On the eve of the Iowa Republican Presidential Caucuses, Iowans should take a few moments (at the very least) to consider the choice(s) they face. Many pundits and self-professed know-it-alls have suggested that the 2012 Presidential elections are among the least important of its kind in generations. They base their opinions on the fairly widely-held belief that whatever choices voters face in November, the problems this nation faces, and the real solutions to them, will remain largely unchanged, regardless who wins the presidential contest. There may be some validity to those assumptions. The past two years the American public has witnessed one of the most offensive demonstrations of partisanship in our nation's halls of power. Whether it is the intransigence of the Congressional Republicans, who refuse to consider supporting any measure put forth by their Democratic peers. Or the Democrats who have failed to truly wield the mantle of authority and responsibility given them by the voters in 2008. Whatever position one chooses to support, the other circumstance also continues as a reality. And when considering who to support in the presidential contest, voters must carefully consider who they truly believe would be best suited to move this nation forward.
Nearly every Republican presidential candidate has spent the past several months criss-crossing Iowa in an attempt to convince Iowan voters that they are the one who can best lead the United States. Unfortunately, when looking at those vying for the Republican nomination, it would be reasonable for one to arrive at the conclusion that the Republican Party has not brought their best men/women forward to run for the nomination. In fact, one could surmise by the collection of candidates on-hand in Iowa on this chilly January night, that the party has, in fact, tossed its collective hands in the air.
More important than the people actually running for the nomination are the policies and positions that they support. And how those viewpoints are almost diametrically opposed to what many believe to be the more common-sense, realistic policies and positions that candidates should put forth.
Among the various candidates two common themes hold positions of prominence in their plans for America: Less regulation for businesses, and lower taxes for everyone (individuals and corporations alike). Let's briefly look-back on what most recognize as the primary causes of the severe recession the U.S. has experienced the past few years.
First is the serious retraction of regulation and supervision over the financial industry. During the Great Depression of the 1930's the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt managed to enact the most sweeping restructuring of how business operated in the United States since the founding of the nation. The stock exchanges of the 1920's was often viewed as being nothing more than a legalized house of gambling. Companies were able to operate largely in secret; seldom (if ever) disclosing the true facts of how they did business to neither the general public, nor the investors who purchased shares in American busiensses. Through a number of legislative actions, Roosevelt was able to bring-to-heel the once rampant practice of insider influence peddling and profit-taking that had threatened to destroy the world's most vibrant economy. Banks were required to divest their investment holdings, once again returning to actual banking as their focus of operations. American businesses were required to publicly disclose and report via quarterly reports how each respective company was operating. Along with the requirement that officers of any company with holdings of more than 10% stock ownership of a company report any time that they purchased or sold any of their significant personal stock holdings. And those are only a few of the remarkable changes that were ushered in as part of the "New Deal."
During the presidency of George W. Bush, much of what Roosevelt had managed to create, while attempting to right the U.S. economic ship (which at the time was experiencing its most severe economic depression since the country was founded), was either repealed, amended or deemed not important enough to enforce. In the midst of the largest sustained growth in federal government spending in our nation's history, funding for regulatory and enforcement agencies who were charged with overseeing America's financial industry sectors was decimated. Bush didn't go quite so far as to leave the 'fox' to watch over the chicken coop. But he was not far from it.
Yet, in the face of dealing with the worst economic recession, second only to the Great Depression of the 1930's, Republicans remain seemingly oblivious to the notion that many of our nation's economic problems came-about largely because of the absence of real, effective oversight and regulation. Ironically, it is the position of the majority of Republican candidates that American businesses, including those in the financial services industries, are daunted by too much regulation. Those candidates are, pure and simply, wrong.
The other mantra that Republican candidates are inexhaustively preaching is the need for lower personal and corporate income taxes. It has been the suggestion of Republican presidential candidates and Republican members of Congress that any increase in taxes on the "job creators" will only undermine the slowly recovering economy. And as the nation faces horrendous unemployment and an ever-widening gulf between the "haves" and the "have nots," Republican believe that in order to put the federal government's financial house in order it is necessary to decimate the support programs that are providing food and shelter to tens of millions of Americans. All while individuals and corporations enjoy the lowest rates of taxation in generations.
While Republican voters in Iowa are being asked to choose the candidate that they wish to support for President, they would do well to remember that the state's "first in the nation caucus" position is a relatively tenuous position, at best. As polls of nearly every stripe are conducted across the state, and as nearly every single candidate has enjoyed surges of popularity in those polls at some point during the run-up to Caucus night, much of the media is portraying Iowans as being given a position of authority/responsibility in the presidential candidate nominating contest that they are ill-suited to be given. Relying on the landslide of polling being conducted across the state, media outlets and personnel widely trumpet each time a different candidate manages to garner any measure of a lead over their rivals. Such polling is not only disingenuous in its ability to accurately discern what a majority of Iowan voters are thinking at any given time, but it also severaly misleading, in that it best promotes the candidate that has "caught fire" most recently.
The growing belief of absurdity surrounding Iowa continuing retaining its first-in-the-nation status should give Iowans a moment of pause. Should Iowan Republicans give a majority to any one of the seriously questionnable candidates, the state could face losing it's vaunted position in the election process.
Iowans are better than how the media is portraying them. Many Iowans who participate in the local, state and federal politics take their responsibilities as a voter very, very seriously. They are loathe to commit to a candidate too early. Instead choosing to spend the weeks and months leading up to the caucuses to find-out where each candidate lies with regard to their policy positions. And while the voters of Iowa have in the past supported candidates that failed to win the national nomination, they are able to demonstrate to the rest of the country, and to those politicians, the fears and concerns of the "average Iowan."
It is my sincere hope that Iowa voters will carefully consider the field of candidates before them. And then choose the one they feel is best qualified and equipped to do what is necessary in order to put the United States on a more stable path of recovery and growth. If Iowans instead allow themselves to be swayed by candidates who believe it entirely appropriate to legislate morality and who believe religion DOES have a role in the running of our nation's governments, the state may well find itself relegated to a status of "just another 'fly-over' state."