Staff Columnist

What's at stake in the election? Check the numbers

President Donald Trump gestures while speaking during a news conference at the White House, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in W
President Donald Trump gestures while speaking during a news conference at the White House, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

An election is coming and we’re awash in numbers. But a few stand out.

First, there’s 750, as in the $750 President Donald Trump paid in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017, according to The New York Times. He paid no taxes in 10 of 15 years the Times analyzed.

The political implications of these revelations are uncertain. Huge financial losses and business tax credits erased Trump’s tax obligation. He’s deeply in debt. So much for his business wizardry. And who does he owe?

But what’s certain is our system allowed a “billionaire” to pay less income taxes than schoolteachers, nurses and the folks who deliver taco bowls in Trump tower. It’s possible he cheated, but within our tangled web of tax law, it’s remarkably hard to tell. Lobbyists have done very well urging members of Congress to carve up the code in an effort to keep rich guys and wealthy companies from paying taxes. This is seen as “pro-growth.” For good measure, Republicans threw another trillion dollar tax cut to our captains of capital, and pandemic aid.

The real problem, Republicans often tell us, is the deadbeats at the bottom of the ladder. A $600 boost in unemployment during a pandemic will sap their will to work, we’re told. They’re using food stamps to buy crab legs, so we’ve got to crack down. We’ll curtail bargaining rights so they don’t get the idea they have a voice. Minimum wage? Forget it.

“I don’t want to pay tax,” Trump said at Tuesday’s debate, in a rare honest moment.

Here’s another number, $957. That’s the fine paid for a minor record-keeping violation by Iowa Premium Beef. The company’s Tama plant was the scene of a coronavirus outbreak that sickened 338 workers. Inspections at four other plants owned by Tyson Foods and JBS resulted in no fines. Nine workers from those plants died of COVID-19.

The $957 fine is a reduction from a $1,914 fine.

And maybe you saw the recent Washington Post story on the Agri Star packing plant in Postville, where the company and the Reynolds administration thwarted efforts by local officials to get information on the extent of an outbreak. Iowa regulators never inspected the plant, didn’t send a testing “strike force” until May and refused to report the results.

But who cares about the safety and lives of immigrant workers, as long as the meat keeps moving.

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Lastly, consider $70 million. That’s what has been spent so far in Iowa’s U.S. Senate race by outside groups, according to opensecrets.org, not counting tens of millions of dollars in TV ad time already reserved. Most of the money has gone for attack ads.

If you watched this week’s Senate debate, you can see how the messages and tone of these ads have permeated the campaign. What do actual Iowans care about? Who knows?

Maybe they want a real discussion on climate change. Instead, the Republican Leadership Fund has spent $11 million hammering Democrat Theresa Greenfield, claiming, falsely, she supports the Green New Deal, $13 gas and, of course, socialism! There’s your thoughtful climate debate. Nevada casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and wife Miriam Adelson gave $50 million to the leadership fund.

So the Trumps of our nation lie, cheat and steal from glass towers. Workers get the shaft, and a deadly virus, while corporations get a wrist slap. Rich guys pour big bucks into campaigns to drown out voices calling for change.

Republicans will fight hard to keep it this way. Fight back. Voting starts next week.

(319) 398-8262; todd.dorman@thegazette.com

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