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February 21, 2008

Senator Grassley: "I don't really understand where Obama's coming from"

At our lunchtime Rotary meeting today, we had visitors. The Rotary District 6000 Governor came & gave a short speech, but the Main Event was a visit from Iowa's own Senator Chuck Grassley (R). The next time I hear Chuck Grassley dodge a question will be the first time - I LOVE listening to this guy speak. Even when you disagree with him, he's still answering questions and defending his positions. For a politician, he's unusually honest in front of an audience of his constituents.

He essentially got up, gave a quick salutation to Winterset, and then opened the meeting to questions from the audience. He got farm program questions, capital gains tax questions, a question about federal matching funds for hospice services at our local hospital, and other questions that slip my mind right now. The two questions that caught my attention were regarding his efforts to oversee the operations of "Prosperity Gospel" televangelists and a question about his preferred Democratic Presidential nominee.

On the Prosperity Gospel question, an activist Democratic member of our Rotary Club commended Sen. Grassley on his pursuit of the matter, and the Senator went on to explain what's happening on the matter to the rest of the club.

He said that he started looking into the tax-exempt status of charitible organizations after the 911 tragedy. Apparently, countless Iowans flooded his office with calls about how their contributions intended for the victims of the WTC & Pentagon attacks were being used for a nationwide capital campaign instead. He's looked into other organizations as well, but he's surprised now at how 4 of the 6 targeted televangelists are resisting his request.

Laugh line of the day: "In all my years of investigating the tax exempt status of organizations, I've only had one person refuse to cooperate fully with me...Jack Abramoff...and if you recall, he's cooling his heels in prison right now."

The other question came from our local school superintendent. He asked the Senator if he HAD to have a Democratic President to work with, which of the two candidates would he prefer. The Senator's answer? Hillary. He went on to explain that he had two reasons to prefer her to Senator Obama: The conviction that she's pandering to the primary voters right now and would surely govern from a more centrist position if elected (he actually said that she'd be a better president than her husband, because "she wouldn't have to take polls every day to determine what her administration's values are", and the fact that while he doesn't agree with much of what a Hillary administration would do in the Oval Office, he at least has a good idea where she's coming from. Obama? "He's campaigning on two things right now: Hope and Change, and I have no idea where he's coming from with those slogans". He didn't say anything disparaging of the Senator from Illinois, but he definitely gave the impression that Barack Obama isn't quite ready for prime time yet.

The superintendent's follow-up question tried to get tricky with Senator Grassley: "If you think Hillary would make a better President, why not endorse her over McCain?" Yeah, as if his original question had even MENTIONED McCain, but the Senator was not flustered. He said that his support for McCain over whoever wins on the Democratic side is based on "universal Republican Principles". Belief that smaller government governs best, that taxpayers are the best judge of where their money should be spent" and several other things I didn't catch because I was busy figuring out my lunch check.

His example of why Republicans should support McCain over the Democrat is the Bush Tax Cuts: When the tax cuts sunset in 2010, they will revert to their former rates, which will result in the"largest tax increase in American history". He stated that over the last 40 years, tax collections have hovered right around 18% of GDP, irregardless of what the top rate was at the time. The top marginal tax rate could be 93%, or 28%, but the collections typically hovered at 18%. "So much for increasing government revenue by soaking the rich."

Senator Grassley said that by failing to renew the tax cuts, the government revenue would rise to 21% of GDP. An extra three percent of every "declared" dollar in our entire country's GDP would be headed to Washington. That's a little more than "pencil dust", IMHO.

Anyway, I thought y'all might be interested in some thoughts from a member of the Senate.

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posted by Russ from Winterset at 10:49 PM

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