Rendell urges Iowa Democrats to rebuke GOP cuts to education and health care reform


Photo: Tyler Kingkade/Iowa State Daily

Gov. Ed Rendell, D-Penn., said, “Democrats need to act like Democrats” and promote health care reform more often. Rendell likened opponents to the Republicans who criticized Medicare as a path to socialism and Social Security as a plan to enslave workers, shortly after those programs began.

Tyler Kingkade

DES MOINES — In a year when Republicans across the country have put forward some of the worst and craziest ideas, Terry Branstad’s plan to cut funding for preschool in Iowa is perhaps the worst, said Gov. Ed Rendell, D-Penn., at the annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner on Saturday, Oct. 15, in Des Moines, before later adding to large applause the Republican party “is increasingly being dominated by people who are absolutely nuts.”

Rendell, the keynote speaker, spoke of his increased funding for education, including preschool, and the benefits of improvements in test scores and efficiency standards in his home state to a crowd of 1,400 at Hy-Vee Hall.

“The foundation for success in public education comes from early childhood learning,” Rendell said. “We know, there’s study after study after study that shows for every $1 we spend on pre-K, we save $6 or $7 on social costs, on criminal justice costs. Even if it didn’t save any money, if government’s not about giving children opportunity for a pathway to success, what are we here for?”

A report by the nonpartisan group Fight Crime: Invest in Kids found for every dollar spent on preschool by the government, $16 are saved in reduced cost of crime. A RAND Corp. study had similar findings.

Gov. Chet Culver attacked Branstad for his plan to cut the budget by 15 percent while simultaneously saying community colleges and Regents universities should get more money.

Culver said Branstad would break promises because he promised to raise teacher pay to the national average; we were 26th at the time in the 1980s, when he left office in 1999 our teachers had slipped to 35th. Culver said Branstad promised not to raise taxes in 1982, but the first bill he signed was a sales tax increase.

Democratic speakers said the federal deficit was a concern, but it was no higher than it was when President Barack Obama took office.

Rendell also praised Culver for the I-JOBS program for investments in infrastructure and Iowa’s unemployment rate being below the national average, and said Culver deserved to be re-elected.

Rendell went on to say the 2010 election shows a vast split of different views on how to move forward, with either more investments or to stop government spending. He said it was not a choice of simply spending more or spending less, but rather “the key is not to stop spending, but to make sure it’s spent wisely.”

“The stimulus plan worked; it worked, don’t be afraid to say it,” Rendell told the crowd.

He suggested many people forgot the stimulus program gave tax cuts to households making less than $250,000.

He also predicted the Affordable Care Act will be viewed as being as popular as Medicare and Social Security in 20 years, and read a quote from Ronald Reagan in 1961: “If Medicare is not stopped, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children’s children, what it was like in America when it was free.”

Rendell likened critics of health care reform to Republicans in the aftermath of the passage of Social Security who said it was an “insidious plan to enslave the American worker.”

U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, praised Obama’s job in his first two years and said, “He walked in[to the White House] with the keys in one hand, a whole basket full of problems in the other.”

Boswell also spent much of his speech promoting the Affordable Care Act.