- Transcript (RTF)
Political survival. Two incumbent congressmen seeking one seat in the next U.S. Congress. Democrat Leonard Boswell and republican Tom Latham on why it should be theirs on this special debate edition of Iowa Press live from Council Bluffs.
Borg: Every two years the entire U.S. House of Representatives' 435 members of Congress is up for election. In this election cycle, reapportionment of the congressional districts reflecting shifting population is downsizing Iowa's Washington delegation from five to four. That places incumbent republican Tom Latham against incumbent democrat Leonard Boswell in Iowa's new third congressional district encompassing southwest Iowa from Des Moines to Council Bluffs. This campaign is receiving national attention because it is one of only two across the entire country involving incumbents for the U.S. House of Representatives. Both are political veterans. Congressman Boswell seeking a ninth term, Congressman Latham wants a tenth. Gentlemen -- welcome back to Iowa Press.
Boswell: Good to be here.
Latham: Thank you.
Borg: And both of you are familiar with the Iowa Press format but we're in a different setting here with an audience, in addition to our television viewers, but they have promised to watch and listen but they won't be participating with cheering. As usual, I'll be moderating our discussion and questions on this special hour-long edition of Iowa Press that will be coming from Omaha Herald Chief Political Writer Robynn Tysver, Des Moines Register Political Columnist Kathie Obradovich and Radio Iowa News Director Kay Henderson.
Henderson: Gentlemen, I want to begin by asking you a question about an institution within which all Iowans interact, the post office. Mr. Boswell, how do you fix what is going wrong with the post office?
Boswell: How do you fix the post office? Well, I think we probably ought to look for the efficiencies. We probably have learned a lot from Federal Express and UPS, take advantage of those and see what we do. But I know one thing that rural folks would like to have their post offices.
Henderson: What about Saturday delivery?
Boswell: I think maybe Saturday delivery would be something we could think about.
Henderson: Mr. Latham?
Latham: Well, first of all, thank you very much for hosting this tonight and to Iowa Western Community College, such a great, beautiful place here, for having us here. But the post office obviously has huge financial difficulties. One problem is that they have overpaid into their pension plan for about 75 years in advance and to be able to keep those funds rather than have that go into operations would help them dramatically. I'm very concerned certainly and in rural Iowa that we lose the six day service it would, I don't think has any benefit for the post office in that that's the day that UPS and FedEx pay the postal service to deliver those packages. So, it's going to cut off a source of revenue also.
Henderson: Mr. Boswell, would you support changes in the pension plan for the USPS?
Boswell: Well, I think so, yeah. I think we ought to take a look at that and I would guess there's a large opportunity to look at it and see if there's things to do to improve it. And as you've heard me say many times in my life, let's look at it and if it’s okay leave it alone, if it's not then do something about it. But I think it's okay to look at anything.
Borg: Let me just ask -- would you rush to save every rural post office in the district if you're re-elected?
Boswell: Oh probably not but I would certainly look it over very carefully because it's something that is very important to the folks out there and I’d look at it very carefully but I'd want to have a lot of data that we don't have now.
Borg: Mr. Latham, would you defend every one of those post offices?
Latham: Well, I think the post office in a lot of these small towns is such an important part of that community. Now whether you had shorter hours, the same postmaster maybe would work in two different locations, something like that. But it's a very important part. My hometown of 168 people, that's a big deal in Alexander, Iowa.
Boswell: My hometown is much bigger, it's almost 240 some I think.
Tysver: Mr. Latham, as you know, as both of you know last year there was a historic flood on the Missouri River, a flood that cost millions. In the wake of that flood, do we need to re-look at the corp's management plan? Can you give me some specifics on how you would like to see that change?
Latham: Thank you, Robynn, that's a great question. Obviously last year was an incredibly difficult time along the Missouri River. I was on the levee down in Percival at 4:00 in the afternoon and that levee went out overnight and the devastation that that caused. We certainly, I think, have to look at the river management to take into consideration flood control on humans first. It has been divertedly the efforts for fishing, endangered species, things like that but our number one priority has to be humans. I would like to mention last year we had the FEMA disaster bill on the floor and I quite honestly was very surprised Congressman Boswell twice voted against funding for FEMA in favor of electric car and that has been such a disaster, but twice voted against funding when we had this disaster going on last year.
Tysver: And I'm sure Mr. Boswell, you're going to want to respond to that.
Boswell: I certainly will and, of course, there's a lot of other factors that you know, Tom, were involved in that and it was a process in place. But the Missouri River is very important to us. It is a navigation source and having served time in the military myself the Corp of Engineers is a military organization and they pretty much respond to what we ask them to do. We want navigation, we want flood control, we want many different things put on their plate. And I think they do a pretty good job. They try very hard to follow and develop what we ask them to do.
Tysver: If I could interrupt you -- do you think the corp deserves any of the blame for what happened in the flood?
Boswell: I think the corp is willing to review, I think it's time to -- some just go out and hammer the corp, well, I think the corp is willing and ready to say, okay, you're changing the rules around a little bit, what do you -- do you want conservation? Do you want flood control? Well, flood control is the most important thing. I believe that. I think they know that but it is Congress probably that is setting the rules and the requirements on what they have to come up with in their plan. It's time to review that plan.
Henderson: Mr. Boswell, Mr. Latham brought up the vote about the electric car. You didn't address that. You said there were other factors involved. For people at home, what were those factors?
Boswell: Well, the factors are where are you going to put the emphasis and we don't have that cleared up yet but it's the flood control, they've got requirements to maintain base levels and things like that and it didn't take into account the heavy snow and the unexpected rain and those things hadn't been thrashed through yet but there was still time to -- FEMA was never without money.
Borg: Well, what was it, either the electric car or FEMA? Either the electric car or FEMA?
Latham: It was and this was when FEMA cam to Congress and said that they were running out of money because of the disasters like the flooding on the Missouri River. And we had to offset the funding that we wanted to put into disaster relief, we were taking money away from the electric car which has been a disaster as the government will tell you today. But twice, Mr. Boswell, Congressman Boswell voted in favor of the electric cars rather than helping folks here that are devastated by floods.
Borg: Congressman Boswell?
Boswell: Well, first off, FEMA did not run out of money and there was plenty of opportunity to take care of that and there we are in an energy crisis trying to get the electric car going, which by the way seems to be going pretty good. And at the same time we did not run out of money. I was out here as much as you were. I was down at the Hamburg when they were scrambling to get that dike put up at the last minute and I'm very conscious about making sure that FEMA is ready to react and they were. And so you can have a doom and gloom moment as you like to do but we were able to navigate and do the things we needed to do and still take care --
Latham: FEMA came to us and wanted money, they were desperate.
Boswell: They never fail to do that.
Obradovich: Mr. Boswell, we've talked about some pretty specific issues but I want to talk now a little bit about your priorities. If you could wave a magic wand and put a bill on the president's desk and know that it would be signed into law, what would that bill be?
Boswell: Well, I would put everybody back to work if I could and stop the things going out to --
Obradovich: But legislation can't put people back to work. The wand isn't quite that magical. It’s got to be some legislation that you could put in place on the president's desk.
Boswell: Well, I think we'd put legislation on his desk that would be a major step towards balancing the budget and making sure we're living within our means and putout country's fiscal responsibility back in control, start that process that needs to happen.
Obradovich: Okay, that's a wish list. But is there one specific piece of legislation that you would want--
Boswell: I think balance the budget is pretty specific so I don't know where you're trying to go with me, Kathie, but seriously I think that would be a major thing. People are concerned about it. Again, amnesia set in on how we got there but we've got to deal with it. It’s here. We've got to deal with the deficit and we've got to deal with the debt and everybody has got to participate in it and I think that would be a very good thing to put on his desk. I’d like to get back to pay as you go. I think pay as you go is something that is very important.
Obradovich: You gave me one specific thing and we’ll come back to that. But --
Boswell: Balance the budget.
Obradovich: Balanced budget. Mr. Latham?
Latham: Well, it wouldn't necessarily take the president's signature but an amendment to the constitution for a balanced budget I think would save us long-term. And just like Iowa has to have a balanced budget, the federal government should too. It’s going to be very difficult to get there. And in the meantime what we've got to do is to have tax policy that is going to encourage growth and investment and job creation.
Obradovich: But of all the things you could have, a balanced budget amendment to the constitution, that's the one thing?
Latham: Absolutely, absolutely
Boswell: We agree on something. Isn't that nice?
Borg: If you could take one vote back, Mr. Latham, that you have cast, what would that be?
Latham: Well, I wish the No Child Left Behind would have worked out a lot better. It had the best intentions as far as trying to hold schools accountable to help kids that really weren't getting an opportunity --
Borg: You regret voting for No Child Left Behind?
Latham: Well, I do because the way it was enacted and the way that it ended up with the testing and things like that just simply didn't work.
Borg: Mr. Boswell?
Boswell: Right on. I agree. I regret that very much and we were terribly misinformed. Governor Vilsack came out and visited with President Bush and our director of education, I can't think of his name right off hand, but he was out there and said that the funding was going to follow to go with it and so they thought that Iowa was already doing the things that they were going to call on them to do and it turned out that wasn't the case at all. And I think it was a bad vote and I wish it would not have happened the way it did.
Borg: In addition to being out in this district campaigning, people have been seeing a lot of you on television. Your supporters have been buying lots of TV time freely criticizing each other and I'd like to remind our audience of some of the things now that are being said. Mr. Latham, first a commercial that you're airing about Congressman Boswell.
Latham for Congress Ad: I'm Tom Latham and I approved this message. "In the last four years, 11,000 Iowans have lost their homes. Thousands more have lost jobs. But as Iowans played by the rules and struggled to get ahead, Congressman Leonard Boswell rewarded his government staff with more than a half million dollars in bonuses, bonuses as big as $14,000 paid for by Iowa taxpayers who didn't have money to spare. Iowans struggled while Leonard Boswell spent our money on big bonuses, the Washington way."
Borg: Mr. Latham, why is it important that voters know how Mr. Boswell compensates his staff?
Latham: Well, I think it is important to know and it just is a difference that we have in the way we operate I think in our offices. Congressman Boswell has paid $500,000in the last four years, in the most difficult economic times since the Great Depression. This is a time when 11,000 people have lost their homes. Social Security recipients got zero cost of living during this time and he is paying out larger bonuses than he ever had. I have not paid out any bonuses since the economic downturn. I haven't even given my staff a raise because we sat down, we talked, we want to lead by example and I just think it's wrong when everybody else is struggling to give these enormous bonuses to staff in Washington.
Borg: Mr. Boswell, you obviously --
Boswell: He's leading by misrepresentation at this moment. We all have to manage our own account. We have about the same account and so reflect over that time he's talking about and we have actually turned back more than he has. I have a system where there's reward for good work, there is incentive at the end of the year if you've met the criteria of incentives you're going to get rewarded for it but overall he is paying an average of $500a month for his people more which equates to $6000 a year. So this is misrepresentation and it's unfortunate to have to do that but that's not true.
Henderson: Gentlemen --
Latham: If I could, go to boswellbonus.com and those are the facts, those are the official government records. Just go to that website and you'll see exactly what the truth is.
Henderson: Mr. Latham, there was a great discussion about bonuses in relationship to the troubled asset relief program, the Wall Street bailout, if you will. Was it wrong for government money to go to banks that then paid executives?
Latham: Yes, I voted against it and --
Henderson: Would you vote to ask those executives to return the money?
Latham: Absolutely, absolutely.
Henderson: Mr. Boswell?
Boswell: Well, when the secretary of the Bush administration came to us and said this is -- the sky is falling, we're going into a depression that will make the Great Depression look like a picnic it was a very serious moment. I spent a couple of sleepless nights over that as I imagine a lot of people did and I thought well, if he's right and we're going to go down I'd want to go down fighting and so I gave it some thought because I remembered what my grandfather and others had said and I said, we ought to make a try. And so I decided to vote for it. It failed the first time, as you know, but we came back and the second time it passed and it has worked. The disingenuous part of it is that this guy who has gone around preaching about it so much, how bad it is but his major investment in the bank is something is used and I realize Kathie you didn’t like that --
Obradovich: Well, Mr. Boswell, let me go back to how you're spending your money on your office. From what I understand you get a pot of money, it's roughly the same for different members of Congress, and you can decide how to spend that money, right? You can spend it on salaries, you can spend it on postage, you can spend it on other office expenses, am I right so far?
Boswell: Well, you have to keep your equipment in the office and your travel, yeah.
Obradovich: Okay, so are you saying that you spend roughly the same amount as Representative Latham when all of those things are added up?
Boswell: Well, the timeframe he’s talking about I'm saying we spent actually less and we turned back more than he did. And I’m happy for you to go fact check it and check it out.
Obradovich: Representative Latham, are you spending less on salaries and less on postage and more on other expenses in your office?
Latham: Well, the fact of the matter, we have returned more than Congressman Boswell and go to the website and see, the numbers are there.
Obradovich: Well, do you know, Representative Boswell, do you know how much you turned back at the end of the year?
Boswell: I don't have the exact number but it's there on the website, Kathie, and you're welcome to check it and of course I've checked it today and my folks have told me very carefully that this is what it is. So if I am in error I'll be glad to say so, I don't mind, but I think we're not in error because I have confidence in Sandy and I think she has reported it correctly. And the report is that he has paid $6000 a year on average to his employees more than I have and I use a system for incentives that if you've met the goals and so on, why, if we can we do it but maybe I'll look at how much we spend for mailers. You might some information --
Latham: If you go --
Boswell: You call it junk mail but maybe I'll check on that.
Borg: We're going to move along here.
Latham: Let me just say if you go by averages he is including interns that are paid $300. If you're going to go by average.
Borg: Well, Mr. Boswell, here is a commercial that is being aired criticizing Mr. Latham.
Boswell for Congress Ad: I'm Leonard Boswell and I approved this message. "An insider deal only Congressman Tom Latham could pull off. Four years ago Tom Latham opposed the TARP bank rescue plan. But documents show that the Latham family bank actually received $2.4 million from the bailout. No wonder Latham's net worth increased nearly six times since coming to Congress. It's true, Latham and his family bank cashed in your tax dollars. What's worse, cashing in your tax dollars from the bailout or Tom Latham's hypocrisy?"
Borg: Mr. Boswell, critics say that ad is misleading. Is the implication there, even maybe not implication, are you saying Mr. Latham is using his office to line his pockets?
Boswell: No, not at all. I'm saying that if you go out and preach against something that our country needed in a crisis, when a country is in a crisis and you go out and preach and talk about how bad it was and then to have major investment and use it. I didn’t know that happened. And if you'd just done it and said nothing about the other part I thought that would have been fine. That was what it was for. But all the meetings we went to and the hearings coming back to me I did a bad thing voting for TARP and he didn't because he was doing the right thing and then to use it and say I had nothing to do with it when it is your brother and family that is involved in it. That looks like a major investment. That's a little disingenuous and I resented that because I thought it was something we had to do and stepped up to the plate and he's going around saying no, no, no we shouldn't have done that but we used it.
Borg: But why am I not wrong because the implication clearly to me is that he's using his office to line his pockets. You say his net worth --
Boswell: That's your words, Dean, not mine. I wouldn't say that at all.
Latham: Well, Dean, thank you. This is absolutely a false ad. It is untrue. Congressman Boswell knows that it's absolutely false and untrue.
Boswell: Well, there's no doubt it is untrue.
Borg: Go ahead, Mr. Latham.
Latham: It is absolutely false and Congressman Boswell knows that it is untrue. The fact of the matter is media fact checkers have across Iowa, across the country have looked at this and they said it is untrue, it is unfair, it is misleading. The Des Moines Register said that it was misleading to voters, unfair and if Congressman Boswell is going to have any credibility in this race that he would take the ad off the air. So apparently he doesn't care about credibility. And I'll just reiterate so people know, I voted against the Wall Street bailout, I voted against this program. I still am against it. And I continue to say that it was wrong to give $700 billion to a secretary of treasury to spend any way they want to. So I am very clear but the insinuation somehow that has been found by everybody else that this is false and the only person believes that it isn't apparently is Congressman Boswell.
Boswell: The continuing calls we get and contact is, how would that happen? We heard from the press this had happened and I thought, all these meetings saying what a bad thing it was and then to use it in your major investment, I'm not suggesting at all, Dean, that he was sitting in the board room that was made --
Latham: Then how can you say that?
Boswell: I didn't say you was in the board room, I said that you know about it. I do believe that you knew about it -- if you don't believe he knew about it well maybe I can sell you refrigerators in Alaska. But anyway --
Latham: Obviously the people who are involved know differently and your credibility obviously --
Boswell: We don't agree on that so that's just the way it is. If you want to preach against it don't use it.
Latham: You obviously don't understand --
Borg: We'll have to leave it there.
Boswell: I believe I do understand it and I think our listeners understand it as well.
Tysver: Mr. Boswell, let's turn to a broader question. A big question in the presidential debate is are we better off today than we were four years ago? My question, I'll direct it to Mr. Latham, are we?
Latham: Well, I don't know how you can say that obviously four years ago we had hit in a very difficult time with the Wall Street meltdown and it has been difficult to get out of that. But we've had exactly the wrong remedies out there.
Tysver: Are we better off today?
Latham: We're working that way but it is the American people, it's not the federal government that are bringing us back and what we need to do today, and we could expand this economy, we could grow it so quickly if in fact we had certainty as far as tax policy out there, as far as what regulations people are going to have to deal with today. There was just a survey that came out for the NFIB, the small business folks saying that 67% of small businesses are not hiring because of tax and regulatory uncertainty. And until they have that -- we could expand so quickly if in fact we had policies in Washington where people actually worried about the people at home rather than just yell at each other in Washington.
Tysver: Mr. Boswell, do you think we're better off?
Boswell: I think we are better off and you understand where we're at -- where we were at that time under the previous administration. According to his secretary of the treasury Paulson what we've been talking about a little bit already and so a president has never been handed a situation like this one was handed but I think he's done -- I don't know if he's done everything perfectly but I think he's done pretty good. And the economy is coming back. We've got more we need to do. I would agree with Mr. Latham that it's time to sit down and rework the tax policy, this rewarding people for taking companies overseas like Lennox and Electrolux and Cummins, that you know something about, I certainly know about what happened to Maytag. What a devastating thing to happen to a community. The men and women that show up to work everyday and do good work and so on, it was really tough but we're coming back. Wall Street is in good shape right now as you probably are fully aware. The markets are up. We need to do more I think for small businesses. I think there might be a definition there how we ought to talk about that. These Wall Street traders they fit in that category too and that is, I think that ought to be addressed as we go into this.
Henderson: Gentlemen, I have a question about the farm bill. I'd like to have you look forward. When you return to Washington, D.C., Mr. Latham, how will you convince people in New York and Los Angeles that they should extend subsidies to farmers and even some members of your party who are part of the "tea party"?
Latham: Well, we have to make the case certainly and have them understand that we have the most abundant, cheapest supply of the top quality food in the world right here in the United States. And for a portion of the farm bill -- farmers understand that they're going to, they want to help reduce the national debt, they want to help with deficit reduction, they are willing to give up the direct payments and reform counter-cyclical payments. All they want is some kind of way of ensuring their risk or risk management. But I think your urban friends have to understand that this is a food bill. It's not a farm bill. Over 80% of the spending in the "farm bill" is for feeding programs. So my concern is that we are going to break this alliance if in fact, which has always helped both urban and rural to pass farm bills in the past if we don't step up and really make our case.
Henderson: Mr. Boswell, how do you keep the alliance going?
Boswell: Well, first off, the farm bill is extremely important and I agree with the food bill, it's a nutrition bill as we refer to it at times. It's extremely important. We ought to be back to working on it. It's a failure of leadership not to bring it to the floor. It passed the Senate last June, bipartisan out of committee, bipartisan from the Senate, came over to the House passed a bill out and there it sits and leadership has not brought it to the floor. I think if it came to the floor there’d probably be some amendments, go to conference and get that done. But you can not go out and plan next year’s operation without knowing what the farm bill is. You have to have that information. And it is critically important so I would hope that we would get to that sooner rather than later.
Obradovich: Mr. Boswell, we've said that over 80% of the farm bill actually goes to food nutrition programs and sometimes that is a source of friction as well. When I go to the grocery store I hear people grumbling sometimes about what people are buying with their SNAP cards, the food stamp program. Do you think there is a real waste and abuse that savings could be found in that program? Or is this mostly a class warfare problem?
Boswell: Well, first off, it’s bout 96%accurate. We've been monitoring that closely so I think that is something talked about for years --
Borg: What is 96% accurate?
Boswell: The use of the food stamps, if you will, the SNAP program.
Borg: Misuse of it?
Boswell: No, no, no, the proper use of it, the proper use of it.
Obradovich: So 96% of the money is being spent properly, is that what you're saying?
Boswell: That's what we're told by reports, yes. And it's a big item but back to your question and what is a big part of this, you're right, we have -- everybody has got a vested interest in the farm bill. We all eat. And we do have, I agree with you Tom, it’s the most plentiful and the most safe and the least expensive. I want to make a point here. We farmers are about two percent of the population but that's not how the Congress is made up and so it is important for people like Tom and I-- and I have spent a lot of time and you want some examples what happened to the pork producer I'll be glad to talk about it -- but we've got to sit down with people like Ackerman, I'll use him as an example, and explain to him that this is important to everybody. It's not just the farmers, it's everybody in the country so we all participate so we get something back.
Obradovich: I want to get my food stamp question answered though. Mr. Latham, is there significant waste and fraud in that program beyond the 96%? Or is this an attitude problem that people have?
Latham: Well, the food stamps with the stimulus bill, the eligibility was dramatically increased. The benefit was increased about 20%. Now people are hurting obviously but I think it's time to look at it to make sure that there is no waste, fraud and abuse in the food stamp -- we've gone to the electronic benefit cards which have cut down dramatically on the waste and potential fraud but now they’re finding new ways around it. So, yes, are there savings that could be brought? Yes, there are. Eligibility, I think we have to look at that.
Obradovich: Do you have a dollar amount of savings that you think could be found in the program?
Latham: Well, what came out of the House passed potential farm bill, out of about $800 billion of spending there was about a $16 billion reduction. Now, some people think that's too much. That's only two percent. I think it's very realistic. There's savings.
Borg: Let me just ask this before we go on to Robynn and the next question. Could either one of you do the same sort of job in getting that farm bill passed if you were elected to Congress? Either one of you would be equally effective?
Latham: Oh, I think so, yes. Des Moines Register did a survey a few months ago talking about the effectiveness of members of Congress and I was honored that I was number one as far as our House delegation.
Boswell: I want to know what some of these effective things are when you talk about that. Tell me, what are they because we don't have a farm bill, we don't have a wind energy credit, things that are terribly important.
Borg: But what I'm asking, Congressman Boswell, is could he do, if he is elected do as effective a job as you can in getting the farm bill passed?
Boswell: Obviously not because it hasn't happened. We ought to be back there doing it right now if he is as close a friend, if he is the most effective then why aren't we in Washington passing a farm bill?
Tysver: Last night at the debate I think your opponent raised the issue of whether or not you supported vouchers for Medicare. I’m going to give you a chance to continue the debate tonight. Do you support vouchers for Medicare?
Boswell: No, I do not. I don't think that's necessary. I think it's the wrong way to go and I don't think any of you or any of us can go out there on $6,000 with the increased cost of medical care and make it work. So you're going to fall into a real trap. And so what we have put in place, the savings that has been created, the extension of Medicare, those are going to overthrow the Affordable Care Act and start over, would be depleted in 2016. We don't want to go there. We don't have to go there because we have the opportunity to continue to work on this thing and I think that is what's going on.
Tysver: Was it a part of the prescription D bill, the first bill, a voucher system?
Boswell: Well, the first -- I'm not sure what you're talking about but if you're talking about the pharmaceutical act?
Boswell: Well, Iowa has had the pits, if you will, on what we have had for Medicare reimbursement, we've kind of been at the bottom for years and I became aware of that when I went to Washington. I made a lot of efforts, spent a lot of time with both senators and different ones and we weren't getting there because the big states and it goes on. But Iowa getting, I don't know a figure, I could be off a little bit, like $3500 for Iowa, Louisiana is twice that. That didn't happen so in that first effort that was being included. And so to put a fix on that when it came back it wasn't there. So no, I didn't support it.
Tysver: Let's give Mr. Latham a chance here.
Latham: Well, Congressman Boswell voted off the floor of the House for the prescription drug bill. That included what he calls vouchers, or premium support. So now he's had a change of mind apparently. He voted for it and now he's against it. When it came back from the Senate it was not included and so then he voted against it. So apparently it was so important before that he voted for it and then when it came out then he voted against it.
Borg: Let's give Mr. Boswell a chance here.
Boswell: Well, an opportunity to fix this reimbursement rate with Iowa being at the bottom, that was there and that was taken away, took away the incentive to do that but then you look at the whole thing and creating a donut hole and all the things that's gone wrong with it and putting caps on --
Henderson: I think you haven't addressed his allegation that you were for it before you were against it.
Boswell: I was for it with the piece that was in there, Kay. The part was in there -- they took it out and would have came back and I was no longer for it.
Obradovich: And the piece that was in there was making Iowa's Medicare reimbursement rates better? This is a chronic problem that we've had over the years.
Boswell: Thank you, that's exactly right.
Latham: But that wasn't what was changed. What was changed was the premium support or what he calls vouchers came out in the conference with the Senate that he has voted for when it was taken out but then he voted against it. So apparently it was very important to him.
Henderson: Let's shift and talk about the future of Social Security. Mr. Latham, what would you support in terms of changes in Social Security? Would you raise the retirement age? Would you require means testing?
Latham: I think you have to look really, first of all, you look back on the last time we did Social Security. It was Reagan and Tip O'Neill, the speaker and they actually sat down, got a bipartisan agreement. But in my mind Social Security is in much better shape than Medicare certainly is. But to me is a sacred promise that the government has made to seniors and those going into the system that you don't raise the retirement age. What Congressman Boswell actually has voted for in budget would increase the payroll taxes and the age and also reduce the price index and the increases that seniors get. But I just think it's a promise that we have made to seniors and we've got to keep that promise.
Henderson: How do you solve it if you don't make any changes?
Latham: The best thing we can do for Social Security, for Medicare is to get this economy going, actually have people working, paying into the system. And as long as we have uncertainty with taxes, uncertainty with regulations, that is not going to happen. When that happens we're going to see an explosion of economic activity in this country and that is the best way to shore up Social Security and Medicare.
Henderson: Mr. Boswell, what changes would you make?
Boswell: Well, one of the reasons he's not giving you an answer is because he signed the far right wing pledge and so that is why he's not telling you -- that's okay, that's his business. Social Security is not the problem in this economy. It's not the problem. Social Security is okay. It has had some increasing needs, we've made adjustments over the years, we can do it again. It's got the capon it. I had a guy call me today and he said, you know, I made over $110,000 but he didn't say how much but he said, I don't go over the $250,000 but I don't pay any more on that than what --
Borg: Just summarize so we can move on. Are you saying that Social Security is just fine?
Boswell: No, I say we have simple ways we can fix it as we need to do it. Right now it is okay. It's working. It will continue to work. We will be there for the future. You can raise the caps, take the caps off. There's things that can be done.
Obradovich: Mr. Latham --
Boswell: That possibility is out there and this gentleman, if I could, he doesn't pay any more than what Mr. Buffett or Mr. Gates pays.
Obradovich: Mr. Latham, Mr. Boswell mentioned some pledge that you signed?
Latham: He's talking about the no increase in taxes which I did sign and I have kept my word. Congressman Boswell signed a term limits pledge and then broke the promise. Because you keep your word I think it's rather interesting you're criticized for it.
Borg: It's hard to move along with additional questions when you keep throwing out new ones.
Boswell: It seems like I heard somewhere from some of you folks that he had a pledge one time about the term limits but my grandfather told me it was something like twelve years, you might want to check that out. But anyway, my grandfather told me one time a thinking person is allowed to change their mind if they've got new information. And -- if they wanted to move up to have the opportunity for Iowans to chair a committee or have a leadership position when we're a populated state of about three million compared to some of the big states.
Latham: I never signed a pledge. He said a pledge.
Obradovich: Let me ask you about Medicaid because a lot of the attention in the election has been to Medicare. But in fact there's been some discussion about the Paul Ryan budget would actually cut Medicaid more drastically and Mitt Romney has said let's block grant Medicaid to the states. Medicaid right now in Iowa is what a lot of people in nursing homes rely on. So what do you see as the future for Medicaid? And how do you keep it available for people who need it in nursing homes?
Latham: Well, if you talk to governors on a bipartisan basis all across this country they will tell you please, give us the money that you're spending today in Medicaid, let us design our own programs for each state because we care about our poor people as much as anybody in the federal government certainly does. What the proposal is, is basically to have that money plus a percentage increase each year so that the states exactly know what it is going to cost them. In the Affordable Care Act, the President's health care bill this is a massive new unfunded mandate to the states because you're bringing 30 million new people into Medicaid into the states with no way of funding it.
Obradovich: Congressman Boswell, was that a massive new unfunded mandate?
Boswell: I'll answer that but, Dean, you're very good about moving us along so I want to compliment you on that. But on the Social Security piece I just want to finish up on that and it may cause more discussion. But when you have suggested we privatize it and you've said that in some questionnaires, we don't want to go there. Can you imagine what would happen to this country if we had Social Security privatized to Wall Street when we went into this recession? That's something --
Borg: Mr. Latham --
Latham: I have never supported privatizing Social Security and Congressman Boswell knows that.
Boswell: One last thing -- we can provide for you -- where he's asked in a questionnaire that he would put money into Wall Street, the investment side of it.
Borg: But we have to take his word tonight though and he says he is not in favor of that. So we have to take his word tonight at this table. Kathie?
Obradovich: Is Medicaid a big unfunded mandate for the states?
Boswell: Medicaid is very important, as you know, I hope our listening audience knows that when citizens run through their resources they go on to Medicaid and if they're going to be in a nursing home, whatever, we've got a constituent --
Obradovich: The question is does the Affordable Care Act put an unacceptable mandate on the states making them expand Medicaid without paying for it?
Boswell: Well, I would think this is something that the state is concerned about but, again, the states, I think all of them -- we've heard a lot of talk about --
Obradovich: In Iowa the governor is talking about opting out of that and not taking that expansion.
Boswell: Well, he hasn't done that yet so let's find out what he does but I think he'll probably give it consideration --
Borg: You talked about moving things along and I must because we want to turn to foreign policy. Robynn?
Tysver: Yes. As you know some people have said that Iran may be a few months away from being nuclear capable. My question is pretty simple, do you think the United States should use military intervention to stop Iran?
Latham: That is an extremely important question. And it's a very serious question. I think we have to work with our best ally in the region which is Israel who has great intelligence as to what is actually going on inside of Iran today. And when they understand that they're on the edge of getting a nuclear weapon in Iran, if they decide they need to act we need to support them because we can not let a government like in Iran have a nuclear weapon because, number one, they will use it on Israel and certainly their next goal is to destroy the United States.
Tysver: So what kind of military intervention do you foresee in Iran? Ground troops?
Latham: No. I think to reduce their capability certainly. As far as building a nuclear weapon in Iran we have the capabilities and that is why we need, with Israel, to go after those facilities where they are making the uranium and the bombs.
Borg: Just to clarify, with Israel, U.S. forces with Israel, is that what you're saying?
Latham: We support them, absolutely. Now whether that means we go in together or just in support of Israel after they have their strike.
Obradovich: Congressman Boswell?
Boswell: Well, I certainly support Israel and I will continue to do so and it's very important. Some things you said I agree with but I think what we need to do and I think our Secretary of State is doing a pretty good job of making it happen, the sanctions on all the countries over there -- if we're concerned about it wouldn't you think they'd be a lot more concerned? Of course they are and so they need to really tighten that down and I think that process is going on and keep it up. But I don't want them to have a nuclear weapon. I probably know more about nuclear weapons than anybody at the table because I've actually assembled a nuclear weapon in my training years past.
Tysver: But do you think military intervention should be used?
Boswell: Well, I think we've got to gather the information and make those decisions based on the intelligence you gather. I spent the allocated time on the intelligence committee in the Congress and the background, I was a teacher at the command general staff college, very important matter. But I believe the other countries, they know what is going on, we've got to keep working with them --
Borg: Let's put a tie on it. Mr. Latham says we would assist Israel if necessary. Is that what you're saying too?
Boswell: We'll support Israel. We both support Israel.
Henderson: Well then let's move on. Let's move on to Afghanistan. Mr. Latham, what is the current mission in Afghanistan? And when will mission be accomplished?
Latham: The way we are approaching Afghanistan today I don't know that there is an accomplishment goal out there. It doesn't appear to me the President basically has said we're going to pull out next year. I am very, very concerned that we are putting our men and women over there in jeopardy with rules of engagement where they can't protect themselves. When you take somebody off the battlefield and you have to read them the U.S. rights that is -- we're fighting with one arm behind our back.
Henderson: Afghan police attacking U.S. troops --
Latham: Absolutely, that's why I honestly think that unless we actually are there to fight to win that we pull out tomorrow because we can go after the people that we -- Al Qaeda, Taliban, the threats to the U.S. with covert operations, with drones, things like that rather than to put our men and women in jeopardy.
Henderson: So let's say Barack Obama tells the country we're going to withdraw tomorrow. Would you support that decision?
Latham: I would -- if we continue the way we're fighting today, yes. I think we're putting our men and women in jeopardy for no benefit.
Henderson: Mr. Boswell, what is the current mission in Afghanistan? And would you support pulling the troops out?
Boswell: I do and I will share this with you, Kay. A little over a year ago I sat at a table with President Karzai and it became very clear in his presentation he wanted us to be there for a long, long time and I took the time and I said it in a polite way, Mr. Karzai, my people do not want to do that. We have come here to help you and at that time -- but now I'm very pleased that our President took the courage in the event that we don't have to deal with Bin Laden. That's where that started. That's a big relief for those of us that are veterans. I appreciate that very much. But I said to him then, we've shown you some possibilities what you can do, we're willing to help you train your army, we're willing to help you train your police but you have to decide, you've come to a fork in the road, Mr. Karzai, do you want to go back to where you were or do you want to go and have the opportunities you'll have now when it's time for us -- I said this to him -- it is time for us to bring our troops home.
Obradovich: Mr. Boswell, we've been at war now for over a decade and most of that has been pretty much on the credit card that we have added to the deficit because of these two wars. If we find ourselves in a military situation in the future would you insist on offsetting budget cuts in order to make sure that we aren't adding to the deficit?
Boswell: Well, I think we ought to pay as you go and this previous administration came up and we knew that the expenses for Afghanistan and Iraq, we knew that was going on but it came up separately. That was wrong. If folks sent me to Vietnam and said, you go there and fight and put your life on the line, which happened for me and a lot of other people, and when you get home you're going to have to pay for it, I wouldn't like that and I don't think they like it now.
Obradovich: Would you do that even if it would cause a delay of support to American troops on the ground because that was part of the problem?
Boswell: No, you've got to support the troops. They've got to have the means, the bullets and the training and the equipment. That is a must and I would never not support --
Obradovich: So would you add to the deficit in order to make sure you're supporting the troops?
Boswell: If I had to I'd add to the deficit, yes, in that situation that you're describing.
Obradovich: Mr. Latham?
Latham: Well, Congressman Boswell has voted to fund --
Obradovich: What would you do?
Latham: If you have a national emergency, if you need -- it doesn't matter, you support your men and women in uniform. You support whatever their mission is to make sure they can get through it successfully and as safely as possible.
Obradovich: At the time you voted for that you didn't know it was going to be a ten year proposition or more. So if you start off by saying well just this once we're going to borrow or we're going to -- it's hard to stop that then and I’m just saying, as you look forward --
Latham: Every way possible we should try to pay for it, absolutely. But if there is an emergency, a critical mission immediately you support the troops.
Borg: Robynn, bring us back to the U.S.
Tysver: Thank you. Mr. Latham, both of you are running, both of you I guess are running for Congress in large part on your experience and your connections in Congress. Can you name one thing that has benefited Iowa because of your relationship with Speaker Boehner? In your case the question is going to be with Nancy Pelosi. Mr. Latham?
Latham: Well, I think certainly one of the bills that I'm most proud of and John Boehner the Speaker helped me bring this to the floor was when Norman Borlaug, when we gave him the congressional gold medal, it was held up on the floor and the Speaker as majority leader at that time basically said in the lame duck session right before the end of the year that we will get this done. We got it to the floor in honor of a great Iowan that we should all be so proud of. It's very, very important to honor him and obviously the World Food Prize.
Borg: What Robynn is really asking, is it worth the third district sending you back to Congress because of your close relationship with Speaker Boehner? That's what she's asking.
Latham: Well, I don't think it hurts. But the Speaker and I have been very close friends, personal friends for a number of years. He obviously later on now has become Speaker but it's a personal relationship. Our families know each other, kids are about the same age and they all know each other.
Borg: Voters will have to judge for themselves. Robynn?
Tysver: Mr. Boswell, can you tell me one thing that has benefited Iowa because of your connections in Congress, specifically with Nancy Pelosi?
Boswell: Well, probably several but I'll just start off with we passed a suicide prevention act which was my bill and based on a constituent situation in the district and I continue to fight for veterans and everybody knows that and they respect me for it because I am a veteran and went through that, saw a lot of things. But I think that's a big - saving lives, this suicide prevention act is saving lives. There's more we need to do but it has started a springboard to talking about it with the military and others to come together and see how we can do better to stop this and I think that's very important to Iowans. I passed a farm bill when I was chair of the livestock committee the last time and I think that is very important to Iowans. Of course, at that time we had Ms. Pelosi's agreement with it and so on but we're friends too but not in the category that Tom is and that's his business. If he’s got somebody you can go smoke with and play golf with and go on vacation with and have dinner with, I don’t get to do that but that's okay. That's your business.
Obradovich: Mr. Boswell, do you have dinner with the President? What is your relationship like with Barack Obama?
Boswell: Well, I think it's good. He's welcome to come to the district any time he wants to.
Obradovich: He's here a lot. He is here a lot, he comes to visit a lot.
Boswell: He and Mr. Romney both are here a lot and we all understand -- I'm assuming you don't want to spend a lot of time talking about that.
Obradovich: But do you feel like he has done enough to reach out to members of Congress such as yourself? Do you feel like you have a report with him?
Boswell: I think, yeah, I think so to some extent. I wouldn’t say that I’m his buddy or anything but I'm his friend, I think he's working hard, I think we've established under his leadership -- Bin Laden is gone, that's a big item for me. The relationship around the world with some of my NATO allies I served with, I still have contact with -- let me finish, you asked me a question --
Obradovich: You're giving me a much longer answer than we have time for.
Boswell: He's done a good job of lifting up a relationship with other countries --
Obradovich: I asked about personal relationship and we really are short on time. So Mr. Latham, what is your relationship like with Mitt Romney should he be elected president? Do you feel like there would be a personal relationship with him where you can do things for Iowa?
Latham: Oh absolutely, and I was just with him the other day when he was in Van Meter. He understands agriculture. He understands what we need in agriculture going forward as far as free trade. But no, he's got the right kind of attitude I think that will make it much easier to work with. The frustration I have today is with the current administration -- three and a half years now and I have yet to see a representative from the White House in my office. The Bush administration, the Clinton administration had people all over the Hill talking to members of Congress. I have yet to see anybody from the Obama administration.
Boswell: -- they're over there, they're coming over and I see them walking into other members' offices as well as mine so I don't know about you.
Henderson: Many of us in this room filled up our gas tank with gas to come here. You have advocated raising the gas tax. Is this the right time to raise the gas tax when gas prices are so high?
Boswell: -- drive on those roads that you drive on, we all do and we have great need and the inflation of the products going into roads, steel, concrete, the machinery that does the work and we're falling behind, we're very much behind and so I think across the country and certainly in the infrastructure committee we can’t keep up -- Congress wise we can't move people if we don't do those things and we certainly don't want people falling through a bridge like they did up in Minnesota.
Henderson: Mr. Latham, cars are more efficient, people are buying less gas. How do you compensate in the federal government to build enough, a pot of money to fix the roads?
Latham: And that is exactly -- that's a great point. That is exactly the problem, the authorization right now is about $39.7 billion a year that we pay to the states. The income is about $27 billion and the reason is because, like you said, the electric cars, you've got the hybrids out there. You have, in a downturn in the economy you have people driving fewer miles. I just think this is the wrong time. And how that really penalizes us here in a rural state where a lot of folks have to drive ten, fifteen, twenty miles to work, they can't get on a subway like they can in New York.
Borg: So to summarize, you would not advocate raising the federal gas tax?
Latham: No and gas in town here today, $3.64 I think I saw, Congressman Boswell voted for cap and trade which would put that over $5 a gallon.
Borg: I’m going to get in a last question here and we just have a short amount of time.
Boswell: I would like for him to tell us how he's going to take care of our roads and bridges and things if he's not willing to raise any revenue --
Borg: I want to ask you, Mr. Boswell, what is unique about this newly configured third district that makes it different from other districts here in Iowa? What unique characteristics would you have to address as a congressperson?
Boswell: Well, I like it a lot because nine of the sixteen counties I've served before and it’s kind of like a homecoming and I have enjoyed, yes, going to Lennox it's been kind of fun to go there and see old friends and so on and down in Shenandoah and so on. So that part is good. The southwest Iowa is very important, we have a great industrial, agricultural base here and yes, we have some industries too but we're a diversified state and yes, agriculture very important but we've got other things we need to look after.
Borg: I must interrupt and I'm sorry but we're running short of time. What is unique about this third district that you seek to represent that is different from the other districts in Iowa?
Latham: Well, we have the most populated county in Polk County and we have the least populated in Adams County and I think I can best represent this area because I understand what it is in Des Moines, Polk County, that region because I have worked together with -- and also coming from a town of 168 people I understand what the rural problems are. We have growth problems and we have loss of population problems and I want to work to solve those problems.
Borg: Gentlemen, thank you very, very much for taking time to be with us during this hour-long session.
Boswell: Dean, we're not done.
Borg: Yes we are, the clock says we are. But next week we're taking our special congressional debate editions of Iowa Press to Newton and there you'll see second district congressional candidates republican John Archer and democrat Dave Loebsack at 7:00 Tuesday night live from the DMACC campus in Newton. And we'll be showing that debate twice again at our usual Iowa Press times, 7:30 Friday night and again at noon on Sunday. Now for the entire Iowa Public Television crew here in Council Bluffs, thanks for joining us.