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Commentary: U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

Tuesday, Apr, 8 2014

Taxpayers are familiar with the annual drill.  Keeping records, gathering receipts, filling out forms, figuring out changes in tax rules.  Right around this time, taxpayers are ready to see April 15 disappear into the rearview mirror.

The IRS estimates it takes average taxpayers 13 hours to comply with the federal tax code.  Americans annually spend more than $168 billion and collectively clock in 6 billion hours to settle up their tab with Uncle Sam, according to the 2012 annual report by the National Taxpayer Advocate.

This year, Tax Day turns 100.  Congress assigned an annual Tax Day after the 16th amendment was ratified on Feb. 3, 1913.  Nine months later, the Revenue Act of 1913 established a one percent bottom marginal rate on income graduating to a top marginal rate of seven percent.  Something tells me taxpayers today wish their federal tax tab was calculated by those brackets instead of the seven marginal rates under current law, ranging from 10 percent to 39.6 percent of adjusted gross income.

Today, the tax code is too complicated and a drag on economic growth.

As tax filing season winds down, it’s a safe bet that few taxpayers have dug into the details of the president’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposal.  That must be what the White House was banking on when it proposed jacking up tax revenue by $1.3 trillion over the next decade.

Taxpayers already pay enough to shoulder the costs of the government.  In fact, the Affordable Care Act will raise taxes more than $700 billion over the next decade.  From a dollars and cents perspective, a persistent Potomac paradox makes no common sense.  No matter how much money flows out of taxpayers’ pockets into the federal treasury, it’s never enough for big spenders.  The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported federal 2013 tax receipts reached an all-time high $2.7 trillion.  Uncle Sam spent $3.45 trillion, creating a $680 billion deficit.  And still, the President wants the taxpaying public to pay more instead of asking Washington to spend less.

Let’s get things straight.  Washington didn’t rack up a $17 trillion national debt because Washington taxes too little; it’s because Washington spends too much.  According to the CBO, the percentage of debt held by the public is now about 73 percent of the nation’s economic output.

The deeper Uncle Sam dips into taxpayers’ pockets, the harder it is for America’s start-ups, entrepreneurs and businesses to grow, hire, invest, innovate, raise wages and increase productivity.  The bigger-is-better government approach guts the bedrock principle of limited government from which America was founded upon, including individual liberty, free enterprise and property rights.

The federal tax collection agency is riddled with problems of its own.  The IRS is challenged to restore credibility for targeting taxpayers based on their political views and for wasting tens of millions of tax dollars on lavish conferences.  On top of that, it’s been handed an expansive new role to enforce 45 new provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including verifying eligibility for insurer subsidies.  What’s more, the IRS struggles to narrow the $385 billion tax gap, uphold basic services to taxpayers and update its IT systems.  The IRS’ perennial plea for more funding doesn’t square with the taxpaying public, especially when the agency fails to answer 61 percent of taxpayer phone calls seeking assistance and yet has room in its budget for generous employee bonuses.

At the turn of the 20th century, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said, “taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.”  Taxes do fund the basic, necessary functions of government, like national security, but big spenders like to use this statement as a license to lift the lid on taxes and spending.  However, in the century since Justice Holmes made that observation, the growth of entitlements, the size of the national debt and the scope of government programs have shifted an unsustainable tax burden to future generations.

Between 1930 and 2013, federal government receipts increased from 4.1 percent of the economy’s output to 16.7 percent, and federal expenditures rose from 3.4 percent of economic output to about 21 percent, according to historical data released by the Office of Management and Budget.  The Congressional Budget Office expects revenue to reach 19 percent of the Gross Domestic Product by 2018.  Current receipts are relatively low because of the economy.

Through regulation of private enterprise, burdensome levels of taxation and intrusive transfers of wealth that benefits some at the expense of others, it’s clear that big spenders define a civilized society as the bigger the government, the better.

Tax Day 2014 reminds us of that Potomac tax-and-spend paradox.  Nearly two decades into the 21st century, policymakers must work together for the public good and take a civilized approach to taxation and regulation.  Bloated bureaucracies, unsustainable entitlement spending and regulatory overkill are taking us down a dangerous road.

And taxpayers know that leads to trouble with a capital T.

posted by: Dennis Lowe 4 month(s) ago Comment On This Post

Commentary: Iowa Senator Bill Dotzler

Friday, Feb, 14 2014

Research has shown that all kids can benefit from a good preschool education.

Since 2007, Iowa’s Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program has worked to make preschool available to all students from all backgrounds. School districts collaborate with a variety of state, federal and community partners, including Head Start and Shared Visions, as well as faith-based, private and non-profit preschools.

Prior to the program—when Iowa targeted preschool to certain families or to children with disabilities—only 19 percent of three- and four-year-old kids in Iowa received a high-quality preschool education. By the fall of 2012, almost 21,500 Iowa preschoolers (55 percent) in 314 school districts were getting the benefits of the statewide preschool initiative, which provides at least 10 hours per week of age-appropriate instruction. Cost to the state is approximately $60 million.

Two recent reports show positive results for students who attend the state preschool classes. For example, fewer students from low-income families who attend the state preschool require intensive intervention after they enter kindergarten. The children were less likely to drop out of school, repeat grades, need special education or get into trouble with the law than those who didn't get a good preschool education.

The most obvious problem with Iowa’s Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program is that not everybody attends. That's why the Senate Education Committee is working on legislation to ensure universal access to preschool for all four-year-olds in Iowa (Senate Study Bill 3155).

As we work on this legislation at the Statehouse in the coming weeks, I want to know what local parents and educators think. Please send me your thoughts and suggestions.

To see more about the success of Iowa's preschool effort, check out the May 2013 fact sheet from the Iowa Department of Education. In addition, the website for the Child & Family Policy Center has their findings on the effectiveness of Iowa's statewide preschool program.

To contact Senator Dotzler during the week, call the Senate Switchboard at 515-281-3371. Otherwise he can be reached at home at 319-296-2947. E-mail him at

posted by: Dennis Lowe 6 month(s) ago Comment On This Post

Commentary: U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

Friday, Feb, 14 2014

Year of Action or Overreaction?  A Guest Commentary by U. S. Senator Chuck Grassley.

During his State of the Union address, the President said that success is limited only by the “strength of our work ethic and scope of our dreams.”  By pointing out “the son of a barkeep is Speaker of the House,” the President identified a unifying principle in which 535 lawmakers and the President can agree.  America is the land of opportunity.  Americans enjoy an inherent right to work for their own success and keep the lion’s share of what they’ve earned.

To allow space for a thriving economy and civil society in which Americans can pursue their own dreams, the nation’s founders enshrined principles of self-governance in the U.S. Constitution that created separation of powers among three branches of government.  The people’s branch makes the laws.  The executive branch enforces the laws, and the judicial branch interprets the laws.

That’s why it’s alarming to hear the President report to America that he will bypass Congress when he sees fit.  It appears he’s prepared to circumvent the Constitution and ignore our system of checks and balances.  Armed with his phone and a pen, the President has signaled he will unilaterally evade the will of the people as expressed through one of the co-equal branches of government.  Considering steps already taken by this Administration in the last year, it is cause for concern when the President says that 2014 will be a “year of action.”

Keep in mind where the Obama administration already has taken liberties with its interpretation of the Constitution and laws passed by Congress:

Advice and Consent.  The Supreme Court in January heard oral arguments to determine whether President Obama overstepped a constitutional boundary by appointing nominees to the National Labor Relations Board.  The President claimed the Senate was in recess, unable to provide advice and consent.  However, the Senate was holding pro forma sessions, not adjourned in recess.

Controlled Substances Act.  The Obama Administration sent a dangerous, mixed signal to youth and local law enforcement across America when the Department of Justice announced it would not prioritize the prosecution of the large-scale trafficking and sale of marijuana. The Controlled Substances Act criminalizes the cultivation, trafficking, sale and use of marijuana. I’m hearing from Iowa law enforcement of a troubling increased presence of marijuana stemming from Colorado’s legalization of medical marijuana.  With full legalization now in effect, this problem is likely to worsen.  As co-chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, I agree with a top official at the Drug Enforcement Administration who testified that efforts to legalize marijuana are “reckless and irresponsible.”  Marijuana is widely recognized as a gateway drug to other illicit, lethal drugs.  Considering the implications to local law enforcement, public health and traffic safety, the Justice Department’s “wink and a nod” approach to enforcing the Controlled Substances Act is more than disappointing.

Affordable Care Act.  The Administration’s signature health care law had a miserable debut in October with the rollout of  Aside from on-going sign-up snafus, the President has enforced the Affordable Care Act as with the help of a roulette wheel, picking and choosing which mandates, waivers, penalties and fees to enforce.  It’s a gamble the nation’s recovering economy and growing national debt cannot afford.  Everyone agrees the Affordable Care Act has systemic flaws.  Now the President is using his pen to re-write the law without congressional consent.  It sure would be helpful if the President also had a magic wand up his sleeve.  He could use it to jump-start economic growth since productivity will drop over the next decade when as many as 2.5 million workers drop out of the workforce due to the new disincentive to work created by the Affordable Care Act, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.  When people exit the workforce, it’s bad for economic growth.

So much for the President’s call for a “year of action.”  The Administration is on track for a year of overreaction.  Overstepping constitutional limits or enforcing laws for political convenience sow bad seeds into our system of self-government.  If allowed to take root, their growth would have a corrosive effect on the people’s right to be heard through their elected representatives.

Centralizing power into the executive branch renders the commander-in-chief the only arbiter of the public good.  Therein lies the rub.  Limited government, separated into three branches, protects the individual rights of citizens.  Each branch has constitutional oversight authority to prevent overgrowth of one branch over the other on America’s tree of freedom and liberty.

It’s time for a reality check.  In keeping with the President’s stated commitment to unprecedented levels of openness and transparency, I’ve written to the U.S. Attorney General to direct the Department of Justice to publicly disclose its legal analyses of all executive orders by the President.  Since passage of the Judiciary Act of 1789, the Attorney General has been authorized to render opinions on matters of law and issues of constitutionality.

The American people and Congress ought to know if the President’s executive orders have withstood rigorous constitutional review.  If the President can’t persuade the people’s branch on the merit of his ideas, the American people have a right to know if his ideas are being implemented in a way that is consistent with the Constitution.

posted by: Dennis Lowe 6 month(s) ago Comment On This Post

Reviewing the Super Bowl Commercials

Monday, Feb, 3 2014

For several years now, my brothers (minus one) have gotten together for a party on Super Bowl Sunday.  It’s always a great time with some amazing food.  We all bring a couple of items to enjoy as we watch the game.

Unless the Green Bay Packers are playing, I typically could care less who wins.  Such was the case this year.  That’s why I look forward to the commercials.  My thinking is, if a company is willing to spend around $4 million for a 30-second spot (we what radio types call a commercial), they better get a lot of bang for their bucks.

For the most part, I thought advertisers played it safe this year.  I don’t recall any crude jokes or a lot of sexual innuendo.  The “Full House” reunion ad for Danon Oikos had some, but, admittedly, I found it funny.

My favorite ad of the night was from RadioShack.  “The 80s called, they want their store back.  It’s time for a new RadioShack.”  That was gutsy, and I thought very effective.

I thought the Bob Dylan ad for Chrysler was a home run.  Not as good as the Clint Eastwood ad of two years ago, but very well done.

In no specific order, I liked these ads as well:
Doritos “Time Machine”
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander and Wayne Knight
Heinz ketchup at the family gathering
The Budweiser ads “Salute a Hero” and “Best Buds”
T-Mobile’s contract “break-up”
Diet Mountain Dew “Dale Call”

posted by: Dennis Lowe 6 month(s) ago Comment On This Post

Trouble Hearing KXEL?

Friday, Jan, 24 2014

If you’ve been having difficulty picking up the KXEL signal since 7:30 or so Monday morning, it’s not your radio, it’s us.

A capacitor in a phaser cabinet in KXEL’s main transmitter has gone bad which causes arcing.  That arcing inside the transmitter cabinet progressively burned up the capacitor.

The arcing occurred while we were in our daytime pattern, so we are running our nighttime pattern to avoid the arcing and at reduced power to obey FCC regulations.  We’re waiting on a replacement part as I write this.

KXEL is a directional AM station, meaning our signal has day and night patterns.  The day pattern is more circular around the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area.  The night pattern is more north, east and west and reaches 24 states and 4 provinces in Canada.  Because we are operating on the night pattern, KXEL listeners in Iowa City, Washington, Grinnell, Newton and Des Moines are having difficulty hearing us.

Equipment breakdowns are never convenient.  It annoys listeners and primes the pump of conspiracy theorists who want to blame President Barack Obama or the NSA.  Really?  Think it through.

Enough negativity!  Some great things have occurred since Woodward Communications purchased KXEL, KWLO, KOKZ and KFMW in 2012.

We have back-up generators at our studios in downtown Waterloo and at our transmitter site.  We’ve added a back-up transmitter too.  Something KXEL hasn’t had in decades.

We’ve also added new processing and surge suppression to protect both the transmitters and the building equipment from lightning and surges in the electrical grid.  

It’s not an easy job keeping all the equipment it takes to operate four radio station up and running.  Kudos to our chief engineer Mark Schumacher for all he does to keep us on the air.  It’s often a thankless job.  Thanks, Mark, for keeping the transmitter and all our equipment humming!

posted by: Dennis Lowe 7 month(s) ago Comment On This Post

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