Iowa Politics Roundup: Forbes Plans to “Agitator,” Not Presidential Candidate Print
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 27 August 2010 14:05

Steve ForbesFormer Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes says he will not run for president in 2012, saying he's now an "agitator" and will "leave the exercising to others."

Forbes, who ran for president in 1996 and 2000, was the guest speaker August 25 at the Polk County Republicans' Robb Kelley Club Luncheon at the downtown Des Moines Marriott hotel. He said after the event that he is still examining the entire field of potential Republican candidates in 2012, although he did single out one potential candidate.

"I'm looking over the whole field, trying to learn more about candidates, potential candidates like Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana who has had a very good record over two terms," Forbes said. "So like Iowa, I'm looking to see who's out there."

Forbes, the editor-in-chief of business magazine Forbes as well as president and chief executive officer of its publisher, Forbes Inc., also said the Iowa caucuses remain important for Republican presidential hopefuls.

"And if you need a reminder, just wait until after November. You'll have a whole slew of people coming in, a good version of a stimulus," he said. "It's very hard to win the presidency unless you make a show in Iowa. I suppose it can be done, but it's a very formidable barrier, so I think most of those who want to do it will be here."

Forbes said the country is in a state of anxiety, with people worried about spending in Washington, D.C., and whether the economy will get back on track. He claimed the free market is not to blame for the world's financial woes and has been unfairly demonized instead of embraced as part of the solution.

He said free markets always work with the proper oversight. "You do need sensible laws, but it's sensible laws that provide guide rails, very different from what this government in Washington is doing today," he said.

Forbes later reiterated that government has an important role to play in making sure laws are updated as innovations come along, but that shouldn't mean stifling innovation.

"Unfortunately, the advocates of big, suffocating government always portray it as a choice between massive government regulation and anarchy," Forbes said. "No, it is not about those stark choices."

Forbes was in Iowa for several days. He signed copies of his new book How Capitalism Will Save Us, attended an event for the Iowa House Majority Fund with state Representative Steve Lukan (R-New Vienna), and spent time with state House candidate Darin Beck (R-Cedar Falls) and state Senate candidate Bill Dix (R-Shell Rock).

Forbes also attended several Iowa Christian Alliance events and met with Republican Second Congressional District candidate Mariannette Miller-Meeks, whom Forbes is endorsing.

Jobless Rate Sees Small Increase

Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) said August 20 that the state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.8 percent in July, up slightly from June's 6.7 percent. The jobless rate was 6.1 percent a year ago.

"In contrast to the U.S. employment situation, Iowa's private sector hired at a strong enough pace in July to overcome the job losses on the government side," said IWD Director Elisabeth Buck. "Nonfarm jobs in the state have increased in six of the first seven months of 2010, which has managed to keep the recovery intact."

About 113,800 Iowa residents were looking for work in July. That's an increase of 700 from June and 11,600 from July 2009. The total number of working Iowans fell to 1,560,800 in July from 1,567,200 in June. The U.S. unemployment rate remained at 9.5 percent, which was slightly higher than the July 2009 rate of 9.4 percent.

The Iowa Policy Project (IPP) said the state's job picture was hurt by 1,300 state and federal jobs that were lost in July, in part due to early retirements in state government and the end of temporary federal census jobs.


$20 Million in State Money Available for Flood Victims

The state of Iowa will provide $20 million in assistance to flood victims with the money coming from the ending balance of Fiscal Year 2010 or from cash reserves. The program will make $7.5 million available for business assistance, $7.5 million for homeowner assistance, and $5 million for unmet-needs assistance.

Governor Chet Culver said the program is essentially the same as the post-2008-flood Jumpstart Iowa program, which provided $94 million beyond what FEMA and the Small Business Administration provided, but a new name is being used to avoid confusion. To be eligible, Iowans must have already registered with FEMA.

Culver said the state could make more than $20 million available: "We'll monitor the need and the demand out there just like we did in 2008, and we were able to help more than 5,000 homeowners and business owners with the Jumpstart program last time, and we'll try to find additional resources if in fact we need them."

Homeowners are eligible for up to $25,000 for repairs or down-payment assistance. The loan is forgivable over a five-year period as long as the person remains in the home. Businesses may receive up to $50,000 for working capital to ensure the business's survival. That loan is also forgivable if the business remains open for at least 12 months after receiving the award. Up to $2,500 is available for unmet needs.

Fifty-seven Iowa counties have received a presidential disaster declaration for public assistance, and 32 counties have received a presidential disaster declaration for individual assistance. Culver said he has asked U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to give a special declaration to 74 counties that have suffered agriculture-related damage.

Meanwhile, a new report by Iowa State University economists Dave Swenson and Liesl Eathington finds that there has been limited economic impact from the state's 2008 floods and tornadoes.

The economists acknowledge that many Iowans were devastated by those disasters, but their evaluation failed to find conclusive evidence of measurable and lasting reductions in overall industrial production or household consumption. The report also did not detect strong evidence of net population loss in areas most affected by the flooding.

"We were surprised by this, and I said it was like the old Timex ad: We took a licking and kept on ticking," Swenson said. "Our economy was strong enough in that combined region -- for example, the Cedar Rapids, Iowa City economy -- and so large and diverse that it took that kind of devastation literally in stride. And while we recognize that there was incredible destruction and heartache in the core of the flood area, that's different than the aggregate economic impact."

Brandstad Fleshes Out Economic-Development Plan

Republican gubernatorial nominee (and former Governor) Terry Brandstad says he plans to use his proposed public/private partnership to forge teams that would visit with employers across the state and sell Iowa to prospective companies across the country and the world.

IGNITE (Initiate, Gaining, Negate, Involve, Target, Energize) teams would be made of economic-development professionals teamed with current Iowa employers. The public/private Iowa Partnership for Economic Prosperity would lead and staff the teams. They would start with a focus on industries poised for growth in Iowa including advanced manufacturing, value-added agriculture, biotechnology, insurance, and financial services.

"Economic development, at its core, is about identifying and creating opportunities, and to do that we must aggressively sell our state," Branstad said. "It is about selling the merits of expanding their business in Iowa to existing in-state employers and touting the benefits of Iowa to prospective out-of-state companies."

Branstad and lieutenant-governor nominee Kim Reynolds said they would also initiate the Iowa Network of Entrepreneurial Transplants, or INET, to identify key former Iowans in targeted businesses and industries around the country and world.

"Iowa has produced thousands of successful individuals who have left our state and found success with companies outside of Iowa," Reynolds said. "However, these former Iowans still know the benefits of doing business here, and many would return to Iowa if the right opportunities were available. We must take advantage of these former Iowans and their networks."

Culver's campaign said much of that framework is already in place. "The Iowa Innovation Council, created by Governor Chet Culver, is described by the governor's office as 'a group of volunteer private-business leaders who will work to help ensure Iowa is competitive in the global business economy' and already does what Branstad wants these teams to do," Culver campaign spokesperson Ali Glisson said. "Bottom line: This isn't a new idea ... ."

Earlier, the Culver camp said Branstad had a "failed rollout" of his jobs plan, and that reviews have not been complimentary about his proposal for a public/private partnership to replace the Iowa Department of Economic Development.

Glisson said the plan has come under fire because Branstad compared it to programs in states such as Indiana, where the programs are under investigation for fraudulent job claims.

This weekly summary comes from IowaPolitics.com, an online government and politics news service. Reporter Andrew Duffelmeyer and other correspondents contributed to this report.


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