Friday, August 19, 2022

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Guest Commentary

Branstad and Iowa, a sequel to film ‘Ground Hog Day’


The Iowa film industry — beset by tax-credit scandals a few years ago — can regroup and recoup in producing a sequel to the 1993 film, “Ground Hog Day.”

Remember that flick? Bill Murray is the TV weatherman stuck in a loop of Ground Hog Days. The film was directed and written by Harold Ramis, a comedic genius who died just about a month ago, last Feb. 24, making the sequel even more timely.

Further, we already have a cast of about 3 million, all the residents of Iowa, and — talk about a recurring loop — we have a recurring governor, the Honorable Terry Branstad, who can star in the remake.

Forget about the ground hog, though, this time it’s Branstad in the lead in April Fool’s Day, a recurring loop of political jokes. Iowans awake each day to still another Branstad April Fool! prank, one after another

Consider the script material in this, his fifth time around as governor of Iowa.

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• In his 2010 campaign, he envisioned an Iowa in which everyone’s income is soon raised 25 percent.

April Fool! Branstad opposes any increase in the state’s minimum wage.

• In his 2010 campaign, Branstad envisioned 200,000 new jobs in Iowa, which incidentally might also lead to a sizeable increase the state’s population — given we don’t have the workers at hand to handle 200,000 new jobs,

April Fool! As Civic Skinny makes clear in its monthly reports on employment in the state, Branstad is likely less than one-fourth of the way to his 200,000 target.

• Branstad wants Iowa to be the healthiest state in the nation.

April Fool! From Branstad’s perspective, being healthy does not include mental health. In fact, while Iowa’s mental health care lags well behind in many national rankings — we’re 45th or worse among the states in at least a few significant measures of care for the mentally ill — Branstad still wants to take mental health funds away from counties to reduce the property taxes of the healthier and wealthier folks.

• A current Branstad administration episode deals with reports that several state employees lost their jobs because they are Democrats and the governor wants to keep packing state government with his GOP cronies. Oh, no! say Branstad defenders, jobs were cut to save the state hundreds of thousands of dollars. Quite an administrative accomplishment, they say.

April Fool! People who lost their jobs apparently were paid off with a total of more than $400,000 if they promised not to tell anyone about what a great job Branstad and his friends were doing in streamlining government.

• The governor was out of town when the scandal first broke, but Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds said all was well and their administration would be transparently transparent in having a committee look into the matter.

April Fool! The committee would look into the matter, but in secret. Branstad did vow “Heads will roll” if anything like the hush-money scandal becomes public knowledge again.

• Branstad and his aides promote the governor as one sharp administrator and manager, given his years in office. State government can really teach the feds a thing or two about running a tight ship, they say.

April Fool! “I don’t micro-manage,” the governor says, every time he wants to avoid responsibility for what happens under his watch — from when he rides along at 85 mph or more in his official limousine to when hush money is paid to people kicked out of their jobs.

Let’s hear it for an Iowa film industry cinematic triumph: “April Fool’s Day,” based on a true story and coming soon to a theater/voting booth near you as Branstad seeks a sixth term. CV

Herb Strentz is a retired administrator and professor in the Drake School of Journalism and Mass Communication and writes occasional columns for Cityview.                 

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