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David Gaul
Shelby County Democratic Party Co-Chair


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David Gaul
Donna Clothier
Kathleen Cue

TO ERNST IS HUMAN

When I last wrote, ISIS was erupting on to the world stage as they spilled out of Syria and began taking over large swaths of Iraq.  At the time, I felt strongly we shouldn't get involved in another Iraqi conflict, but the brutal tactics of this malignant entity caused me to reconsider.  The situation on Sinjar Mountain in northern Iraq played a large part in altering my opinion.

When the humanitarian crisis there came to light, it was clear that the United States could not stay on the sidelines and stand idly by.   Our intervention through use of airpower ended that crisis and allowed thousands to escape by fleeing north into Turkey.  Air drops of food supplies and water eased the plight of thousands more.

Meanwhile, here at home, President Obama received accolades and plaudits for taking actions that saved thousands of men, women and children from torture, rape, enslavement and death.  Media outlets across the spectrum positively gushed with praise. TV and print pundits enthused about how President Obama had prevented a slaughter of innocents through bold, decisive action.  In fact, never before has so much... so much...

Oh wait... that didn't happen.  Nobody, as far I can tell, has given President Obama any credit for saving all those people on Sinjar Mountain.  It's been two months and nary a word.  I would have thought that any time someone saves a few thousand people, it would be worth at least of few handclaps.  But the media today, both liberal and conservative, seem to lack the capacity to give President Obama credit for anything.  They seem to lack the capacity for celebrating any kind of good news.

I'm a regular MSNBC watcher, a place where Democrats often go to take refuge, but not much was said even there of the successful effort that prevented a slaughter on Sinjar Mountain.  If President Obama had not acted, however, and if ISIS had taken the mountain and proceeded to butcher the people there, I'm sure the President would have been excoriated mercilessly.

Finding fault and second guessing is what passes for journalism today.  Every major media outlet nowadays hires a few supposed experts to pontificate about how this should have been done or how that should have been done and how what actually was done will never work and will only lead to disaster.  Bad news sells.  Grim news sells.  Dire news sells.  And if good news is reported, there's always the inevitable "but" to temper that news, lest we get carried away on waves of ebullient joy.

It appears that we may be in for a long slog against ISIS.  I hope that isn't the case because we Americans nowadays no longer are practitioners of patience.  The word has almost become an anathema.  We expect things instantly.  We think with just a few taps, swipes and clicks we can magically solve a whole gamut of problems that would have baffled our fathers. 

Already, critics complain that the President hasn't come up with a magical strategy to vanquish ISIS.  From their armchairs and cozy cubicles they're convinced the winning formula is right there waiting for President Obama to pluck it from the tree of war-making wisdom.

Meanwhile, here on the home front we are in the homestretch of the midterm elections, and once again, Iowa is in the thick of it.  I learned last spring that if you can castrate a pig, you're qualified to be a U.S. Senator.  Yeah, that's right.  Who would have thought it?  All this time I've been in the wrong occupation.  As a livestock farmer, I've castrated thousands of baby piglets, never thinking for a moment that my ability to do so made me senatorial eligible.  Little did I know that all that squealing and squirming I had to contend with on the part of my subjects was mere training for sitting on senate committees and presiding over matters of importance to the nation, that my ability to wield a scalpel in the hog house was all the preparation I needed to decide who should next sit on the Supreme Court or who should next serve in the President's cabinet.  How could I have been so incredibly oblivious to the exceedingly obvious? 

But putting my snark aside, a sobering question has to be asked:  What the hell has happened to our standards?  Joni Ernst puts out a commercial wherein she claims to have castrated hogs, and Republicans around the state of Iowa go gog-gog and say, "Yep! She's the one!  She can cut a hog and shoot a gun!  What more could you possibly want in a Senate candidate?" 

And so here we sit on the precipice, the state of Iowa possibly on the verge of doing something incredibly stupid by electing someone who wants to do incredibly stupid things.  Ernst still wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  That would disenfranchise over 600,000 Iowans with pre-existing conditions.  That would take away insurance from at least 150,000 of Iowa's poorest citizens.  That would eliminate insurance for nearly 12,000 of Iowa's poorest kids.  That would eliminate the requirement that insurance companies cover the cost of pre-natal care and the cost of childbirth--actually increasing the number of abortions. 

On that last aspect of what repealing the ACA would do, I’ve been encountering pushback from Ernst people.  While making phone calls on Bruce Braley's behalf and while sparring with Ernst people on Facebook, I've argued with some of her male supporters who wonder why their personal health insurance plans should be required to pay for pre-natal care and the cost of childbirth.   After all, they say, being men what use will they have for pre-natal care and the childbirth coverage?  They seem unable to grasp the concept that men usually figure into the whole pregnancy dynamic, especially at the beginning stage.  They seem unable to grasp that men have a shared and collective responsibility for the propagation and fostering of the human race.  But what they're really arguing for is the ability to opt out of certain health insurance requirements.

Republicans do not comprehend the nature of the ACA.  It's a macro system, big and far-reaching.  The more people who are in the system, the more affordable insurance becomes.  If the ACA starts granting opt-outs or discounts, where does it stop?   Women could argue that their plans should not have to cover the cost of treating testicular cancer and prostate cancer in men.  They could argue that Parkinson's Disease is more prevalent in men, and therefore, women should get some sort of proportional discount in their insurance premium cost.  Men could argue that they won't be getting breast cancer and ovarian cancer, and therefore, they should get a discount on their plans.  Men could argue that women have higher rates of heart disease than men and should get a proportional discount.  Women beyond their child-bearing years could argue that they should not have to pay for pre-natal care and the cost of childbirth coverage in their plans.  Men could argue that rates of osteoarthritis are higher in women than men, and therefore, men should get an adjustment in there insurance rates.  Non-smokers could argue that their plans shouldn't have to cover the cost of treating lung cancer.  Diet-conscious people and exercisers could argue that their plans shouldn't have to cover the cost of treating diabetes and ailments associated with being overweight. 

The list could go on and on.   The result would be some people would have very affordable insurance, while others would have very unaffordable insurance.  That would put us back to square one.  In the macro system that is the ACA, we as a collective body of citizens have each other's back.  We assume the shared responsibility for the good health of the nation.  That's what we are supposed to be about in the United States, or at least, that is what I was taught growing up.  That's what makes our country great.  But if we forsake that responsibility for selfish reasons or for personal gain, our integrity as a country begins to erode. 

Democrats understand that we as a people are interdependent.  Somebody's good health across the road, down the street, on the other side of the town or state or nation, has a bearing on our well-being and that we are better off because of it.  That doesn't compute with Republicans, not the ones who control their party today.

This unfortunate trait extends beyond the ACA.  Take the federal minimum wage; Joni Ernst wants to abolish it.   Most Republicans are simply against raising it, but Ernst wants to do away with it entirely.  Who does that hurt?  Poor people.  People trying to make ends meet.  Women working two and three jobs.  Students worried about their student loans. 

Entire wage structures based on the minimum wage would be scrapped if Ernst had her way.  Does she really think employers and corporate bosses will simply offer fair wages out of the goodness of their hearts?  That's not the way the free market operates.  Unless they're compelled otherwise, employers will pay the lowest wages they think they can get away with.  This eventually would put greater pressure on the social safety net.  More folks would need food assistance, heating assistance and so forth.  Stress levels would rise, and with them, a concomitant rise in physical health problems.

Ernst wants to privatize Social Security.  She wants to tinker with the single, most-effective anti-poverty program ever created.  She wants to tie it to the stock market, the collapse of which in 1929 led to the creation of Social Security in the first place. 

Along those same lines, she wants to adopt Paul Ryan's plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system that would force seniors to go to the private insurance market and find a health insurance plan that would take care of their needs in their retirement years.  What would the price of the premium be for a plan that would cover joint replacements, heart surgery, cancer surgery and treatments, Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer’s and any number of maladies that afflict the aged?  Republicans never answer that question, and you can bet Joni Ernst doesn't have a clue and probably hasn't considered the question either.  That's because Republicans today, as I have been alluding to, simply lack the capacity to empathize beyond their shoe size.  To them, it seems, it's nothing but a dog-eat-dog world out there, and the only way to protect themselves is to bark really loud.

This election should be about preserving and building upon what we have--not tearing down.  For decades now, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin has dedicated his life to doing just that.  To turn his seat over to someone who has no respect for all that he has accomplished would be an absolute tragedy and a supreme act of dishonor.  I can think of any number of metaphors to describe such an outcome, none of them comforting. 

This isn't a game.  This is real life. This can't be about someone who cuts an amusing commercial about cutting hogs.  It has to be more than that.  Voters need to be serious, not frivolous.  They need to be smart, not stupid.  Iowans flirting with Joni Ernst need to come to their senses.  She says she wants to go to Washington and "make politicians squeal."   If left to do so, however, we all will be squealing because it won't be a scalpel she'll be wielding.  It will be a  sledgehammer, inflicting blunt-force trauma and real harm to real people across Iowa and America.




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