Rudderless ship

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

Good for Gov. Kim Reynolds that her name will not be on the November ballot, because her administration has been a wreck. First, Reynolds had to fire her longtime friend who ran the Iowa Housing Finance Authority over sexual harassment claims and, it turned out, a fiscal black hole. Debi Durham, the state economic development director, had to clean house and take over.

Then Reynolds had to fire the director of the Department of Human Services over, among other things, the approval of a sexual arousal study of clients at the state home in Glenwood. The director of the Department of Administrative Services, which failed to check the study, also had to resign. And, then there is this little fiscal bug called the Medicaid budget, which is running about $100 million per year short and is starving other program areas like mental health.

By our reckoning, the Medicaid program after it was privatized costs about $400 million per year more than it did when the state ran the program. Former Gov. Terry Branstad said it would save $450 million per year. Reynolds stood by and smiled, and has stuck with this disaster ever since. She claims the deficit has been cured. Yet, the legislature has been asked for at least an additional $82 million this year.

It would help if the state auditor, a Democrat, could perform a comprehensive financial audit and impact statement so the public could get a clear idea of how much the Medicaid mess is costing us. This ill-formed privatization has been underway for four years with almost no effort to bring its fiscal impact to light.

Republican legislators are not keen on Reynolds’s centerpiece proposal, to increase the sales tax to buy down property taxes and give an additional $82 million for natural resources (mainly, for water quality programs). Yet they are determined to cut taxes somehow, despite all this ballooning misspending.

None of this sounds like solid business practices to which Main Street Republicans used to subscribe. Reynolds has been asleep while her government crumbles around her and property taxes for homeowners balloon. It will not help down-ballot legislators in elections this fall.

Sanders can win

We marveled at how Bernie Sanders took every vote at the Storm Lake Latino caucus on Feb. 3. Why? Medicare for All, climate change and immigration reform. He tied with Pete Buttigieg in Iowa. Sanders won in New Hampshire with the same message, and did the same in Nevada. The Vermont democratic socialist has lots of money, a passionate core of supporters and a clear call for change that takes working people into account, for once. Surprise, it works.

It scares the wits out of the corporate marionette masters who control much of our politics. Universal health care is getting most of the votes. So is an overarching response to climate change that could put rural prosperity back on the agenda with new jobs in renewable energy and real incentives for farmers to capture carbon and clean up our water. And a recognition that immigrants always have been the future of America.

Sanders can win Wisconsin, where dairy farmers have lost hope; and Michigan, where GM workers were just on strike; and Iowa, where John Deere workers have been idled. The malefactors of great wealth know it, and they are doing anything to stop him. This week, it was comments Sanders made condemning Fidel Castro’s authoritarian regime while lauding Cuba’s efforts at health care and literacy. President Barack Obama said much the same thing when he tried to re-open relations with the island nation just off Miami.

Sanders is no more radical than Franklin Delano Roosevelt. His parents were immigrants, Jewish refugees. Our health care system is ripping us off, and everybody knows it but he is willing to do something about it. So is Elizabeth Warren, who we endorsed. Sanders put together the coalition it takes to gather delegates on his way to the nomination, and other candidates have not. The reason is his clear, simple message that we have had enough, and it is time to put people first again. That’s a winning message, and Sanders is proving it every week. He can beat the worst president in American history.

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