Vilsack endorses bosses, pummels King

Saturday, November 3, 2012
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack talks to Tammy Goede, of Spencer, during a campaign stop on behalf of his wife, Christie Vilsack, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Steve King in U.S. House District 4. (Photo by Gabe Licht)

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack made his agenda very clear during a stop at Spencer's Democratic office: stumping for his boss at home, Christie Vilsack, and his "other boss" President Barack Obama.

His multi-purposed monologue included several jabs at incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve King, whom his wife is challenging for U.S. House District 4.

"She does not, frankly, think Democrats have all the good ideas," Vilsack said of his wife. "She says she would sit down and listen to others' ideas and try to find the best of all people's ideas. That means she's willing to work with Republicans and Democrats to get these problems solved."

"That's a really good consideration and provides a good contrast to Congressman King, who is clearly very partisan in his approach to the job," Vilsack said of the five-term representative. "It's his way or the highway and, frankly, that makes it very difficult to get any kind of progress."

Vilsack pointed to Republican party leadership's decision not to appoint King to the chairmanship of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement.

"Steve King was a senior member, but his own leadership did not appoint him to that chairmanship because they knew he could not get along, he could not move things forward, so they bypassed him," Vilsack contested.

Vilsack believes his wife is a problem solver, who learned about the power of community at the age of 17 when her mother died of breast cancer and who will "see the job the same way" she saw students throughout a long teaching career.

"She wants to make sure what she does in Congress helps maximize the potential of each of the 39 counties in the district," he said.

Vilsack said his wife's plan is to create "layers of economic opportunity," including education of children and the workforce as well as connections and innovation.

"That's not just highways and broadband," Vilsack said, "but using the job to make connections. So, if there's a CEO that comes into her congressional office to talk about some bill that's important to his business, Christie's going to use that opportunity to talk to him about what's going on in Spencer. She's going to make sure he knows there are opportunities here."

In the same vein, he said Christie will work to inform counties about resources, including those available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, over which he presides.

"People don't know we do home loans to folks who sometimes have a hard time getting banks to give them a loan," Vilsack said. "We've done nearly half a million loans, including 7,500 in Iowa, in just three years. They don't know we help build fire stations, police stations, hospitals and schools and we help to equip them. They don't know the breadth of what we do: We have utility programs and telecommunications programs and broadband expansion programs. Christie wants to make sure people know about those programs."

On the topic of innovation, Vilsack reached out to senior high school students in the crowd.

"These young people here have an enormous opportunity to literally recreate the economy of this country, getting us back in the business of manufacturing and using our extraordinary agricultural production to produce everything from food, fiber and fuel to now include chemicals and plastics and medicines from our crops," Vilsack said. "It's an amazing new future and Christie wants that future to be realized here in Spencer and the 4th District."

Vilsack then referenced a quote King made in Spencer in which he said "his job is moving the Congress further to the right."

"He sees this as a platform for a national effort," Vilsack continued. "That means he's not spending as much time on things that are local. His point, when someone confronted him with that, he said, 'If I spent all my time focusing just on what the folks back home need, I'd have more than enough time, I could go fishing.' Christie doesn't think that's the way you approach the job. You use every waking moment to create economic opportunity."

On the topic of the farm bill, Vilsack blasted King for standing in the way.

"Rep. Bruce Braley's discharge petition would have forced a vote on it," Vilsack said. "All Iowa delegates signed it except for King."

During a September debate in Spencer, King denied the existence of the petition.

Vilsack contended that House leadership were not satisfied with the $34 billion in cuts to the farm bill, compared to $23 billion in the Senate version, instead wanting the $184 billion in cuts proposed by vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan. According to Vilsack, those cuts included $134 billion in nutrition funds - which he said would take $18 billion from farmers' pockets.

"They didn't want to have a conversation about the other $50 billion, because those cuts were directly at farm programs: commodity programs, conservation programs and crop insurance," Vilsack said. "They didn't want to have a conversation about cutting crop insurance in the midst of the worst crop we've had in 80 years. They didn't want to tell the farmers who were relieved to have crop insurance that they weren't going to have as much relief in the future."

In regards to his job, Vilsack said he is pleased about a record amount of farm exports, conservation acres and local farmers markets, in addition to recent free trade agreements and current talks to increase beef exports to China, Japan and Mexico.

He also urged a couple dozen voters on hand to cast a ballot for Obama, calling the sitting president's platform a plan that moves forward. According to Vilsack, Republican candidate Mitt Romney's plan to cut taxes by 20 percent - or $5 trillion - along with adding $2 trillion in defense spending and "another $1 trillion in sweetheart deals for millionaires," doesn't add up.

"Growing up, my mom always said, 'If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,'" Vilsack said. "It is too good to be true. One of two things will happen. It will either raise taxes on 18 million middle class families or the deficit will balloon, or both. That's what happened when (former Pres. George W.) Bush did it. That really hurt the economy and caused the economy to tank."

He believes both races will be so tight, the individuals in the room may be able to make the difference.

"You all have the power to convince your friends and neighbors," Vilsack said, favoring individual voices over political ads. "There are people out there who are still undecided. There are Democrats out there who may or may not vote. There are folks who may or may not vote who are Independents.

"If you can convince them, talk to them passionately and offer good reasons why Christie is a better choice than Congressman King and that President Obama is a better choice than Gov. Romney," Vilsack continued, "you should do that."