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Guest Commentary

Jan 19, 2012
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Republicans to blame for national debt

By John Hicks

Read the sports commentary by Sean Keeler here ...

The increasing national debt has become important, but it never seemed to be a major issue until recently. It, along with God-talk, reared its ugly head when President Obama was elected. Isn’t it amazing that these issues became headlines when an African-American became our leader? And isn’t it amazing how one can make a case without providing the entire picture, or skewing the information, or even lying? What is even more amazing is that it is done constantly by politicians. Politicians from both parties are guilty, but Republicans are having a heyday blaming Obama for everything in the world. We have many white Republicans who don’t want a black president telling them what they should or should not do. However, it’s an interesting time when Republicans can’t even make up their minds on who might run against this “terrible” president.

Steve King and James DeMint used Obama’s name eight times in their article in The Des Moines Register on Dec. 30 and never used George W. Bush’s name once. Their comments had to do with our national debt and how Obama is ruining the country. Republicans are having fun blaming Democrats for always spending money. They want to take back the presidency to keep those terrible Democrats from increasing the debt. It’s strange that they never mention the following:

• President Reagan was the first president to increase the national debt by more than $100 billion in one year;

• Reagan was the first president to increase the national debt by more than $200 billion in one year;

• In just eight years, Reagan had more than doubled what all the previous presidents, from Washington through Carter, had accumulated in the prior 200 years;

• President George H.W. Bush was the first president to increase the national debt by more than $300 billion in one year;

• Bush was the first president to increase the national debt by more than $400 billion in one year;

• President George W. Bush was the first president to increase the national debt by more than $500 billion in one year. And, get this; George W. increased the national debt by $500 billion, or more, for FIVE YEARS.

Oh, yes, President George W. Bush was the first president to increase the national debt by more than $1 TRILLION in one year, and that was before he spent one penny of his $700 billion Wall Street bailout. Gee, I hear from Republican presidential candidates that only Obama helped Wall Street. Our national debt only went up $3 trillion under George W. Bush, who claimed that tax cuts would pay for themselves. They did not. He claimed tax cuts would result in growth. Well, we are in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. What George W. did to the national debt profoundly weakened this country. And Republicans are blaming Obama, never mentioning George W., or his dad or Reagan.

Now what voter is going to be so gullible that he or she will vote for a Republican to lower the national debt? Voters are correct in believing the national debt needs to flow downward. Starting with Gerald Ford in 1975, the increase was fairly low, as it was with Carter. Then the flow was up big time with Reagan, then down significantly with Clinton. Then we were hit with an even bigger up with George W. When Clinton left office, the country was in a budget surplus, the first time in decades. It was never accomplished by the Republican Party.

Clinton increased the national debt by less than $18 billion in his entire last year in office. At that rate, an Al Gore administration would have almost paid off the entire national debt by 2008. Should we congratulate Floridians and Supreme Court judges for electing Bush?

One might wonder how Republican politicians have the guts to blame Democrats for our increasing national debt. If blame is to be distributed, the blame should fall on the shoulders of every American citizen labeled middle class or above but most of all on Republican politicians. CV

Dr. John M. Hicks is resident of Des Moines and a professor emeritus at Drake University.


Sports commentary

By Sean Keeler

Who is dropping the ball at Iowa?

At least 13 running bucks have left the program

The sound you don’t hear is Kirk Ferentz chortling at the lot of us, probably from the comfort of his private plane, while Rome burns below. Whenever one of ESPN’s talking heads gets uppity about Iowa’s football coach winding up on some sad NFL team’s shortlist of replacements, remember this month.

Remember Marcus Coker. Remember Rhabdogate. Remember the outrage. Remember the pleas — for answers, for clarity, for sanity.

Then remember the silence. Remember the insulation.

Why hasn’t Ferentz become the next Joe Paterno in the state of Pennsylvania, the kingdom of his youth? That’s easy: Because he’s already the Joe Paterno of this one.

Aside from wife and (maybe) his maker, Ferentz answers to no one here. If you’re waiting for clarity from on high regarding Marcus Coker or the vacancy at defensive coordinator, don’t hold your breath. He will come down from the mountain when he’s good and ready, and not a minute sooner.

Such is the passion/devotion/obsession (pick one) with Iowa football among the land between two rivers that if you’re reasonably successful (as Ferentz, to be fair, has been, let’s make that clear), few thrones are more golden, fewer walls are better fortified. Win, and you call the shots. Win, and the rest of the world is on a need-to-know basis. Win, and you’re granted emperor status. It’s one of the perks of the gig.

We’re often asked: What’s the king like up close? Ferentz is sharp, well-read (a little too well-read, actually; the man can quote articles that rankle him word-for-word), down-to-earth, funny (in a dry, deadpan sort of way), self-depreciating and thoroughly professional. He likes a little ice cream and a beer every now and again, just like the rest of us. Is he selectively vague? Yeah. Is he loyal to a fault? No question. But aloof? Not really. He’s an easy person to like. And a hard person to cover.

Especially in the middle of a crisis — real or imagined (Ferentz will tell you that many over the decade were the latter). At any rate, you know the story by now. For the fifth time in 13 months over in Iowa City, a running back has left the building: Coker, an All-Big Ten bruiser who rambled for 15 touchdowns as a sophomore before being mysteriously suspended before the Insight Bowl, announced his intention to transfer last week.

And here’s where things get hairy. According to reports, Coker was alleged to have assaulted a woman on Oct. 28. Why he played the final five games of the regular season is almost as baffling as why it was announced on Dec. 20 that he was suddenly yanked from the two-deep. As an athletic department, Iowa’s not big on disclosure (unless you’re in the family, and especially in a crisis), but the university has been especially tight-lipped where Coker is concerned.

For his part, the former Hawkeye player went on Facebook to thank Iowa fans and assert his innocence. Which begs the question: Innocent relative to what? No charges were filed in the assault investigation. Meanwhile, university administrators have pleaded the scholastic Fifth, invoking the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), which decrees that certain educational records — including academic records — cannot be released without student (or parental) consent.

As of Monday morning, nobody was exactly sure which suits knew what or when they knew it, nor why the timeline of Coker’s status on the roster seems so curiously out of whack. Meanwhile, the wind blows, and everybody twists in its wake. In today’s 24-hour news cycle, speculation isn’t just reserved for the local coffee shop over the morning paper. It’s splattered all over message boards and social media, like graffiti on a bathroom wall, the scrawls of a fan base divided: One side wags its finger at the university; the other snarls at the rest to mind their own business. Through Jan. 15, Ferentz had remained above the fray and the noise, jetting along on the recruiting trail, quietly shopping to his heart’s content.

Hopefully, he’s stockpiling ballcarriers. Since 2007, at least 13 running backs — counting Shonn Greene, who went pro early — have left the Iowa football program before their eligibility was up. While not as damning a pattern as the two dozen or so police citations accrued by Ferentz’s players a few years back, it’s a pattern nonetheless. Hawkeye tailbacks may not be known for dropping the ball, but somebody inside the football complex sure as heck is. CV

Sean Keeler was a sports columnist at The Des Moines Register from 2002-2011. He can be reached at

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