Tuesday, November 16

Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! In Search of Cooperative Creationism

Who is responsible for job creation? According to the voters a couple of weeks back, the Republican Party, as they seated quite a few of them in Congress, state houses and governor's mansions. But not with carte blanche as they are expecting the changing of the guard to lead to an improved economy and jobs, jobs, jobs. Clearly the voters are still skeptical according to a Rasmussen poll earlier this month.

But here's what I think. We are all responsible for job creation to some extent. Those of us who are innovators can create a job for ourselves and perhaps some others (of course, if what we have to offer is of value to others). For instance, businesses with 1 to 4 employees are the most stable employment group and fairly resistant to recent economic downturns and second most resistant are employers with 500 to 999 employees. Maybe we should encourage the growth of these scales of businesses?

The government can do some things more easily than private industry. Like pump money into areas where there is likely to be future demand (what the private sector used to call research and development, when it was the right thing to do) and to invest in transportation/delivery infrastructure. The government can also provide incentives through tax abatement (though, in the long run is a zero sum gain, particularly when businesses pursue greener pastures).

The private sector can work cooperatively and pump money into creating jobs locally that will spur demand for services and goods. They can do this with the profits that they value so highly. Profits are like a savings account and can be used to dig a company out of a ditch or to spur growth when opportunities arise.

An important question that not too many people asked during the mid-term skirmishes is why aren't the government and the private sector doing what they can do TOGETHER? The simple answer is like the Hatfields and McCoys, they don't like each other much or said differently, they have different agendas. A more complex answer is that the private sector doesn't change fundamentally in terms of how it operates, but the government is a revolving door of policy-changers and bureaucrats who are in the position to try and make these policies work. This doesn't give either a license to fingerpoint and lay blame, but it is easier than working to a common end.

Occasionally things work between public and private interests. I think about places like Newton, Iowa that have successfully changed their ways of doing business because of dependency on a single employer--you remember Maytag, don't you? Now they have diversified around wind and alternative energy businesses. This was made possible both by local inducements, but also by federal and state inducements. This type of job creation is a win/win proposition.

Is it perfect? No, some of the companies creating the jobs are not wholly American companies. TPI, a wind energy company has about 300 of 2500 worldwide workers in Newton, as well as plants in China and Mexico (and also, Rhode Island, Arizona, and Ohio). Could the work be done in the US, absolutely, but the cost of doing business is seen as the obstacle. Also, this means slogging huge trucks in for the coasts and Mexico for assembly of these giant wind generators. Isn't this another place where tax dollars could be used, to support the creation of jobs that increase localized jobs and reduce transportation costs (and the accompanying effects on the environment)?

Maybe the mantra should be how do we increase opportunities for new technology or even refining old ones, reduce the impact on the environment, and put people back to work. It seems that by wishing for jobs to be made is not, pardon the pun, getting the job done. Maybe the lessons of Newton can be applied in other areas that are not in crisis mode and resources in the area can be brought together so that jobs can be sustained.

Monday, November 8

Smart START and DADT Distractions

When Congress returns to Washington in the lameduck session, it is expected that the Democrat Senate majority will to try to push through the START agreements. The START treaty, which also awaits ratification in Russia, would lower each country's maximum number of long-range active nuclear warheads and set procedures for them to inspect each other's strategic nuclear bases. With the immediate seatings of Joe Manchin, Mark Kirk, and Chris Coons in the Senate to replace the interim placements, there is the opportunity to close out the year on a high note where nuclear proliferation is concerned.

Also expected to be discussed is the repaeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT). This may be a taller order, but, because it is supported by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, as well as Army chief of staff Gen. George Casey Jr., chief of naval operations Adm. Gary Roughead and Air Focre chief of staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, it may help to sway the Senate, particularly if the Suptreme Court review of the repeal is completed soon. At odds are field level military leaders who previously have sent letters not to support it. According to Poliglot, "With preliminary reports about the survey of servicemembers suggesting that opposition to openly gay and lesbian service is not as widespread as some of the service chiefs have suggested, and with questions about the ongoing appeal of Log Cabin Republicans v. United States as the background scene, it is not clear that -- despite the comments from Amos [Marines commandant, Gen. James Amos who said Saturday that combat is "intimate" and that this intimacy makes him uncertain of the impact of repealing DADT on "unit cohesion" and "combat effectiveness.] -- all of the service chiefs would be willing to send a similar letter opposing lame-duck passage of the repeal amendment."

With narrow wins by Senate majority leader Reid, it remains to be seen whether he is willing to go to the wall for the repeal of DADT or will let it play out in the next session. Also up in the air is whether, with a narrower margin in the new year, whether Republican leaders will hold out for a changing of the guard.

Wednesday, November 3

Mid-Term Elections: Aftermath Edition

As expected, it was a good night to be a Republican candidate for state office, an incumbent running for re-election for Congress from Iowa, and a bad night to be a Supreme Court Justice up for retention in Iowa. (Popular Progressive predictions: Governor: Branstad; all House Representatives and Senate incumbents; State Offices: Fitzgerald, Miller, Vaudt, Northey, Mauro; and at least 1 of 3 SCJs would be retained)

The big headline: Iowa House and Senate mirror national trend-- House solidly in Republicans hands (59 to 41), Senate majority still Democrats--barely (13 to 12 in contested races).

This and That
Surprising was the ouster of Democrat Michael Mauro as Iowa's Secretary of State particularly as his opponent was widely assailed by members of his own party. Most likely, his defeat was caused by straight ticket voting, not nedcessarily an enthusiam for Republican Matt Schultz who has promised to mandate photo IDs for voting purposes and to make election day voter registration "provisional" which is likely to lower numbers of voters. (Popular Progressive prediction: Wrong--predicted Mauro to retain position).

Also surprising were the margins that the Constitutional amendments to provide funding to create a trust fund for a permanent, constitutionally protected tax specifically focused on environment conservation and restoration statewide and against a state constitutional convention were passed. (Popular Progressive predictions: Correct outcomes, but the margin was much higher than anticipated)

Locally, the the repeal of the 21-only ordinance was narrowly defeated, owing to a better than expected turnout of the greater Iowa City community in favor of Iowa City's bars adhering to keeping underage people from bars after 10 pm. This is a huge feather in the cap of Iowa City mayor Matt Hayak and other city council members who put their ambitions in jeopardy by pushing for the ordinance and fighting against its repeal. (Popular Progressive prediction: correct about closeness of count)

Quick Counts
The Iowa House: Dems = 41 Reps = 59 (Popular Progressive prediction: Dead wrong, Dems did not maintain control)

Iowa Senate: Dems = 13 Reps = 12 )Popular Progressive prediction: barely right and with two races still in play, may prove to be wrong)

Judges: Supreme Court = 0/3 retained; Other Courts = 70/70 retained (Popular Progressive prediction 1/3 correct on Supreme Court retention)

Overall predictions: Of the 21 predictions made for this election, Popular Progressive was correct at least 17 times or 81% for this cycle.

Monday, November 1

What I Think Will Happen in Iowa on Tuesday

Prognostication is subject to a lot of skepticism, and rightly so, particularly if there are based on mostly conjecture and a little bit of polling data (in my case, the Des Moines Register's most recent poll for state races and The University of Iowa's Electronic Market).

In Iowa, we are likely to see the Governor's office change hands, as well as at least one court justice be recalled. The key to these two separate votes is the turnout of voters. Regardless of the turnout, Chet Culver and Patty Judge will not receive the vote of confidence they believe they have earned.

We are likely to see a couple of tight races for Congress in the eastern end of the state and the incumbents House members Loebsack and Braley will hold on by a thread--not because they aren't the best candidates, but because they have played political hardball to battle against the millions of dollars of negative ads run against them by both their opponents and the America's Future Fund. Across the state, the usual suspects will keep their seats, including senior Senator Grassley by more comfortable margins.

Despite two very good candidates in the form of Jon Murphy and Francis Thicke, both the incumbent Secretary of Agriculture Northey and State Auditor Vaudt are likely to remain in place, as are the State Treasurer Fitzgerald and the Secretary of State Mauro. There will be a closer race for Attorney General than otherwise should be the case given the inexperience of Republican Brenna Findley, but the incumbent, Tom Miller should continue in the job by less than a 15% margin.

The Iowa House will still have a Democrat majority, but not by more than a handful and the Senate should continue as a Democrat stronghold.

The State Constitutional Convention will likely be voted down and the land and water conservation measure will be approved, but not by much.

On a Johnson County level, the 21-only referendum in Iowa City will be close and may turn out to be a squeaker for rolling back the 21-only ordinance, judging by early voting numbers. Supervisors Janelle Rettig and Sally Stutsman, Senator Joe Bolkcom, Representatives Vicki Lensing and Mary Mascher, Recorder Kim Painter, and Treasurer Tom Kriz will be retained, deservedly, but without opposition. State Senator Bob Dvorsky will also be retained, as will State Representative Dave Jacoby, despite oposition by a pair of Libertarians.

Check back on Wednesday, November 3rd when I recap the election and attempt to justify what actually happened, and whether my predictions prove to be in error.