Big, bold and dead

Gov. Terry Branstad was forced to acknowledge last week that the biggest and boldest (his words) legislative proposal of his political career is all but dead because of Republicans in the Iowa House of Representatives. The governor proposed to skim money from a sales tax devoted to school infrastructure over the next 20 years to dole out money for water-quality improvements in the wake of the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit against Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac counties. The House speaker pro tem, Rep. Matt Winschitl, announced the plan’s demise to the statehouse press corps.

Legislative Republicans have their own ideas about water quality, as do Democrats. There are ideas to use checkoff funds, to target regional watersheds, to allow local option sales taxes for water quality — you name it, there’s an idea out there.

Which goes to show that nobody really knows what to do. The initial reaction to the lawsuit was to condemn the water works for interrupting our way of doing business. The second intuitive reaction was to throw a ton of money at the issue. The agri-industrial community has tried to convince us it will take $6 billion or $10 billion or $15 billion to protect Iowa’s surface water from nitrate pollution. It scares the bejeebers out of taxpayers, especially in defendant counties.

The truth is that it won’t take $6 billion. It will take judicious stewardship of what the good Lord gave us, something more than chasing another 10 bushels on a 200-bushel corn yield for a commodity that has declined in real value since the Civil War.

The water works seeks regulation of drainage districts, which scares the bejeebers out of agri-industry. It would have to account for its pollution and stop it. That’s why the commodity groups and the giant chemical companies are paying whatever it costs in legal fees to knock this lawsuit out of federal court — and to keep their contributions a secret so far.

The legislature could solve much of the problem by requiring 50-foot grass buffers along waterbodies. Plowing into the banks of Pickerel Lake near Marathon should be banned. People who plow into road and drainage ditches should spend the weekend in jail. That sort of thing.

But that will not happen.

The lawsuit will proceed. There will be no pot of gold to dump on the Raccoon Watershed to make it go away. A federal judge, likely Mark Bennett, who doesn’t necessarily like Washington, DC, lawyers, will provide an answer that industry and the political establishment cannot or will not.

In a few more weeks as the legislature races to adjournment, it will be too late to turn back. Maybe it already is.

Trump is the ‘Establishment’

It’s always good for a chuckle when the “Establishment” recoils at Donald Trump’s latest public utterance. They are so put off by his gauche style. They don’t know where he came from or how he got votes. They are busy arranging chairs in hopes of a brokered national convention to stop him from getting the nomination. What they cannot fathom is that Trump is their creation, their Frankenstein, if you will.

House Republicans drove out their leader over comprehensive immigration reform. Trump and Rep. Steve King are kindred spirits when it comes to slandering brown people. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell vowed from the day President Obama took office that his caucus’ main goal was to bring Obama down. Today, Sen. Chuck Grassley stands firm with McConnell in denying hearings to Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland just because Obama nominated him. When Trump claimed Obama was born in Kenya, the Republican knuckleheads in the House pondered it seriously; King went so far as to suspect a conspiracy involving Western Union and telegrams from Kenya to the Honolulu Star Advertiser birth notice department. They want to deny women birth control as part of their health care coverage, and so when Trump says Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly is “bleeding out of her wherever” how could it be viewed as misogynistic?

The Republican Party created the vacuum into which The Donald strolled through racism, sexism, nationalism and obstructionism. Trump will be the nominee without a brokered convention. He deserves it. The Republican Party of today deserves him. Maybe this nomination can bring the party’s good senses back in the next cycle.