Food Bank veto says a lot about Branstad

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By Dean Lerner

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When, exactly, did we lose our way? When did it happen that taxes weren’t viewed as a shared responsibility, paid fairly, to secure our safety, educate our children, protect our land and water, and take care of the neediest among us?

Indeed, what would cause Gov. Branstad to veto the Legislature’s $500,000 for the Food Bank of Iowa?

Perhaps we’ve been blinded by the deficit demons. An old expression known to Iowans shares a valuable lesson, one that speaks to the values we hold, and the goodness within us: “What matters most to you, says a lot about you.”

Branstad’s recent veto speaks legions about him, and us. The money will now revert to the state’s general fund, adding to nearly a billion-dollar surplus. In his veto message, the governor stated that he “strongly support[s] the Food Bank of Iowa and their important work to help needy Iowans.” However, he “believe[s] that private donations are the best way to support the Food Bank.” The Des Moines Register Editorial Board agreed, adding that there are already federal programs to feed the hungry, and that state assistance might discourage charitable donations. Really?

Maybe the editorial board missed reading the June 1 front page of the Register’s Business section: “Study: Income doesn’t cover needs for 1 in 4 working families in Iowa.” And contrast the governor’s “strong support” for the Food Bank to never-ending headlines such as the Register stories “Most [Iowa] tax incentives awarded to wealthy companies” (Jan. 15), “1st-quarter profits up 34 percent for Iowa Banks” (May 25), and “CEOs hauled in record pay during 2011, study finds” (May 27). Please don’t tell us that tax dollars haven’t been used, directly, or indirectly, to make this all possible!

Perhaps the governor’s plan is that the tremendous swell of riches to already wealthy companies, banks and CEOs — aided and abetted by his and the Republican colleagues’ policies — will help stimulate the private donations the Food Bank should, instead, rely upon. Of course, let’s not forget that their “generous” donations are accompanied by charitable tax deductions, and plenty of public praise for corporate citizenship. Some might view this as another version of “trickle down” economics.

Considering the values we hold, and the goodness within us, we will do well to remember Branstad’s priorities to corporate interests, and this veto, each time we think about hungry Iowans, and each time we visit the polls.

Dean Lerner served as deputy director of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals from 2002 to 2007 and as DIA director from 2007 until 2012, when Gov. Terry Branstad replaced him. Comments: deanalerner@gmail.com

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