The Trump circus arrives

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

President Trump brought his circus to Council Bluffs this week to announce that E15 will be sold year-round. That and your 1¢ per bushel corn payment from the trade war disaster aid program might get you a free cup of coffee at the co-op. Farmers are losing their shirts because of Trump, and juicing ethanol sales won’t solve the economics of a trade war with China.

Trump’s recklessness without results has knocked down soybean prices by a couple bucks and left corn in the doldrums no matter how much ethanol we run. We have a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico that did nothing to enhance trade other than for a limited part of the dairy industry. But Trump has managed to harm trade relations with his bellicose insults to our neighbors, and has caused the world to wonder whether we are a reliable trading partner. That does long-term damage to agricultural markets where our products are in intense competition with other suppliers, notably Brazil, which is now China’s preferred source.

It was all just a play to repair damage and try to get people fired up to vote in November, of course. But the damage is done. Iowa farmers know that a marginal boost in ethanol sales is hitching your wagon to a fading star. Their corn and beans are stuck in the fields, it won’t quit raining, and even if they could get them out they’ll probably lose a buck a bushel on beans, at least. Drying costs well could eat up any profit they could hope for.

So they’re not in that good a mood after losing money six years in a row.

What has Steve King done for them?

Trump says voters don’t even need to vote, King is so assured of victory. He is the most conservative man in the world, Trump said. A lot of rural Iowans might heed the President’s advice. They might not vote for a Democrat, but they might just sit home and not vote for King. Or Kim Reynolds, who is in Trump’s full embrace.

They also know that Trump is a flat-out liar. Everybody knows it. When Trump says that Fred Hubbell will “end your ethanol” they know better. First, governors have little to do with ethanol. Second, every politician is married to ethanol, for better or worse. It is patently ridiculous to say that Fred Hubbell or JD Scholten would take away “your” ethanol, as if they would take away your guns. But if you like $3 corn and lost pork sales to export, then go with it.

But we don’t think Iowans will.

They’re tired of the lies. King won’t debate Scholten. Reynolds is hiding from The Des Moines Register.

E15 can’t save them this November. You wouldn’t think.

Newspapers matter

If we were better with computers, we probably could chart a direct relationship between a rise in civic ignorance, or at least apathy, and a decline in national newspaper readership. It allows a lying oaf like Donald Trump to be elected President. It allows Steve King to make people believe that most Latino teens are drug runners. It allows agri-industry to claim that the pollution levels in the Raccoon River are decreasing, not increasing.

The New York Times reported that the Trump family probably cheated on their taxes for two generations. The Des Moines Register just debunked the Mexican marauder myth, again, based on Storm Lake Police statistics: that immigrants commit crimes at the same, or lower, rates than people who were born here. And The Storm Lake Times has kept on top of what the real numbers are for the Raccoon River, and they are not going down.

Newspapers keep democracy grounded in the facts. They tell you what your tax rate is, how your congressman voted, what the Storm Lake graduation rate is and what the school board president thinks about it. Newspapers give us a starting point for a rational discussion through news reporting, editorial and opinion essays and letters to the editor. And, the conversation is refereed for accuracy, fairness and a semblance of taste.

You just don’t get that on Twitter or Instagram. People say they don’t have time to actually read, but they do have time to troll.

Newspapers are not the “enemy of the people.” They are the people. They stand up for the little guy: the beleaguered and poor residents of Westview Trailer Court in Alta (The Storm Lake Times), the handicapped men in the bunkhouse at Henry’s in Atalissa (The Des Moines Register and Waterloo Courier), and children locked in cages at the border. They challenge power and hold it to account.

Newspapers have never been better despite their challenges. The Washington Post and The New York Times are locked in an epic newspaper war that is producing the best reporting ever seen in print and multi-media. The Storm Lake Times is doing its level best to keep readers informed of all the news in and around Buena Vista County. They are worth the price of a cup of coffee every day.

This is National Newspaper Week. Newspapers are at the front line of the defense of free speech. Newspapers keep despots in check. Newspapers remind communities of their responsibilities and opportunities. They celebrate victories, and comfort and counsel in defeat. They are of the community and for the community. That’s worth remembering this week.