A huge statement

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

Storm Lake made quite a statement when voters Tuesday approved a $18.5 million bond issue for early childhood education facilities, based on property taxes. We told ourselves, the region and the state that we believe enough in our future to invest in it, that our future is about 90% children of color who are swelling the enrollment ranks in our public and private schools, and that education is our community priority.

Voters set aside a late campaign of disinformation on Facebook that school officials tried to bat down (which falsely claimed in part that enrollment in Storm Lake is declining, when in fact it increased 7% this year alone). Other counter-narratives suggested that the overflow of students simply could enroll elsewhere, which indicates a sort of indifference if not hostility to children who happen to be brown and not wealthy. Note that a super-majority of voters have rejected that notion twice in the last year — 58% voted in favor of a larger bond issue in December, which margin increased in the Tuesday election with a smaller tax increase.

If The City Beautiful did not embrace diversity, it would be easy enough to let the schools cram them into tighter corners. But citizens know that education lifts prospects for everyone, and that everyone deserves an opportunity in Iowa for a world-class experience. That is what Storm Lake attempts to offer in so many ways.

Voters in recent years also strongly endorsed expansion of Storm Lake High School and the elementary school.

People who organized the campaign supporting the bond issue have our gratitude. It took the likes of Rick Peterson, Di Daniels, Lori Porsch, et al, to write letters, knock on doors and call voters. Outside the polling station in the courthouse, we witnessed a young Latina calling to roust more voters on Tuesday afternoon. What an encouraging sign that was.

We are setting an example for the country in how a rural community can thrive with immigration, targeted investment in education (Don Lamberti’s $2.9 million gift to Buena Vista University for rural entrepreneurship is thrilling), and community betterment for its own sake as the foundation for economic development (Project Awaysis and lake restoration).

Early childhood education is the foundation of everything else. Every person matters. Storm Lake gets it. Congratulations to us.

No room to move

The President says the economy is doing great. Yet this week he tweeted that the “boneheads” at the Federal Reserve Board should cut interest rates to “zero or less” to compensate for his ill-considered trade wars leading the world into recession. So maybe the economy is not so great after all.

The stock market and other economic indicators have shown steady growth since the Great Recession of 2008, thanks to the “boneheads” at the Fed and the Obama Administration. Historically low interest rates fueled the recovery, and have stayed abnormally low for an abnormally long time. It is widely feared that the economy is bound for recession — in rural Iowa, we have been stuck there as long as the mind can reel. The Fed has almost no room to move to stimulate markets.

Or, think of it this way: Over our lifetimes we have witnessed one-earner households go to two earners, the inability of people to buy their own homes, the evaporation of labor unions, the destruction of independent livestock operations and real markets, and almost no new single-family home construction in any given year. This in Storm Lake. A manufacturing worker today earns half as much as he did in 1975, in real terms. You can’t attend college on a summer job anymore.

Which leads us to believe that we do need to turn things upside down in this country. Storm Lake is relatively prosperous. The rest of rural Iowa is shutting down. Over the past 40 years, it has been nothing but erosion, pain and dysfunction from Flint to South Bend to Youngstown. Trump said he would make these places great again. Now he is talking about negative interest rates. What a fool.

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