Home Politics The King of the Pretend Populists

The King of the Pretend Populists


Steve King is a populist. In his own mind. He is a member of the House of Representative from Northern Iowa, an area of the country apparently so devoid of intelligent human beings that they have voted more than once for a man who, among other very interesting things, has not only voted in favor of going to war with Iraq, but continued to call it a wonderful venture, and said that wartime Baghdad was a better place to live than Detroit.

His thought was that you are safer in Baghdad than Detroit, a comment he made on the floor of the House, which may cause some to wonder…why would he make such a comment? Just a second before asking themselves…who would elect someone so stupid and so anti-American that he would rather live in an active war zone where hundreds were literally being blown up every day rather than the home of the Detroit Tigers, the Detroit Pistons, the Detroit Red Wings, the Detroit Lions, the Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Chrysler Corporation and, nearby, perhaps the finest public university in the country, the University of Michigan.

This Populist-in-his-own-tiny-mind has been campaigning against illegal aliens. Not aliens from outer space where some wonder if he may have relatives, but from Mexico. He doesn’t do it in a racist way of course. He just says that illegal aliens, among other things, are taking away good jobs from Americans in “steel mills” and “packing plants.”

Let’s take steel mills first. Thanks to the free trade policies of Mr. King and his “populist” friends in the National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber of Commerce (both big campaign contributors of his) and the Bush Administration, we no longer have jobs in the steel mills. We might have restored our steel industry at one time but Mr. Reagan decided that he would rather have “free trade.”

Here’s how that works. You have a guy in a steel mill making $25.00 an hour, with a retirement program and a health insurance program that enables him after thirty years of hard work, to own his own small bungalow, to buy a workable automobile, to once in a while take a vacation, and maybe send his kids to a state college. Mr. King calls that by various names, like “featherbedding,” “union wage inflation,” or “Socialism.”

That guy lives in a community whose schools are supported by the taxes of those steel workers and whose small businesses, like shoe shops and ice cream parlors and dry cleaners are supported by those working families. When the steel mills go, sooner or later all these service industries go with them.

Now, according to the “faux-populist” political philosophy of Mr. King’s side, we can replace that with “free trade.” That is where you bring in steel from Taiwan, or Japan, or Korea made by very nice people, but nice people who make at best $5.00 an hour. No tariffs on steel coming in but tariffs on our steel going in over there. So not quite “free” trade, but “free-er trade.”

Where do you think the steel is going to be sold? From plants here or from plants there? From which country do you think the steel in Taiwan or in Korea or in Japan is going to be purchased? So, let’s see how Mr. King’s populism works for us. We no longer can make or sell steel in the U.S. nor can we sell it to the Taiwanese, Koreans or Japanese.

These other countries do not call us “populists.” They call us “stupid.”

As far as Mr. King’s worry about the Americans (Polish, Czech, Hungarian, and other immigrants) who work in the packing houses losing their jobs, Mr. King, from the middle of an agricultural area, Iowa, hasn’t discovered apparently that there are no longer packing houses in Chicago or Omaha or Kansas City. (Duh!) They are small, automated units out where the beef is fed.

Do they have illegal immigrants working there? No. Why not? Because they are owned by businessmen like Mr. King, who would never employ illegal workers…would they? Upright, steadfast, gun-owning, Right-Wing, Church-going Republicans? Would these Republicans hire illegal aliens? Well, actually, yes. They do. And they do it for the same reason Mr. King rattles off all his lies about being a populist. For money.

You see, Mr. King is a new kind of Republican populist. For example, he is dedicated to having private industry do everything. Government “skims” money off the top of private industry for taxes, which Mr. King is against. Government doesn’t need that money. And of course we assume that Mr. King is therefore against agricultural subsidies which are huge and therefore would encompass the use of a lot of that “skim.” And we’re not talking skim milk, here, though dairy farmers get their share. Even though corporations pay the smallest percentage of their income in taxes since the early part of the last century, about 7% of all government revenues, he complains that taxes on business are too high.

But apparently government expenditures are not too high. King voted for and, as a member of the House Agricultural Committee, wrangled $1.15 billion for his Northern Iowa district alone. And why would an advocate for private industry do such a thing? Well, maybe because that money went to help food companies such as his donors, the National Livestock Association, CropLife America Political Action Committee, Smithfield Foods, National Cattleman’s Beef Association, National Association of Crop Insurers, and the International Dairy Foods Association, among many, many others.

Yes, Mr. King is very interested in the “populist” idea of private industry. As long as he continues to spread around the $1.15 billion and as long as they kick back to him for his political campaign, so that he can stop illegal immigrants from “killing an American every 12 minutes.” Or as long as he can stop the “slow motion holocaust” of illegal immigration.

We do have to stop illegal immigration of course, because, with our social programs, it puts extreme pressure on our national budget. Mr. King, on the floor of the House, made the suggestion that we put a wall up along our southern border. This was a serious proposal. He showed his design and said that it would cost a mere $1.2 million per mile. In other words, a total of $2.6 billion dollars for a fence to run across the entire southern border of the U.S.

Somehow, this is Mr. King’s idea of not “skimming” off profits from private industry, just as his $1.15 billion agricultural money for one small district of Northwestern Iowa, is not “skimming” from private industry. Actually, it probably is not, at least not for Northwestern Iowa. The big food growers and producers make more money. He gets more money in campaign contributions.

It is only the taxpayers throughout the rest of Iowa and the United States who might who do not participate in that little windfall. In fact, does Mr. King even realize that those subsidies would pay for a thousand miles of his two-thousand-mile fence? Maybe he could get one other agricultural district to kick in and we could put up the fence and stop illegal immigration. Or is that too much of a test of Mr. King’s dedication to the idea?

Another idea of “populism” from Rep. Steve King and his fellow travelers in the Neocon Obstructionist Party is to determine that the United States is only for those of European ancestry. According to one of his largest and most vocal supporting groups, the U.S. is only for Christians, with guns, against interracial marriage and against alliances with the countries of Eastern Europe we promised to help once they rid themselves of the Soviet Union. That is the policy of the Council of Conservative Citizens, classified as a white supremacist group, who think that Steve King is right up their alley. Would Teddy Roosevelt or Robert LaFollette go for that kind of populism? Probably not…particularly if they were alive today.

So Steve King is against health care for not only all Americans but even against SCHIPS, health care for children of poor working families. He is against government spending except to build walls across our southern borders and to enrich the food companies and agricultural groups who fund his campaigns. He is against blacks and browns and marriage between anyone but White Christians, according to the Council of Conservative Citizens. He is against health care reform and against renewable energy development.

He is against estate taxes, even though there is not only an exemption for family farms but a $7,000,000 tax deduction for a married couple who might inherit dad’s farm. If dad’s farm is worth more than $7 million and they are not going to farm it and get the farm tax free, then they should pay income everything over $7 million. Clearly, in this case, Mr. King by definition is only for the very rich. The Senators from farm states on both sides of the aisle have already set the Inheritance Tax, which King calls the “Death Tax” but others call “The Paris Hilton Retirement Fund” so that farmers can pass on family farms.

Family farms, by the way, with incomes over $500,000 encompass less than 2% of all farms and that is a number around 20,000. Add another 20,000 or so and you have half the food production of the entire country. The remaining family farms earn very little money. In fact, the average farm owned by a family earns less than $50,000 per year. Concentration is growing in large contract farming where small farmers work for much larger food enterprises. In 1980, 5% of hogs were grown by contract to large farms. By 1997 that number was 60%. And that of course does not include the large corporately owned hog farms themselves.

So, there are very few family farmers who would be hit by the inheritance tax. It has been said that only 1800 families, like the Walton family of Wal-Mart or like the Koch family, two brothers who inherited the largest private oil business in the nation and became billionaires overnight, are the ones behind repealing the inheritance tax.

So Steve King’s advocacy for the inheritance tax is not a “populist” motive at all. It is to find more money for his rich supporters, including the Koch Family, which in addition to helping King fund his campaigns, also funds something called the Cato Institute. You don’t need to look that up to find out which side Steve King is on.

It is difficult to believe but we are a nation in which an SUV or minivan could hold the owners of 90% of the electronic media, radio and television networks and cable distribution. Only with a media so controlled by the Right Wing could we ever get the ridiculous idea that a Right-Wing hack like Steve King is some kind of populist. He is an ignoramus, sent to Congress by a bunch of hicks. He quickly sold out to the big corporations and wealthy individuals to vote against the very families who sent him to Congress.

He may be an elitist or a corporatist or a white supremacist but he is not now nor was nor ever will be a “populist.”

And guess what. He’s only the tip of the iceberg. Starting with the Texas Tom DeLay-style, oil-pandering hillbillies and running through the Midwestern John Boehner wannabees, the House of Representatives is almost half-filled with them. They all talk populist but vote corporatist.

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