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Tariffs aren’t as simple as Trump believes

The school year is finished, but whether we like it or not, Iowans have been sent to summer school this year.

The subject for our summer education: the economics of foreign trade and tariffs.

Professor Donald Trump assured us this would be really simple to master and wouldn’t take very long. But Iowa farmers and the owners and managers of many businesses are now realizing the professor might need to brush up on the subject material before he teaches more lessons.


Whirlpool/Maytag deal offers insight into foreign-trade issues and global markets

Ag industry, state ag department claims at odds with scientific study findings on nitrogen pollution runoff

You wouldn't know it listening to Iowa agricultural industry groups or state ag department officials, but a new report from University of Iowa researchers makes it clear: state farm operators are doing a lousy job of keeping nitrogen fertilizer out of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.

How bad a job are ag businesses doing in preventing nitrates-nitrogen from seeping from their farm field drain tiles into state waterways?

In the Upper Mississippi River Basin, Iowa contributes 21 percent of the water, comprises 21 percent of the land area, but is responsible for nearly half (45 percent) of nitrate-nitrogen pollution that flows into the Mississippi River.

In the Missouri River Basin, Iowa contributes 12 percent of the water, comprises only 3.3 percent of the watershed land area, yet is responsible for more than half (55 percent) of the nitrate-nitrogen polluting the Missouri River.

Question for the ages: How will history judge us?

I am surely not the only person who has wondered what it was like to live through various big events from history, events that occurred long before I entered this world in 1950.

This curiosity has led me to contemplate events like the Civil War, the growing tensions in Europe and America before World War II, the lynching of black people by vigilantes in the South during the first half of the 20th Century, the internment of Japanese-Americans in the Western United States during the 1940s, and the various waves of anti-Jew, anti-Catholic, anti-Italian and anti-Irish thinking in our country.

What would have been going through my mind then? How would I have reacted? Would I have sat by quietly, or would I have stood and spoken out from my corner of America?

Don’t hide government officials from the public

I sometimes think government officials overlook the important role the public plays in our system of government.

That was my takeaway last week from the monthly meeting of the Iowa Public Information Board.

When Mrs. Gentry lectured in my high school government classes 50+ years ago, I remember her talking about how American government is participatory. The public can attend meetings of government boards, she told us. People are free to express their opinions to government leaders.

Government should be like Baby Bear’s porridge

I’m sure you have heard the old tale about Iowa’s bountiful cornfields – about closing your eyes in the summer, listening carefully at night and being able to hear the corn grow.

Here’s different image to ponder: If you open your eyes and look around carefully, I think you can see our state changing right in front of us. And I’m pretty certain we are not going to like where we end up.

Officials should not view the public as an annoyance

My role as executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council has taken me from border to border in our state.

The message I’ve preached at each stop is a simple one: Transparency is a fundamental part of good government, and government officials risk undermining their respect and credibility when they try to minimize their accountability to the citizens.

Do we really think people choose to be poor?

I have spent 50 years as a journalist asking questions, listening to the responses, and closely observing the people and events around me.

Somewhere along the way, my observational skills must have failed me. Apparently, I have missed a lot.

Otherwise, I would have noticed those lines of people eager to join and remain in the ranks of the poor.

Governor wrong to think silence will work

Here we go again.

The ink is barely dry on the $1.75 million check the taxpayers of Iowa had to write last fall to settle a sexual-harassment lawsuit won by an employee of the Iowa Senate Republican staff.

The leader of the Senate Republicans, Bill Dix of Shell Rock, resigned March 12, a few hours after photos and a video were made public showing him kissing a lobbyist for the Iowa League of Cities.

There’s more.

Public service isn’t always about winning

There was noteworthy news coming out of the Iowa Legislature two weeks ago.

This may surprise you, but I am not referring to the headlines about Bill Dix, the Iowa Senate’s majority leader, although that news certainly created a buzz from border to border.

The Shell Rock Republican resigned a few hours after photos and video were made public that showed him at a Des Moines bar kissing a lobbyist employed by the Iowa League of Cities.

Making a better world, one stone at a time

People like to say we control our own destiny.

But in some of the most important aspects of that destiny, we have zero influence.

None of us has a say in where we were born. We aren’t consulted about who our parents will be. Nor are we looped in to the decision-making that determines our birth family’s economic status.

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