Guest Opinion Feed

Celebrating Our Rights!

By Jennifer L. Crull

One has to wonder what our Forefathers were up against in the year 1775.  Never in the course of history had a colony ever successfully broken ties with its Mother Country.  Everything was leading up to a point of explosion, with the citizens of the colonies being over taxed, no representation in Parliament, their homes entered without warrant, and British troops ruling every aspects of their lives.  While the first shot was fired in 1775, it took until June 7, 1776 for our Continental Congress to finally vote and approve the debate of American Independence.
While many delegates to the Continental Congress knew we would never reconcile with England, they were not eager to pursue the idea of independence. In order for the colonies to unite and display one vision for independence, a committee was formed to draft a declaration of independence for the American Colonies.  This declaration was submitted on June 28, 1776.  Finally, after many hours and days of debate, independence was voted on and approved on July 2, 1776 and then on July 4, 1776 our Declaration of Independence, as we know it, was approved and signed by every member present, except one.

Why have you just received this brief review of a history lesson that we all learned in our eighth grade history class?  One word comes to mind:  PATRIOTISM.  Webster’s dictionary defines patriotism as love of and devotion to one’s own country.  Our Forefathers did not secure every right we have today, but without their enormous accomplishments we would not have the rights we know today, such as the end of slavery, freedom of religion, and the right for women to vote.
As we like to complain about all that is wrong in our country, let’s remember all that is right and why we love this country.  Being able to complain about what we feel is wrong is a right our Forefathers gave to us.  We need to issue a challenge to each and every person in this country to remember their rights, respect their rights, and practice their rights.  As Thomas Jefferson so eloquently phrased it in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are the rights Jefferson wanted for us.  We have gone to war and into conflict many times to defend these rights for ourselves and other countries.  Therefore as citizens we have a responsibility to our country to exercise these rights.  Voting and civic involvement are the two most important responsibilities.
Voting is a right that few people had as our country was developing, but now everyone over the age of 18 can vote.  Countries all over the world are still fighting today for a right that Americans take for granted and don’t usually exercise.  But that vote is your say in government, the same government our Forefathers wanted for this great nation.  For we have a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

Civic involvement is another important responsibility that many people shy away from, saying they are too busy or they don’t have the funds to donate.  Whether your town has 200 or 200,000 people, you need to be involved.  Civic involvement can take many forms such as running for office, serving on selected committees or boards, or just volunteering your time to a local organization.  Communities don’t thrive on a few over-involved people; it takes everyone.  Being involved from the local to the national level is one of the great things about our country.  The only requirement is the desire to be involved.
Please remember to celebrate our freedom, our independence, and our rights as citizens of the United States of America!

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Public Interest Institute.  They are brought to you in the interest of a better informed citizenry. 
Jennifer L. Crull, IT Specialist, Public Interest Institute, 600 North Jackson Street, Mount Pleasant, IA 52641-1328. Ph: 319-385-3462, Web site:  Contact her at

An illustration of "democratic socialism"

It's Time to Reform Our Immigration Policy

By John Hendrickson

It is clear that all sides of the American political spectrum agree that our national immigration policy is failing. Any attempt at immigration reform must focus on protecting and securing our borders, putting the interests of American workers first, reforming the visa process to prevent further overstays, and enforcing the current immigration laws. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) wrote that “the immigration debate can be reduced to three essential questions;”
•Is America a sovereign nation that has the right to control its borders and decide who comes to live and work here?
•Should American immigration laws serve the just interests of the country and its citizens?
•And do those citizens have the right to expect and demand that the laws passed by their elected representatives be enforced?1

Senator Sessions is taking the lead on a pro-American approach to immigration reform, and his Immigration Handbook for the New Republican Majority provides a solid policy blueprint to reform our broken immigration system. One area that needs to be reformed is not only securing more border enforcement guards and agents, but also giving them the tools to do their jobs effectively. President Barack Obama has not only gone around Congress with his executive amnesty, but also, as Senator Sessions argues, “Since entering office, [President Obama] has engaged in a sustained campaign to collapse immigration enforcement.”
To read Public Interest Institute’s INSTITUTE BRIEF, It's Time to Reform Our Immigration Policy, please click HERE.

A library and an illegal immigrant

Republicans must face consequences of supporting Trump

by Justin Arnold

Justin ArnoldUnfortunately the biggest issue in the 2016 GOP Primary hasn’t been foreign policy, the economy, immigration or taxes. Instead, it is unquestionably the fault line Donald Trump has created in the Republican Party and, more importantly, the conservative movement. After choking down the brutal irony of this coming when the country and party need optimism and unity, Iowa Republicans are now asking themselves some agonizing questions.

The introspective: Could I support Trump?

I’ll go first. Under no circumstances will I ever support this man. The only good thing to come of the nearly $2 billion worth of media coverage he has been given is that not too many words are required here to explain why. Anyone who has watched five minutes of this appalling charade — his supporters included — know exactly how one could conclude that Donald is uninformed, unfit and dangerous.

The very short list is that he is dishonest, is not a conservative, has no grasp of the issues, has no class, and has promised to commit war crimes. Additionally, I believe he will mobilize the largest anti-candidate vote in the history of American politics, leading to his decimation in November and threatening to sweep hundreds of conservative champions out of statehouses across the country. In my view, he is an electoral disaster who in beliefs, substance, style, decorum, and temperament simply does not represent me.

To uncommitted Republicans who may be feeling Faustian, I submit the word “represent” as the operative one. Our representative republic is rightly glorified for the fact that every American has the right to vocally support and vote for any candidate they choose. But, also embedded in our system is the rarely discussed inverse: that we are all then partially responsible for what and who results from it.

I respect both those who avidly support Donald Trump and those who would vote for him begrudgingly. The fact is though that all who choose to do so hold responsibility for the various calamities that may ensue — especially given the mass of evidence he has provided to predict it. These possibilities include a historic defeat in November, the gutting of the conservative movement nationwide, and a catastrophic presidency.

The present: What is to be done now?

As long as a mathematical chance exists to prevent this national nightmare, everything possible within the rules should be done to avoid it. Trump failing to amass 1,237 delegates would trigger a crucial phase and a chance for convention delegates to give voice to the large majority of primary voters who deeply oppose him. After the first ballot, they will be under immense pressure as they choose the nominee.

The fact is that delegates not casting ballots for Trump would be plainly within the rules, and that several scenarios, including casting ballots for the actual winner of the Iowa caucus, would be supremely justified. In the run-up to the convention, every respected Republican voice who opposes Trump, including those who had somehow managed to enjoy the warmth of detachment prior, will need to engage and lend delegates their moral support. Which leads us to this…

The future: What is the long-term impact?

Of course the saving grace is that this will pass. Soon this primary will end and eventually the general election will come and go — but this chapter will be far from over.

For several election cycles, where Republicans stood on Donald Trump will unquestionably be a major litmus test. In past elections the company line, “I will support the GOP nominee whoever it is” has been reasonable and safe. So much for that. Aside from those officially attached to the GOP at the state and county level who are under charter to support the nominee — and whose skills and talents helping down-ballot candidates will be needed more than ever — the topic will be unavoidable.

Fairly or not, in both Republican primaries and general elections, not standing against rhetoric and conduct so out of phase with our values and principles will be cast as a lack of judgement, a lack of courage, or both.

While some current office-holders have been asked and taken a position, the equally impactful long-term question all Iowa Republicans deserve to have answered is, “Where does the next generation stand?” Against a backdrop of our highest-ranking federal and state elected leaders (Grassley, Branstad) soon aging out of politics, there has long been an undercurrent of prominent Iowa Republican figures jockeying to inherent the mantle. While the media instantly provides us with news of who is or isn’t running whenever there’s a political opportunity, they should provide both Iowa voters and prospective candidates the service of getting them on record now.

Though the question of whether to support Trump in a general election is extremely difficult, answering it includes a simple two-step process of yes/no questions. Step 1: Does he represent me and what I stand for? Step 2: Do I believe he will be a good and respectable president? Do I trust him to be commander in chief and have the power to issue unlimited executive orders? If he wins the presidency, am I comfortable with him representing Republicans and the conservative movement until 2024?

The fact that hundreds of thousands of right-leaning Iowans can’t in good conscience answer “yes” to all is devastating.

Given that most have been fighting for these principles for years, if not decades, it is especially gut-wrenching for Iowa conservatives, activists and Republican leaders — many of whom I respect and consider friends — to be pushed by Trump towards the unthinkable proposition of denouncing the Republican nominee for president.

However, the larger reality is stubborn. While it is one thing to stake temporary but uncomfortable ground on either side of this political fault line, actually being at fault for what may come is far worse.

Justin Arnold of Ankeny has worked for and managed several Republican campaigns in Iowa, last serving as Marco Rubio’s Iowa political director and Minnesota state director. Contact:

A Conservative Pro-American Plan for Immigration Reform

Immigration policy is one of the major issues that is shaping not only the presidential election, but also national politics as a whole. Immigration is a defining issue and how immigration reform is handled will have a tremendous impact on the nation. As Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Representative Dave Brat (R-VA) recently wrote: “Immigration affects every aspect of our constituents’ lives. It affects their jobs, wages, schools, hospitals, neighborhood crime, social stability, and community living standards.” Immigration is also a serious national security concern, especially with the current debate over allowing refugees from Syria who might be terrorists into the country and not having enough security along our borders. As Senator Sessions and Representative Brat explained:
“Yet our reckless refugee programs, lax green card and visa policies, utter failure to enforce rampant visa overstays, along with our wide open southern border, puts the U.S. at grave and needless risk. There are dozens of terrorists identified or apprehended in recent years whose presence in the United States stems exclusively from immigration policy…”

A conservative and pro-American approach to immigration reform would include policies to place the interests of American citizens first by securing the border, holding businesses accountable for hiring illegal immigrants, enforcing visa and green card rules, placing a moratorium on immigration, and not allowing refugees into the country. Europe provides an example of the failure of not only multiculturalism, but also uncontrolled immigration.
It is projected that immigration levels, unless changed, will continue to increase at dramatic levels. “Over the next five decades, Pew Research projects immigration will add another 103 million to the U.S. population…That would mean 100 straight years of uninterrupted record-breaking immigration growth,” note Senator Sessions and Representative Brat. Policymakers should consider implementing an immigration policy modeled off the immigration laws passed during the 1920s. The impact of reduced immigration was a benefit to the nation both economically and in assimilating immigrants into American culture and traditions. Senator Sessions and Representative Brat argue that:

“After the numerically-smaller 1880-1920 immigration wave, immigration was reduced for half a century. There was no net increase in the immigrant population over a fifty-year period — in fact, the foreign-born population declined substantially between 1920 and 1970. During this mid-century period of low-immigration, wages surged, incomes soared, the melting pot churned, and crucially millions of immigrant workers were now able to climb out of the tenements and into the middle class.”
Americans, especially those in the middle-class, are struggling in our economy, which is driven by slow economic growth and stagnant wages. The impact is described by Senator Sessions and Representative Brat: “Today, after five decades of record immigration, a record number of Americans are not working. The share of men in their prime working years who do not have jobs has tripled since the late 1960s…Median household incomes today are $4,000 less than they were fifteen years ago.” The immigration debate often focuses only on the jobs “most Americans will not do,” but the loss of high skilled jobs is often forgotten.

It is vital that an immigration policy be implemented that will not only protect American sovereignty, borders, the rule of law, and American workers, but also emphasize assimilation. Policymakers should reject the open borders ideology that has dominated policy and replace it with an America-first immigration and trade policy.
This was a successful policy during the 1920s as President Calvin Coolidge stated in his Inaugural Address in 1925: “Under the helpful influences of restrictive immigration and a protective tariff, employment is plentiful, the rate of pay is high, and wage earners are in a state of contentment seldom before seen.”

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Public Interest Institute.  They are brought to you in the interest of a better informed citizenry. 
John Hendrickson, Research Analyst, Public Interest Institute, 600 North Jackson Street, Mount Pleasant, IA 52641-1328. Ph: 319-385-3462, Web site:  Contact him at

Who is Complicit in Disaster?

by Fritz Groszkruger 

One person dies of malnutrition in Africa every four seconds. In Zimbabwe, a country that should be the ideal of progressives because the land was taken from the haves and given to the havenots, a drought has turned into murder. Robert Mugabe and his gang have fallen for the anti-science of the Europeans that GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are harmful to health.

Not only are Zimbabwean farmers prevented from growing higher yielding or drought resistant crops, any food aid containing GMOs is blocked from saving starving people every day.

I suppose it has to be mentioned here that there is no conclusive evidence of harmful effects from GMOs at this time. It also is important to be cautious. There is a lot of history that suggests bad effects could manifest themselves sometime in the future. The science is very young. But as “settled science” has been an overused phrase lately, lack of food as a cause for starvation can't be disputed. Unicef estimates 21,000 people die from starvation and malnutrition every day, almost all of them in Africa.

Here in Iowa a petition was signed by 57,000 people protesting a trial at Iowa State testing the vitamin A producing qualities of genetically modified bananas. This, in spite of the fact that bananas grow well in the developing world and vitamin A deficiency is a major cause of sickness there. Fifty-seven thousand people is an impressive army of ignorance.

That army is aligned with ignorant armies on a broad range of issues. The one thing they all have in common is an irresistible urge to meddle in the affairs of others for their own good. We should not fund and supply an army in Zimbabwe to overthrow Mugabe nor should we align with him to prevent his people from being poisoned by GMOs. Especially in international affairs, details cloud the big picture, making the meddling risky because there will always be blowback from the opposition.

Will the use of GMOs in Africa benefit big corporations at the expense of the victims of reckless science? Is Mugabe's opposition to GMOs a path to genocide of opponents or to take a load off of social security?

The powers that be will have us believe that either way we look at it, government action is required. That is where we should get real skeptical.

Government action was required to stop the spread of communism in Vietnam. It cost us about 58,000 young lives and a million Vietnamese lives. Our presence was supposedly required in Saudi Arabia and it cost us the 9/11 attacks and subsequent turmoil. The war on drugs and the welfare state are both well-intentioned but a look back reveals little benefit from either one compared to the gang wars and broken homes they have wrought.

It is always best to keep our noses out of other people's business and let them fail and move on while still being ready to lend a hand.

As C.S. Lewis said:

“Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.”

 There is other material you may be interested in at

The Crisis of Liberalism

By John Hendrickson

The national debt has risen to over $19 trillion, and this unfortunate milestone suggests some serious fiscal problems ahead for the United States. The driving factor for the debt is uncontrolled government spending, which is caused by both political parties and the escalating costs of entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and most recently the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The fiscal crisis is not being addressed, and this represents the greatest policy challenge confronting the nation today. In addition to the escalating debt and cost of entitlement programs, the national economy continues to grow very slowly, and key economic sectors such as manufacturing are suffering because of tax, regulatory, and trade policies that hinder growth and job creation.

Jeffrey Miron, Director of Economic Studies at the Cato Institute, wrote that “many recent policy changes have worsened the U.S. fiscal situation.”1  As Miron wrote:
“These changes include the creation of Medicare Part D ($65 billion in 2014), new subsidies under the Affordable Care Act ($13.7 billion in 2014), the expansion of Medicaid under the ACA (from $250.9 billion in 2009 to $301.5 billion in 2014), higher defense spending (from $348.46 billion in 2002 to $603.46 billion in 2014), increased spending on veterans’ benefits and services (from $70.4 billion in 2006 to $161.2 billion in 2014), and greater spending on energy programs (average annual spending was $0.52 billion over 1998–2002 but $11.43 billion over 2010–2014).”2

To read Public Interest Institute’s INSTITUTE BRIEF, The Crisis of Liberalism, please click HERE.

Is Sanders a Socialist?

The town hall meeting on January 25 at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, featured the three leading Democrat candidates in a relaxed forum in which members of the audience posed the majority of questions.  One of the most interesting questions that a member of the audience posed to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders concerned his identification as a Democratic Socialist. What exactly did he mean by the term?
Sanders’ answer was as follows: “Well, what Democratic Socialism means, to me, is that economic rights, the right to economic security is – should exist in the United States of America.  It means to me that there’s something wrong when we have millions of senior citizens today trying to get by on $11,000 to $12,000 a year from Social Security.  It means there’s something wrong when the rich get richer, and almost everybody else gets poorer.  It means there is something wrong, and government should play a role in making sure that all of our kids, regardless of their income, are able to get a higher education.”  Sanders proceeded to laud his plan for fully paid tuition to public colleges and universities and to compare his programs with those “in Scandinavia, and in Germany.”
Sanders’ answer muted the differences between the other two Democrat candidates and him.  It sounded as if his programs differ in degree, but not necessarily in kind, from other liberal Democrat programs.

As one who encourages my students to use words that reflect general usage, however, I am not convinced of the adequacy of this answer.  Political scientists use the term socialism to refer to a system, largely devised by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, in which the government takes over major means of production like transportation, banking, mining, and the like in the belief that cooperation works better than the free-enterprise system.  Industrial ownership may be divided among workers’ cooperatives, but they generally are not owned by a single investor or group of investors.  The Democratic modifier in Democratic Socialism identifies those who plan to implement public ownership through democratic rather than dictatorial means used by Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. 
Sanders’ answer clearly identified himself on the side of increased governmental expenditures for health, higher education, infrastructure, and other programs.  What Sanders did not explain was whether he also believes that government should take over major industries or whether he simply uses the word socialism for its shock value.  When he says socialism, does he merely refer to a souped-up version of modern liberalism, which combines progressive taxation (and Sanders clearly plans to raise taxes, albeit with the intent of lowering overall health-care costs) and public welfare with greater concern over the gap between rich and poor, or does he mean something more?

Sanders’ health-care plan clearly calls for a single-payer plan, which I take to be the government; Sanders specifically says that he hopes to eliminate private health insurance companies.  I am uncertain whether this means that the government will employ all doctors and nurses in the country or simply that it will provide the insurance to pay their bills.  I also want to know whether he plans on governmental ownership of all insurance companies or only those in the health sector.  What about banks, railroads, steel mills, airlines, mines, hospitals, auto manufacturing, and other industries?
Sanders is articulate and passionate, especially when it comes to denouncing Wall Street.  What I what to know is whether Sanders is a liberal in the guise of a socialist, or a socialist in the guise of a liberal?
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Public Interest Institute.  They are brought to you in the interest of a better informed citizenry.
Dr. John R. Vile is a Professor of Political Science and Dean of the University Honors College at Middle Tennessee State University. Contact him at

Gas Tax Revisited

Last Tuesday, March 1, 2016, marked the one year anniversary of Iowa’s Road Use Tax Fund, or gas tax, being increased by $0.10 per gallon.  Erin Murphy, Des Moines Bureau Chief for Lee Enterprises, wrote a newspaper article that noted the anniversary and presented comments from government officials, lobbyists, and Iowans for Tax Relief.  This article was published in newspapers across the state, including the Quad City Times.  Below is the full text of the comments Iowans for Tax Relief made to Mr. Murphy.
The special interest groups that pushed the gas tax increase sold it to the public as a necessity for funding to fix crumbling bridges and repair deteriorating roads with the scare tactic that we wouldn't be able to keep our children safe on their school buses or get our grain to market, if a gas tax didn't pass.  Before the gas tax was increased, the public and our Legislators were told by proponents of the tax hike about Iowa’s over 5,000 structurally deficient bridges and how important it was to fix them immediately.  After the gas tax passed however, Scott Neubauer, bridge maintenance and inspection engineer with the Iowa Department of Transportation finally shared the truth in a
Radio Iowa interview given this February: “Ninety-percent of those deficient bridges have less than 500 vehicles a day traveling on them and 65 percent of them have less than 50 vehicles a day. So, they’re structures that are basically serving the needs that they have… it in no way implies that there’s any serious issue going on with the bridge necessarily that needs immediate attention.”

And despite the stated need to increase the gas tax to fix our state’s “crumbling” infrastructure, Iowa DOT Director Paul Trombino indicated last summer, after the gas tax increase had passed, speaking at an Urban Land Institute event, that Iowa essentially has more miles of roads than it needs and we should not bother trying to repair all of them.  As reported by, “I said the numbers before.  114,000 lane miles, 25,000 bridges, 4,000 miles of rail…It’s not affordable.  Nobody’s going to pay. ..We’re not going to pay to rebuild that entire system…And my personal belief is that the entire system is unneeded. And so the reality is, the system is going to shrink…There’s nothing I have to do. Bridges close themselves. Roads deteriorate and go away. That’s what happens.”
After the extreme measures taken by former Speaker Paulsen to get this legislation passed we now learn that the state believes those bridges actually aren’t in such a dire strait of disrepair and that some of those crumbling roads will never be fixed because they have been deemed unnecessary.  Instead the state is using all the new tax proceeds to continue highway expansion projects, focusing its time and money on expanding Highway 61 to four lanes in southeast Iowa and Highway 20 to four lanes in northwest Iowa.  While having a state blanketed in four-lane highways is a nice luxury to have, should we have obtained it by passing a disingenuous tax increase on Iowans or just changed the gas tax formula to allow the money to go where it is most needed?

Iowans for Tax Relief
2610 Park Ave
Muscatine, IA. 52761