OPINION

Democrats shouldn't push an unrealistic agenda

The Capitol Building in Des Moines on Wednesday, March 12, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)
The Capitol Building in Des Moines on Wednesday, March 12, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)

Phil Wise, guest columnist

Eleven terms in the Iowa House of Representatives and over three decades as a government and history teacher taught me a few things about politics. I recognize, for example, that presidential candidates are tempted to promise the world to the voters. And “someone else” will always pay for what is promised. But if the voters come to believe that such promises are unrealistic, or not paid for by “someone else,” those voters will punish those candidates making grandiose promises.

A perfect example of such an unrealistic promise about how to pay for new programs like Medicare for all or free college is the so-called Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) that is being proposed by more than one Democratic presidential candidate. It has a catchy title. Sometimes it is even billed as the Wall Street Tax. Who could blame voters for assuming that something like that would merely be a tax on the wealthy who are not currently paying their fair share? Unfortunately, the FTT does not work that way at all.

The Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) would actually tax every type of investment in stocks, bonds, and other debt obligations. Most of the people who would be taxed are everyday Americans, and not just Wall Street or billionaires. Following are a couple of examples.

Here in Iowa, agricultural futures are frequently used. These contracts, used to secure a favorable price for crops before planting, are traded like stocks. Taxing those transactions would do nothing but cut into farmers’ already slim margins. Already battered by devastating trade wars, and suffering from another ethanol betrayal by the current administration, Iowa farmers cannot afford the added costs from a FTT. Given Iowa’s integrated economy, the negative economic impact would ripple far beyond just Iowa farmers.

Then there is the dangerous bet that workers are being asked to make with the FTT. As an Iowa Public Employees Retirement System (IPERS) retiree and member of the National Education Association (NEA), I know that union members battle for high-quality health care insurance and secure pensions. This tax proposal would impact union pension funds, along with 401(k) plans, IRA plans, IPERS, the Iowa Peace Officer Retirement Plan, the Iowa Municipal Fire and Police Retirement System, and other retirement accounts held by hundreds of thousands of Iowans and over 130 million Americans. This proposed transaction tax would cost the average Iowa investor thousands of dollars over a career, perhaps forcing Iowans to work more years before being able to retire.

It is my view that there are Democratic presidential candidates who have viable plans to expand access to health care, increase access to postsecondary education, foster economic opportunity, and support rural communities. If Democratic candidates competing for support in the Iowa Precinct Caucuses make unrealistic promises for new programs that supposedly will be paid for by someone else, they set up the Democratic Party for defeat in the 2020 general election.

My participation in the Iowa Precinct Caucuses spans 44 years. I know that Iowans play a role in choosing the president of the United States that is unmatched in most states. If Iowa Democrats really want to replace Donald Trump, they must exercise sound judgment in choosing a candidate who can appeal to swing state voters from Council Bluffs to Philadelphia. The State of Iowa will not be in play in the 2020 presidential election if Democrats push unrealistic agendas.

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Phil Wise of Des Moines is a retired classroom teacher, a former eleven-term Iowa State Representative from southeast Iowa and a former Lee County Democratic Party chair. comments: pwise@q.com

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