Editorial: Does King Speak for Iowa? By BECKY O'MALLEY

Friday September 30, 2005

Congressman Steve King is the yokel who has organized the successful Republican effort to prevent the Berkeley Post Office from being named after Berkeley’s revered Maudelle Shirek. We won’t waste much space here delineating exactly how annoyed the people of Berkeley are at his presumption, because they’ll certainly make their opinions known in our letter columns. Instead, let’s take a good look at who King is, and what we might do from here to make sure the people in his district are suitably embarrassed by him. First, he’s been quoted speaking admiringly of old Joe McCarthy (dean of the Congressional witchhunters in the ‘50s, for those young readers who were shortchanged in their U.S. history class.) His website does a candid job of describing his other politics: 

“He worked in the State Senate to successfully eliminate the inheritance tax, enforce workplace drug testing, enforce parenting rights, including parental notification of abortion, pass tax cuts for working Iowans, and pass the law that made English the official language in Iowa.” A veritable laundry list of ignorant and misconceived Republican crusades, and he’s been on board for all of them!  

And there’s more. He’s evidently an economic ignoramus as well. He’s described on a Republican party site as “an outspoken proponent of the FairTax, a national sales tax that would replace the federal income tax. ‘I was an advocate for replacing the income tax with a consumption tax long before I ever ran for public office,’ King said.” Tax cuts for working Iowans, indeed. King doesn’t seem to know or care that sales taxes take the most from the least well off, since even poor working people have to spend money to buy the necessities of life.  

But does this mean that he opposes unnecessary federal spending, as a genuine conservative might? Well, let’s look again at his website: 

“He has long been dedicated to adding value to the corn stalk and bean stubble. The Fifth District … is one of the most productive areas in the nation for renewable fuels. King’s very first bill in Congress was an expansion of a tax credit to small ethanol and biodiesel producers.”  

Ethanol is created by the over-production of corn on those federally subsidized Fifth District farms. No one seems to have told King, or perhaps he doesn’t care, that the use of ethanol as a gas additive is “one of the most misguided public policy decisions to be made in recent history,” according to UC Berkeley professor of civil and environmental engineering Tad Patzek. Professor Patzek, in common with colleagues at Cornell and elsewhere, proved that there is a net energy loss from every gallon of ethanol produced from corn. He says that the whole process of producing ethanol from corn takes more fossil fuel than the energy that comes from the biofuel. So King’s tax credit program for his Iowa constituents is, to coin a phrase, just another pork barrel, a transfer of wealth from national taxpayers to the homefolks.  

It’s tempting to call for a popcorn boycott as a way of letting people in Iowa know that we Californians don’t like them to dis our local heroine. But all Iowans are not bad guys. King’s district includes Sioux City, birthplace of Dear Abby and Ann Landers, twin sisters who were reliable voices for sensible politics in their long careers as newspaper advice columnists. State 29, a funny anonymous Iowa blog, dubbed Steve King “Iowa’s Dumbest Congressman.” Statewide, Iowa often goes for Democrats.  

But what’s with all those other people out there in western Iowa? King carried his district last time by a two-thirds vote. Evidently a lot of people there think that it’s all right to insult a 94-year-old woman who has devoted a major part of her life to a meal program for senior citizens, just because back in the day she might have had some Communist friends. They don’t seem to care that their own congressman (that’s what he calls himself) looks dumber than dirt to a lot of us. And they have the right to elect anyone they want.  

But just on the off chance that some people out there do care what their district looks like in more enlightened places, our reliable corps of dynamite opinion writers should write to the two Iowa papers which have endorsed King in the past, the Des Moines Register and the Sioux City Journal, and let them know that we northern Californians don’t appreciate being insulted by western Iowans. (Keep in mind, though, that all papers are not as generous as the Daily Planet with column inches for letters.) 




—Becky O’Malley