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FOG, Caucuses, and Pensions

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Good Morning.
Didn’t know what I was going to write about until I saw the paper this morning. There are a few things I had thoughts on.

The News:
First, the Fog. it was bad enough outside my house this morning that I couldn’t see the Garage. It’s probably not even thirty feet from the back door. Driving in, I thought it was even worse. Couldn’t see signs or stoplights on the side of the road. Please be careful if you are headed to Des Moines for the State Wrestling Tournament.

So there was an article about how some Moderate Republicans will be skipping or at least limiting their time campaigning for the Iowa Caucuses this year. The point of the article is that a religious conservative will likely win. Rather than come to Iowa and get beat up for 30 weeks before the Caucuses, they’ll just move on to NH, talk about economic issues and end up winning the Nomination. Sound familiar? I think it’s probably true.
The reason I wanted to comment on the story though? The Comments FOR the story.
The first comment is from a guy who’s obviously never seen a Raygun t-shirt…
The second is from an Iowan who stepped to the State’s defense.

“Who cares about Iowa anyway they are an insignificant state. The only thing they produce is potatoes. Other than that they are so far out of touch with reality
quite frankly who cares what they think.”

Other readers responded to correct the comment…That’s IDAHO.
Here’s the comment from the IOWAN.

Iowans are well educated, a large percentage have college degrees and we have
very high literacy rates as well as low unemployment. Our economy is very good,
we are known for insurance as well as banking. We have low crime rates and low
cost of living. $250,000 will get you a home that would cost 1 million in
Chicago. Our schools are very good, people send their kids to our universities
from around the world. Over 50% of admissions at some of our universities pay
out of state tuition.
If you have never been to Des Moines you should come
visit and have breakfast at the Drake Diner, lunch at Luca’s, drinks and dancing
at The Garden (it gets wild), and dinner at Trostel’s Dish. Stay at the Savory
Hotel and go to a game at Principal Park or a concert at the Wells Fargo arena,
or how about a broadway show or the ballet at the Civic Center, all within a few
blocks of your hotel. Go play some pool at Raccoon River Brewery and have some
really good beer, then go to the El Bait House and get some tacos, then go bar
hopping on Court Ave, and at about 2am go to the Big Tomato and have gourmet
pizza by the slice served to you by some of the rudest people you will ever
meet. The next day you can go shopping in the East Village in the shadow of our
state capital which is the only state capital to have five domes, it’s
considered to be one of the most beautiful in the US. Come see for yourself how
little Des Moines, Iowa has grown up.

First of all, sign that guy up for the CVB Citizen of the year.
Second, I think there’s a lot of truth in the comment. I am from another state that prides itself on it’s politics (even though it’s more corrupt than most states). Illinois activists don’t hold a candle to the average Iowa voter.
Unless you’ve been here to cover one of these Caucus campaigns, unless you’ve been in living rooms when a Senior US Senator has to answer very direct questions from a voter, unless you have been there Caucus night and have seen the process unfold, you have no idea. Iowa has something special and it deserves a special place in the process.

I saw the article on the Governor’s pension today in the Register. I have some more questions.
My first and most important is, why is this wrong? He served the State as Governor and is entitled to a pension. Period. He is serving as Governor and deserves a salary, period!
I found it a little suspect that those quoted in the article were Union Reps who are battling with the Gov right now over salaries. Are those people really able to look at this issue with any kind of objectivity? I also found it interesting that the article, and those quoted failed to cite another example of the same kind of double dipping.
We have a County Sheriff who used to be police chief. He “retired” from the city and is now earning a salary as Sheriff. Is he collecting retirement benefits from the City? By the way, he’s a Democrat.
I have no problem with either man collecting salary or pension they’ve earned.
I do have a problem with someone who’s 62 “retiring” from their job for the state, then turning around and being hired full salary for essentially the same state position. That person is gaming the system in order to double their salary. Do you think Branstad ran because he wanted the salary? I don’t think so.

I hope you have a great day!


  • SBM

    The problem is that it is hypocritical for the governor to collect both a salary and a pension during this current economic climate. Illegal? No. Hypocritical? ABSOLUTELY! Here he is making cuts left and right while taxpayers are paying for him to collect two paychecks…both of which are individually more than the average salary in Iowa! This “double-dipping” is illegal in other states, and honestly, it should be here as well. I have no problem with him collecting two pensions once he is out of public service, but why should he collect a pension from a job in which he is currently serving? And don't you think teachers who have earned their degrees and have been doing a great job in the classroom are entitled to keep their jobs? Don't you think hardworking Iowans are entitled to keep their jobs? Don't you think our kids are entitled to a top-notch education and adequate student services? Yet with all the cuts to education & other industries & proposed state layoffs, teachers and other Iowans find themselves without jobs. With all the cuts to education, classroom sizes are increasing, programs are being cut and services to students are decreasing. The Governor tells Iowans we have to tighten our financial belts while he rakes in two paychecks a year from the same Iowans who are supposed to tighten their financial belts. I can guarantee you he does not NEED two paychecks. Is he entitled? Legally, yes. Morally? No. Not with the current economic climate. Not with his proposed cuts. Not with his call to sacrifice. It's easy to call for sacrifice when you yourself do not have to participate. Look up the word hypocrite and you will see the face of Governor Terry Branstad.

  • isumom

    I agree with SBM – legal and OK in different economic times for the state. But, when the governor is asking for the people of the State of Iowa (all of us) to make cuts and sacrifices, he should look in his own home and be prepared for some of those same cuts. It would have been much easier to take if the Gov had released this with the story that he was cutting his $50,000 pension… That amount could save 1 job, at least…

  • Patrick Dix

    Thanks for the strong responses. I appreciate your passion for this issue. Let mer ask a question then. Should all public officials in the same position also give up their pensions until they are retired from public service?

  • Tess Ting

    I agree with SBM as well. 100% agree. His camp is arguing that his sacrifice was giving up his $357,000 salary at DMU for a $130,000 salary as governor (although he's earning $180,000 with his pension). My argument is that this supposed “sacrifice” does not help Iowa's economic situation. So what if he is making less than he did at DMU? The difference in his salary does not help the state one iota. His pension could easily cover one job if not two. I no longer live in Iowa, but I still have friends and family there. And I think most Iowans would not view it as much of a sacrifice to live off of $130,000 (especially a two-member family).

    To answer your question, YES, all public officials should have to give up their pensions while they are earning a salary as a public official. Or there should at least be a salary cap — that if your salary is over a certain amount, you have to defer your pension.

  • SBM

    Yes, Patrick, I do think others in similar situations should be required to give up their pension until they are retired. I also like Tess's idea to require people earning over a certain salary to give up their pensions until retired.

    Other public workers have a reduction in their pension if they return to public employment before age 65 — only ELECTED officials are exempt from this pension reduction. According to an article by KCRG, without this exemption, Branstad's pension would have been all but wiped out because of his salary. Here's a link to the article:–116254389.html.

  • Patrick Dix

    I also noticed the stories on this burried the fact that Branstad has said he'd support a law with the exact result you just laid out. and BTW He can't turn this money down. It doesn't work that way. The Pension spending less will not save any jobs. The Legislature can fix this if they like.

  • Tess Ting

    It makes no sense to me that he can't refuse the money. It may be true, but it absolutely makes NO sense. I've heard of other public officials refusing salaries, so why can't someone refuse their pension? If he supports the change in the law, maybe he propose a new law or get other legislators to do so.

  • Tess Ting

    That was supposed to say maybe he *should* propose a new law or get other legislators to do so.

    I don't agree with Iowa's current law at all. I always thought pensions were designed for those who have retired. I don't understand the point of allowing people to earn a salary plus a pension.

  • isumom

    OK – if he cannot REFUSE to take the pension money, can he cut his governor salary by an amount equivalent to the pension so it is a wash? I know he can cut his own salary – Gov. Culver did…

  • SBM

    Thank you for pointing that out, Patrick. I reread the article I posted and see I missed the VERY last part of the article (yes, it was deeply buried), which states: “Albrecht said Branstad has learned since taking office that he cannot voluntarily give up any future pension increase, and he would support legislation enabling him to do so.”

    If he cannot voluntarily give up his pension, I apologize to Governor Branstad. I was too quick to judge based on the emphasis of the article, and I apologize for calling him a hypocrite. If it is indeed true that he cannot give up his pension then he is not at fault but the law is (and should be changed). I wish the article would have explained WHY he cannot give it up, though. I'd like to see the fully law explained.

  • Tess Ting

    SBM – Don't be so quick to apologize. I think he's still a hypocrite because as ISUMOM said, he is capable of cutting his salary. If he believes (as the article says he does) that this kind of double-dipping isn't right then he should cut his salary by the amount of his pension.

  • SBM

    Tess Ting & isumom: I agree with both of your points.

    Obviously I'm no expert on these matters, so I'll take back & hold further judgement until more information is presented. I don't know what process is required in order for the Governor to cut his salary. Maybe it is something he will consider? Given the sacrifices others are making, I'd like to see that happen.

Comments are closed.

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