigns is the fact that we're in an economic depression.Unemployment, long term and persistent. It’s 10-percent around the country. It’s much higher for blacks than for certain other categories. We’re facing all kinds of cutbacks at every level of government, but especially at the state and municipal level. A tax on our political rights. A permanent state of war in this country are all aspects and consequences of the economic crisis that we're in. So the central question that needs to be addressed is what does the working class need to do. What are we going to do about it? We think that the answer cannot be looking to a politician of the democratic or republican party that represents the interest of big business and the interests of a capitalist system which is in itself in a crisis. So we have to break with those two parties.We have to look to our own power as the working class. Our weapons are solidarity, our union power, we need to organize a labor party based on a fighting labor movement. Last Saturday I was in Keokuk, Iowa. I joined a march of 800 workers and unionists supporting the workers at Roquette America that are locked out. This company, Roquette, is using the economic crisis -- is using high unemployment as a union busting bat against the workers there. They’re trying to break than union. I was proud to be marching with fellow steel workers, with auto workers, with electrical workers, supporting these workers in their fight to maintain their union and their living standards. It’s this solidarity -- implementing solidarity in action that's the starting point to building a movement that can actually begin to defend the working class against the consequences of this economic crisis.

Yeager: So what would happen if the socialist workers party is elected? I mean how many people -- say the company in Keokuk is successful and breaks the union. How do you solidify when there's fewer and fewer workers to join the party, when jobs continue to go away and those are the traditional union jobs? How would you stand together to fight the government?

Rosenfeld: Well, I recognize that there are fewer and fewer workers in unions. That’s a reflection of the weakening of the labor movement that's been going on for decades. We have to build a fighting labor movement, one that fights for all workers, not just those that are in a unionized workforce, one that inspires people and that mobilizes them. We need to build a massive union movement in this country, even though right now we're in the single digits. So the question is what do we do to engage in that struggle, what do we do to exercise solidarity. And through doing this, we'll learn our worth and we'll begin to tap into the power that we have, the power that has been hidden from us in a certain sense. Those that say you just get out and vote for a democrat or republican are really saying to you: you can't do it yourself; the working class doesn't have power to do it; they have to look to somebody else to do it for them. And that is the exact thing that we have to get away from.

Yeager: Mr. Cooper, what would you do if you were governor during the last four years during the economic crisis? What would you have done?

Cooper: Well, I think what we need to do is to make Iowa the freest state, the one most conducive to business. What that means is, to me, you don't regulate businesses beyond what you need to protect the people from body crimes and property crimes and fraud. As long as the business isn't doing that, well, they should be allowed to operate their business in the most efficient manner. Now, the other thing that would serve as a stimulus package is if we could lower the minimum wage. There are lots of people who are out there whose labor would be worth between what the market price of labor is and the minimum wage now, would like to have jobs, who don't have jobs now precisely because of the minimum wage. What we should do is let the market set the price of minimum wage labor. And like my graduate student was telling me today, his parents are both moderately retired and they cannot get a job right now because of the minimum wage. They would both like to work. They could become wealth producers instead of wealth takers like they are now if we let the market set prices. So that's what I would do.

Yeager: There is still some role for government, but could government be smaller? If you were to see government go smaller, where would you make cuts and reductions?

Cooper: Well, again, I would reduce everything except for the core functions that require force.

Yeager: So what would those be?

Cooper: Well, that would be we could privatize education, for example. Now, the government should help to subsidize education somewhat, but the money should be attached to the individual child to let them go to the school that they want to. We could sell the roads off and have them operated as a public utility. We need the government to lay the roads, that's for sure, because it requires eminent domain. But after that the roads are simply a natural monopoly, very much like the electric company or the cable TV company. They should be sold to a private company and operate as a natural monopoly. Welfare spending makes sense to maybe -- if private charity is insufficient to help the poor, maybe there's some tax money that's necessary for that. That’s also arguably a public good. But after the money is collected by the government, it doesn't have to be the government itself that's administering the programs. That should simply be sent out for bids. And then get -- the private company gets a two-year contract where they actually administer the program, and then we can look at the end of two years at what kind of a job they're doing. Are they pleasing their clients? Are they getting people off the rolls? That would allow us to fire a company that wasn't doing a good job. So I think there are way more efficient ways of handling things that what we're doing now.

Yeager: So I pick up at the -- you're an employee of a public institution, so you talk about second children. So what about secondary high school, colleges, Iowa Public Television? We’re part of the education department. Where do you see our future?

Cooper: Well, I think Iowa Public Television needs to be viewer supported. I don't believe it should get any tax money. If there's enough viewers willing to support it, that's great. I think public television may have been arguably a public good in the late '60s, but now where there's so many programs on television, so many different channels, I think it's outlived its usefulness, to be blunt, and we could probably get away without it.

Yeager: That's fair and that's why I asked because I knew you were going to say that. But have you been on any other television stations or networks in your coverage of your campaign leading up to today?

Cooper: Well, really I haven't been on television, but I have been on radio a lot -- a lot. And I have not been on Iowa Public Radio. So I think the commercial stations have given me a lot more coverage than the public television -- public radio, at least, at this point. So arguably I would argue that maybe the public radio is not serving the best interests.

Yeager: All right. Mr. Hughes, same question. If you were the governor the last four years, what would you have done to the economy?

Hughes: Well, I don't think I could have done any worse. But first off, I guess I’d just like to -- Iowa Public TV and Iowa Public Radio -- I’ve got to tell you a quick little story. The only reason I started listening to it and watching it recently is I loaned my truck out to a social worker and got it back and it was stuck on that channel. And I started listening to it and, I’ll tell you what, not that -- I support you guys greatly. I think your programs are invaluable. Like today I don't think the voters and people watching your program have an understanding that they're going to get to see the other candidates. And truthfully, I’m very impressed with both these guys. But as far as the state of Iowa, like any state, we've got to focus on jobs. We’ve seen job reductions here, which I find just absolutely ridiculous. State spending is way out of control. And if you see my flyer and stuff like that, one of the things I say is they're money junkies.And they are! If you give a junkie some drugs, he's going to need more drugs, and that's just the way it is.And it's going to be very, very tough to control, and it's going to be very, very tough to change. But I’m very unhappy at the direction of Iowa and the treatment of their people. To give you an example, I’m against the cigarette tax, and I’m a nonsmoker. But if you look at the statistics, 80 percent of the people that smoke are low income, so basically you're just taking that money out of the kids' mouth. The parents aren't going to quick smoking. I think they should; don't get me wrong.But at the same time all you're doing is taxing the low income, which hurts the low income. And it seems like an easy group of people to tax because they won't fight back.

Yeager: But there have been statistics that say it has lowered people smoking, the number of people smoking. It has stopped people from smoking, the lower tax. And some of those are the lower income people, so we're helping in their health spending if we prevent them from smoking.Do you agree with that?

Hughes: I don't agree with that because of the simple fact that I think a lot of times statistics are flawed. I actually had people signed my petition -- stood outside cigarette places and -- listen, I have friends that, boy, they quit for a short while, but they went right back to it. I had a friend I worked with. He had lung cancer and lost a lung -- lost one lung. You’d think that would be enough to make somebody quit. Listen, cigarette tobacco industries are putting so much drugs and stuff into that to make sure that you're so hooked that you can't give up. That’s the way you attack it. You don't attack the low income. Go again after the cigarette industry. There was a lawsuit before which looked to me like the lawyers came out further ahead than actually the smokers did. But keep going after the people that are producing the product.

Yeager: I asked Mr. Cooper this, but would you continue to reduce or would you want to see a reduction of government? And if so, what areas do you see savings and reductions?

Hughes: Oh, absolutely. Government is -- like I said, it's grown into a monster and a junkie. Certainly the court systems is one thing that I want to address greatly. You know, I think that they've just been so out of control that they don't understand what they're doing, and they don't police themselves. I’ll give you an example. I was on a panel and I had one of the senators right now, senator Grassley, and I explained to him the story of Michael. I’ll give you an example. Michael went through a divorce. Three year old daughter.Judge made him go through supervised visits. I’ve never heard of anything that's not been at the why or -- point, but he made him do supervised visits at his ex-mother-in-law's house. Now, as bad as that is, it gets better because ex-mother-in-law said that she would rather take a knife and stick it in his throat than look at his face. Can you imagine going to a house like that for a neutral supervised visit with your daughter? Well, it didn't work out. Big surprise there, isn't there.But anyway, he had a friend of mine, a social worker -- the one that borrowed my truck, as a matter of fact -- go with him to the next visitation. Ex-mother-in-law and ex-wife both come out yelling and screaming at him. The sheriff shows up and the social worker explained what was going on. You’d think it would go back to court and the judge would say, wait a minute, you people are out of control. But what he did was wouldn't let the social worker testify and took visitation away from Michael for a year because of his unreasonableness. So it's just one of the many, many things.

Yeager: All right.Mr. Rosenfeld, if you were governor the last four years, how would you have guided us through the economic situation?

Rosenfeld: Well, first of all, we have to recognize what the source of the economic crisis is. This is a global crisis. We’re in an economic depression and it's fundamentally a crisis of the system itself. So my point isn't that it can be fixed. I don't think that it can be. The question is who bears the burden of this crisis. Now the crisis which has been created by the capitalists is being hoisted onto the backs of working people. We’re paying for it through unemployment, through massive cutbacks in social services, through a tax on our political rights. And so the proposals that I would be putting forward and the things that I would be organizing to fight for with other workers and working class organizations would be for a massive public works program to put millions of people to work at union scale wages, a shorter work week with no cut in pay. Something that our class fought for and won a century ago, the eight-hour day, which has been eroded, and it's something we need to fight for again. We need to fight back against the budget cuts that are hitting our living standards and our conditions. So the question is not what I could do as governor, as much as how I could use the office of governor to be part of this broader fight to build a working class movement to tap into the power that we have as those that produce all of the wealth of the society.

Yeager: Many of the things, though, that you've mentioned sound a little bit like the stimulus plan that was passed and put into -- how different is it?

Rosenfeld: Well, I think we all recognize that the stimulus plan did not have a substantial impact on the real questions that we're facing, unemployment and these kinds of questions. It wasn't really aimed at doing that. It was aimed at putting a band-aid over a hemorrhaging wound. So I am talking about the need for the working class to fight to demand of this capitalist government that the measures -- that measures be carried out that shift the burden of this crisis off of our backs. It’s going to go much deeper and in a much -- entirely different direction than what the stimulus package -- so called stimulus package went in.

Yeager: If there are no jobs -- if the jobs continue to disappear, how do you stimulate jobs for companies to create jobs? What type of jobs would they be? What would be an ideal job created under your tenure as governor?

Rosenfeld: Well, the kind of jobs that I’m interested in are the kind of jobs that working people can make enough money to have a decent living. The fact is that under this system, working people are constantly pitted against each other in a dog-eat-dog competition for jobs. And it's not just me competing with another guy here in Des Moines. It’s we're competing with workers in other states, in other countries. And this is utilized to pit workers against each other and not see what the real source of the problem is. when we blame the immigrant worker, when we blame the Chinese, when we start talking like there's such a thing as an American job that's going overseas as opposed to starting with solidarity, starting with building the unions, starting with fighting for our fellow workers, then that's when we'll be on the right course towards building a movement that can actually be powerful enough to force the government to make the kind of moves that we need to make.

Yeager: All right.Mr. Rosenfeld, thank you. Mr. Cooper, first thing if you are elected, what would you do? What would be the first piece of legislation that you would like to see crafted that you would sign?

Cooper: The first thing I would do is pardon all nonviolent drug offenders in the state and empty out our prisons of those folks. There’s no reason to have nonviolent people in jail. Second thing I would do is try to legalize marijuana in the state. and the third thing I would do is try to shift from the public education system we have now, where the government essentially has a monopoly on the schools, to try and make it a more competitive market, try to switch from giving direct state money to the schools themselves to rather attaching money to the individual children, both in K-12 and for college funding, such that they could choose any sort of school that they want, whether that be parochial school, private school, home schooling, or even the current public schools if people want. But the key is that the public schools will be funded on exactly the same basis as their competitors.When we've done is taken education and made it a monopoly market instead of a very, very competitive market which is where, in fact, the free market works best. so I don't think there's any change that we could make that would do more for the state than by attaching the money to subsidize education to the individual student.

Yeager: But it is a competitive environment for each institution. They all want a student. A small private college wants a student just as much as an Iowa state or a university of Iowa or northern Iowa does. They are competitive in that nature in trying to get the best students. So how do you -- what's that next level?

Cooper: Well, here's the thing, the regents institutions, it's very, very cheap to go there. With the private schools, it's not cheap to go there. What we need to do is get more competition for a higher education. As a professor I can tell you students are about the lowest priority at the regents institutions right now.

Yeager: There's other priorities. I need to keep moving because I need to ask Mr. Hughes, what would be the first thing you would do as governor.

Hughes: That's a great question.Truthfully there are so many problems in the state of Iowa, I really don't know. I can tell you jobs, jobs, jobs. Without that we don't even have a foundation for our state. But what I plan on doing is getting a panel of very, very bright people, far, far more brighter than me, like these guys, and we can get together and have a think tank and figure out how we can get this economy moving.Mr. Rosenfeld is so right -- is so right. This is a global, global problem but we have to -- as governor I have to focus on Iowa. And Iowa has some of the greatest people in the world. We actually, believe it or not, have some of the most brightest minds in the world live here in Iowa. You might wonder why, but they do. But why not pull that resource together and have them actually sit down and say what is our first thing that we need to attack that's going to make life better for Iowans. And that's what I’d like to do.

Yeager: Mr. Rosenfeld, what would you do as governor? What would you like to see as the first bill you sign?

Rosenfeld: Well, I’d like to step back from your question because it kind of tries to box me in a certain way that I think is reasonable for other candidates. but the kinds of things that we're talking about, the central issues that we're facing -- jobs, the rights of immigrant workers, health care access for everyone regardless of ability to pay, making sure that farmers aren't driven off of their land -- these are the kinds of things that we need a fight around. We need to fight these things. it's going to be a fight largely against the government and against -- certainly against the political parties that make up the government, that represent the interests of big business. And so we -- these are the questions that we have to confront. and by fighting around these things -- and it includes in the legislative arena -- but it's going to be building a movement, one that can actually begin to pose the question -- this is not a short-term thing -- but pose the question of who holds political power in this country, because right now it's a dictatorship of capital. What we need is the rule of the working class. The working class needs to take political power. So what are the things along that road that we need to advance today that lead in that direction, and that means us tapping into our power as the working class.

Yeager: All right. This is a yes or not in the final ten seconds.Term limits for governor; should there be one?

Cooper: No.

Yeager: Should there be term limits?

Hughes: Yes.

Yeager: Term limits?

Rosenfeld: No.

Yeager: All right. Thank you.Just one final barometer or the chance to have people here. We appreciate your time, gentlemen. Thank you so very much for coming in. It was good to hear everything that you had to say, and we do appreciate your input on the gubernatorial race for the campaign of 2010. We wish you well in the general election on November 2. So our six-part candidate series continues tomorrow evening on IPTV as we shift our focus from the governor's office to the Iowa Executive Council. We welcome to the table four statewide candidates seeking election as auditor of Iowa and treasurer of Iowa. Incumbent democratic Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald and republican challenger David Jamison will join us, as will incumbent republican Auditor David Vaudt and democratic challenger Jon Murphy, each here to discuss the issues prevailing in the world of Iowa finance on the executive council. That will begin tomorrow night at 6:30, and I hope you will be joining us. We leave you with this program reminder, Governor Chet Culver and Terry Branstad will be involved in their third and final debate of the campaign tomorrow on Iowa Public Television. The broadcast airs live at noon on World .3 and a rebroadcast is scheduled at 8 p.m. on Iowa Public Television. Mark it down, 6:30 p.m. and then 8 p.m. here on statewide Iowa public television. My name is Paul Yeager. Thank you so very much for joining us.

Tags: campaign 2010 candidates David Rosenfeld elections Eric Cooper governors Gregory James Hughes interviews Iowa politics