September 1, 2014

Iowans Make Tough Budget Choices

How many Iowans would be prepared to accept cuts in agricultural subsidies as part of a comprehensive deficit-reduction plan? Not many, to hear many politicians tell it. But results from an interactive budget exercise last week in Des Moines indicate otherwise. 

Nearly 200 people of varying backgrounds, ages and ideologies participated in the exercise, which was developed by The Concord Coalition and presented as Iowans have been considering the presidential candidates they will support in the state’s closely watched caucuses early next year.

Working in “committees” of seven or eight, the participants in the program reviewed federal budget options and developed deficit-reduction plans. More than four out of five groups approved cuts in agricultural subsidies.

In smaller exercises later in the week in Sioux City, some participants also voiced support for such cuts – and expressed particular concern about subsidies paid out even when agricultural prices are high.

Jeff Thiebert, Concord’s national grassroots director, reviews some of the statistical results of the Des Moines event in a recent blog post. The average amount of deficit reduction that the groups approved, he writes, was $3.45 trillion over 10 years. Large majorities favored eliminating oil and gas subsidies, raising additional government revenue through tax reform, and increasing the Medicare eligibility age to 67, up from 65.

“Now,” Thiebert says, “if only the politicians will stop shouting their talking points long enough to listen to the people they represent and see that real leadership -- and compromise -- is needed.”