A terrible idea

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

There isn’t a whole lot we can do about it, but Gov. Kim Reynolds’ plan for a billion-dollar tax cut is a tremendously bad idea. We are running chronic state deficits whose size, for now, is obscured; we believe it to be easily more than $100 million per year. The last thing we should be talking about is a tax cut. But, it worked for the Republicans in Washington for a few weeks if not months, so maybe it can work for the Republicans in Des Moines to get them through November.

We have no idea how the governor, who acknowledges that “mistakes were made,” intends to dig us out of what we believe is a $400 million hole from the Medicaid privatization program rolled out by Gov. Terry Branstad. We would like to know that before talking about a tax cut, or eliminating federal deductibility, or increasing the sales tax for water quality (which more likely would involve cutting a fat check to the agrichemical complex in which Farm Bureau is so heavily invested).

We would like to know how the governor will restore oversight of confined animal feeding. We would like to know when a new modeling will be undertaken for the Dakota Aquifer, which is already under stress from ethanol and livestock consumption, but has not been updated in a decade. That’s where three states full of humans get their drinking water. We would like to know how school districts are supposed to improve their science and math with 1% allowable growth. We would like to know how we are supposed to clear up the backlog of Child In Need of Assistance cases when DHS caseloads have quintupled. Some answers to those few questions would begin to ease our worries over a billion-dollar tax cut.

We also would like the governor to explain why Rockwell Collins, which then had its headquarters in Cedar Rapids, paid no state income tax in 2017 but was given $14 million from the public trough. Rockwell Collins has since abandoned its Cedar Rapids headquarters for someplace else to exploit despite our foolish and naïve generosity to the defense contractor. To repeat: Rockwell Collins pays no tax at all yet dumps us for another state. How can cutting taxes, when none are paid and in fact we are paying Rockwell Collins to lay people off, result in something better for Cedar Rapids or Storm Lake?

Could somebody who favors a tax cut please start by answering a few of those questions?

The tax cut probably will pass unless Saul rides through the Statehouse on his horse brandishing a sword. Absent that, there is an election in November where all this can start to be unraveled, this huge mess the Republicans have made but for which they cannot answer.

Propaganda all around

Iowa State University researchers have demonstrated a link between Russian propaganda efforts and public discussion of genetically modified crops. The Russian efforts attempt to cast a dim light on science in an effort to malign genetic engineering and thus perceptions of US food safety. This is something against which all of us must keep up our guard: to defend science and facts. We have no doubt that genetically modified crops per se are safe for animal and human consumption, based on what is reported and vetted by the scientific academy. Russia has its reasons for talking smack about our wheat, and China has its own reasons to purchase our seed science through Iowa State University.

Russians and Chinese aside, there are legitimate questions surrounding ag technology that deserve vigorous discussion and should not be perceived to be some sort of Russian plot. We engineer crops to suit our conveniences and create whole new urgent problems: we develop soybeans that resist Roundup, until Roundup loses its punch, and then we roll out dicamba which presents a whole new set of problems. We engineer crops to resist drought and increase yield, and we can gamble with those seeds on soils that are more susceptible to drought because of soil erosion that we could have prevented in the first place were it not for our engineering. Many of our soil and water problems are due to our ingenuity. We cannot blame the science, but we can blame its application.

Russians have not convinced the editors of Successful Farming, The Des Moines Register or The Storm Lake Times that genetic engineering is bad in and of itself. It can be good. Yet, we all must recognize the collateral damage, as it were. You will find that sort of discussion in all these “mainstream media” pilloried so often. We hope that diverse discussion of the side effects of all our well-intentioned engineering are not written off as fake news planted by a Russian with a Grundy Center accent. Some of us are still paying attention and do not always swallow what we are served if it tastes like a lie. And that’s worth something, if you value the facts.