Poorer for Trump

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

A couple stories from The Des Moines Register over the past week illustrate how Iowa farmers are getting shortchanged in the Trump Administration’s roving trade wars. A Sept. 7 story reports that Iowa producers can expect to receive about $550 million in direct aid as part of a $12 billion emergency aid package wrought by tariffs applied to Iowa ag products by Mexico, Canada and China.

Iowa State University estimates that the state’s farmers could lose up to $2 billion over the next year if the trade disputes are not settled. Corn and soybean markets have been snuffed. Corn growers figure they will get a penny a bushel out of the aid deal. Pork producers will see about a third of their losses covered by the disaster package. Soybeans were selling Wednesday morning at $7.23 per bushel. The aid package is worth about 82 cents per bushel, for a total of $8.05 — a far cry short of the estimated $9 break-even point.

Another story on Wednesday reported that tariffs, combined with interest rates creeping higher, precipitated a drop in statewide farmland values, according to the Realtors Land Institute, Iowa Chapter. Values in Northwest Iowa increased by about one percent, but values in West Central Iowa dropped by over 3%, primarily because of lower commodity prices. Statewide, land values dropped by 1.7% on average over the past six months, the report said.

Farmers are having a hard enough time of it as it is. They have lost money at least five years running. Yet this further injury was created by President Trump. Now we can see that his band-aid of an aid package will not make farmers whole so the Administration can wage a war from 30 years ago over steel and aluminum production.

Some loyal Republican Farm Bureau operators are thankful that the Administration recognizes the additional hardship they have heaped on farmers already losing money, and they intend to sign up for the welfare check that would not have to be written were it not for these stupid trade wars. Trump does not appear to be coming to any sort of agreement with the Chinese any time soon. He says he has a deal with Mexico, but that hinges on Canada — which he elbowed out of the negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump is trying to unravel the agreement through conflicting bilateral negotiations that spell only more confusion for markets in Chicago and Nemaha. That confusion erodes markets that then allow the Chinese to steal our soybeans through Brazilian sellers. Not that Trump or Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross would understand any of this. Iowa farmers should, and so should everyone who depends on agriculture in this state — which is everyone. Land values are the foundation of our wealth. The Trump Administration is steadily chipping away at that foundation.

Kansas math

Speaking of numbers not quite adding up: Gov. Kim Reynolds claimed that privatizing Medicaid is saving more than $100 million per year. We believe that the so-called “reform” is costing the treasury at least $100 million more with private insurance companies running the state program, and that repeated deficits and cost-cutting across the state budget are a direct result of the project, started by Gov. Terry Branstad.

In the past two years, the cost per participant has increased 6.6% and 11% respectively. Payments to the two remaining insurance companies administering the program — the third dropped out after it said it got stiffed on promised payments — have been increased 7.5% as part of a secret negotiation that we understand continues.

How this all adds up to a savings is beyond our arithmetic.

Meantime, we remind you that more than a dozen rural nursing homes closed within a year of the privatization. They said they were getting paid less, late or not at all under the reform. Yet deficits increased, and Reynolds slashed non-Medicaid spending as a result. Gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell reaffirms earlier reports that mental health care providers in particular are facing epic cash-flow struggles because of payment problems. Reynolds insists that the program is working.

The cost increases were outlined this week by state Medicaid Director Mike Randol, who previously ran the disastrous Medicaid experiments in Kansas for Gov. Sam Brownback. “This is the opposite of what we would have hoped for,” said Kim Spading, a University of Iowa pharmacist and member of the Iowa Council on Human Services who received Randol’s report.

It is not the opposite of what we expected. Gov. Branstad rammed it through despite warnings, and Gov. Reynolds could do nothing in his absence but embrace it and call it good for Iowa. But she thinks President Trump understands tariffs and trade, too.