Bootleggers and Baptists – strange bedfellows.

During the time of alcohol prohibition, bootleggers and baptists were both opposed to repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment.  It’s an example of how, “politics makes strange bedfellows.”  Even though the two groups seemed to have completely opposite views about drinking alcohol, they both opposed the repeal of prohibition: The baptists for moral reasons, the bootleggers for financial reasons.
I read the report in The Des Moines Register about how scared the Iowa medical marijuana dispensaries are about losing money once the legalization of recreational marijuana in Illinois begins next January 1st.  (see link below)  It makes me wonder if Iowa might face a similar situation in the future. The governor and many other politicians oppose efforts to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for moral reasons.  I wonder if Iowa’s legal medical marijuana producers and sellers will oppose efforts to legalize recreational marijuana for financial reasons?
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Public employee pensions need reform.

Des Moines Police Chief Judy Bradshaw has been an exemplary public servant.  She has served us very well as a police officer and as an administrator.  It’s too bad that we are losing her services in the Des Moines Police Department because of the overly generous pension benefit that we have provided for her.

It is no coincidence that she is “retiring” at age 55, and yet will be taking another job very soon.  The current pension benefit provided for all police officers and firefighters in Iowa’s largest cities allows them to retire at age 55 with full benefits if they have worked at least 22 years.  The maximum benefit is 82% of their highest three year’s pay if they have worked at least 30 years.

Bradshaw has worked for the DMPD for more than 30 years.  So, her benefit, payable for the rest of her life, beginning as soon as she retires, will be about $130,000 per year!  The fact that she will immediately begin working at another job will not reduce that benefit.  I don’t blame her one bit for doing the best she can for herself.  She is playing by the rules that we have set for her.  I would do the same thing if I were her.

Most Iowa taxpayers work for private employers that do not offer such a generous retirement benefit in either the dollar amount or the retirement age.  If we offered police officers and firefighters the same dollar benefit at age 65 it would still be very generous but it would also save taxpayers a lot of money.

In order to fund these benefits, our municipal governments are currently being required to pay over 30% of the employee’s pay into the retirement system.  This is causing great stress on city budgets and pushing up property taxes.  We clearly need to reform this system to bring it more in line with the kind of retirement benefits that most Iowans receive.  Please urge your state senators and representatives to do something about this during the next legislative session.

Link to source material regarding police and firefighter pension benefits: http://www.mfprsi.org/site_media/pdfs/Benefit_Handbook_2.pdf

Government protects special interests – casinos and greyhound breeders.

Only government could create a situation like we have with the casinos and the dog racing industry.  Casinos want to pay the dog racing people $92 million so that they won’t be required to continue to subsidize dog racing.
In any kind of free market situation, the casinos would either shut down the dog tracks or sell them to a private investors, if any could be found.  In a free market, casinos would have competition.  But, in Iowa, the casinos are protected from competition by government.  Recently the Racing and Gaming Commission ruled against a couple of proposed new casinos because they would “cannibalize” other casinos.  So, casino profits are protected and dog owners get bailed out.  This is cronyism at its best.
The only good thing about this whole situation is that taxpayers are not on the hook.

Means test veterans tax benefit

A bill is quickly moving through the Iowa Legislature that would exempt veterans pension benefits from Iowa Income Tax.  I appreciate the service and sacrifice that veterans have given to our country, but such a benefit should only be given to those veterans who are in need.  Some veterans are millionaires.  We don’t need to exempt their income from Iowa Income tax.  The current bill should be amended to exempt pension payments received only for those veterans whose Adjusted Gross Income is less than $50,000 for individuals and $75,000 for married couples.  Those with incomes above those levels can afford and should help to pay for services provided to Iowans by the State of Iowa..

Stop crop insurance boondoggle!

Thanks to the Des Moines Register for the article, “Crop insurance payment soar” on 3/14/2013.  It is not right that we taxpayers are required to subsidize crop insurance premiums for farmers.   I can accept our government administering a crop insurance insurance program if there is no viable private market.  But I cannot understand why taxpayers should subsidize the crop insurance program.  Farmers make higher than average incomes.     Many farmers and farm owners are very wealthy.  Both large corporate farms and wealthy absentee owner investors get Insurance premium subsidies.  Fees and commissions paid to crop insurance companies and sales representatives appear to be very generous.   We need to stop the farm welfare.  Charging the full cost of the insurance to farmers will cause farmers to help keep cost down and prevent abuse.

 

Stop States from offering special economic incentives

It is not surprising that the Iowa Chamber Alliance advocates that the State of Iowa should provide more money to provide economic incentives for businesses to expand or locate in Iowa.  (See The Des Moines Register, “Study: Iowa is losing its edge on incentives” 3/7/2013.)  The economic incentives paid by States and municipalities to businesses have become obscene.
Our governments should not be in the business of trying to figure out which businesses or industries might be successful in adding good jobs in Iowa.  When governments subsidize businesses, including farmers, we taxpayers take the risks and private individuals reap the benefits.  This is not free-market capitalism, this is crony capitalism – where businesses that have political power are given special favors by governments.
It would be ideal if our U.S. Congress, using their Constitutionally granted Commerce Clause powers – to regulate commerce among the States, would prohibit the States from making any payments, or providing any subsidies that are not generally available to all businesses in the State.  States would still be allowed offer general incentives, like lower taxes, but they would be prohibited from competing based on special incentive given to individual businesses.

Don’t expand Medicaid in Iowa

Health insurance should not be considered a “human right” as the Register advocated on 1/31/2013 (Health insurance for poor is a human right).  When the term “human right” is used in conjunction with a product or service, such as health insurance, (or food, or shelter, or clothing), it implies that government should use its force to take property from some people to make sure that everyone is provided with that product or service regardless of cost.  Rights that require the use of force by government to take  from some to give to others are called “positive rights.”  Positive rights are only possible if some of the people work, create, and save their property – so that it may be taken and distributed to others.
The kind of rights that are guaranteed by the Bill of Rights of our U.S. Constitution, are called “negative rights.”  Negative rights do not require any action by anyone else and do not infringe on the rights or the property of anyone else.  For example, I have a right to speak , but you don’t have to listen.  I can practice my religion but you don’t have to believe.  I can form a union but you don’t have to join.  I can open a business but you don’t have to patronize it or work for me.  Negative rights are are based on the idea that we are each free individuals who own whatever property we create or acquire honestly and peacefully through voluntary social interaction and cooperation with other people.
The current question is whether or not to expand Medicaid in Iowa.  The fact that most, if not all, of the funding comes from the federal government does not make it free for Iowans.  Money from the federal government is not “free money.”  The more fundamental question is how far do we expand Medicaid.  The number of people in Iowa on Medicaid increased by 23% from 2006 to 2010.  Today, more than one out of five Iowans are on Medicaid.  Of course, many more people would like to be covered by Medicaid.  Who wouldn’t like to have someone else pay for their health care?  Governor Branstad is correct to not expand Medicaid.  Instead, we should make sure that we our current spending is being used as effectively as we can.
Register article: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013301310087
Source: http://www.medicaid.gov/Medicaid-CHIP-Program-Information/By-State/iowa.html