Yes, Iowa has a chance to shed hard-fought achievements toward respect for working families and compassion for the vulnerable. The coming two years will be fascinating if for no reason other than to see how much further we can fall behind, on wages and income, workplace protection, work supports such as child care and health care, and protection and enhancement of our land, air and water.
But however fascinating a low-road experiment may be, make no mistake: People will be hurt. These are Iowans. They are young people who could be our future if we were to invest properly in them. They are middle-aged parents struggling to support families. They are seniors who watch with trepidation as national political games are played with Social Security and Medicare, and as state politicians claim their earned, negotiated pensions are excessive.
The coming threat is to our civic fabric of public education. It is a threat to a safety net that protects individuals and can advance them toward their dreams.
An exaggeration, you say? Have you examined the policy goals of ALEC, the shadowy American Legislative Exchange Council, in which Iowa’s new legislative leadership are entrenched leaders? We at IPP have looked at ALEC. Its agenda is a recipe for fiscal instability and economic stagnation.
ALEC promotes tax cuts and tax structures that benefit the wealthy and corporations, even more than they do now. ALEC would erase already inadequate regulations of private industry that protect workers, communities, and public health.
Iowans, are you hoping for sustainable funding for public schools? A meaningful minimum wage increase? Regulation of polluters, or of unscrupulous employers who steal wages? Are you kidding?
These need to be our priorities. They are not the coming agenda.
The lobby of the Iowa State Capitol is littered with promises that remain unfulfilled. Special-interest forces have successfully put tax breaks and corporate welfare ahead of traditional, responsible approaches to a public infrastructure that serves all Iowans, not just the well-heeled and well-positioned few.
These forces have emerged from an era of divided government, and now they threaten to run the table. The 2017 race to the bottom already has begun. Do we really want to win it?