Brown: Grassley’s not helping


Columnist Aaron Brown explains how Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley has become part of the money-wasting machine of Washington politics.

Aaron Brown

Last week, Senator Grassley visited Iowa State University and gave a speech at the Memorial Union. After talking about how often he runs two miles, he asked for everyone’s questions. I was not impressed. It is impressive that he is still a senator at the age of 88, and he showed no signs of dementia, but his answers to our questions were, at best, very mediocre.

Chuck Grassley is beloved by many an Iowan. He goes by “Chuck” and not “Charles,” so there is a friendly appeal in even his name. He grew up a farmer, but has clearly been corrupted by the Swamp of Washington, D.C. When asked why he voted for rights-violating bills such as the PATRIOT Act or FISA amendments, he basically said he knew better than Mr. Average American. In the end, he had no moral basis for determining whether a bill was good or bad, right or wrong.

One student asked the senator why he was praising the recent Iowa legislation which loosened restrictions on firearms all the while calling for “bi-partisan, common sense” progress on gun control. Grassley did the typical political obfuscating answer. All bills have to be bi-partisan or nothing gets done, he said. That’s probably true, but not an answer to why he was contradicting himself. Grassley continued to say that he was “100 percent for the Second Amendment” and that it was as important as the First Amendment. Most of his audience agreed with him on that point, so he had chosen a good phrase to appeal to the crowd. But the student reiterated his question: he wanted to know what Grassley meant by “common-sense” gun control. Grassley stumbled over his words and basically said it was complicated. 

Grassley was then asked what he was doing to “fix the supply chain.” Grassley commended President Biden for bargaining with union leaders at ports in southern California. I don’t know what part of the Constitution grants the president this power, but Grassley is certainly not an originalist when it comes to the Constitution. After saying the president was doing a great job, he told the audience that there was not much that he could do as a Congressman.

The senator was then asked what he thought about the mountains of debt the federal government keeps heaping upon itself. Grassley talked of some sort of principle against the growing national debt and briefly ranted against his coworkers of the Democratic party about how bad it is to spend money so unwisely. Yet the voting records of senators are public knowledge. We can clearly see all the big spending for which Grassley has voted. He explained at the ISU gathering: if he voted to reduce somebody else’s spending, then somebody might vote to cancel his pet project too. Grassley has continually voted both for most bills requiring a balanced budget and for bills spending billions of dollars.

Grassley is a nice, old man who should retire before he turns ninety. But perhaps the great power that a senator gains upon landing in D.C. is too much for him to let go. So he will be seeking to stay in Congress a whole half-century. I don’t want to paint Iowa’s favorite senator as all bad, though. Grassley has often defended whistle-blowers — those who let the public know some of the dirty deeds the government is doing. Though he voted for $3.5 trillion in spending a couple months ago, he has proposed amendments to the Constitution to one day have a balanced budget.

He is full of many good intentions, I’m sure. He sees Congress as an opportunity to grab a “fair share” of the pot for Iowa. He believes he is helping Iowans with larger and larger farm subsidies. He no doubt loves his home state and wants to use his power to improve it where he can. Compared to his rich congressional coworkers, he is worth a meager $4 million.

Washington steals our money, wastes the bulk and rations out the remainder. Voting to increase the government’s dominion over the peons is business as usual. Legislating more taxes, more inflation and more spending is just the thing to do in D.C. Pretending to be enemies with another party is standard practice. Then you can appear principled when you dissent and generous when you “cross party lines” to “work together.” Taking money from special interest groups and voting to give certain companies monopolistic benefits is the routine out there. This isn’t a new thing. The nature of man to want others’ things has not changed. In the 1700s, famed historian and philosopher Voltaire said, “In general, the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other.”

Grassley has worked most of his life in Washington. He has become part of the Swamp. He’s your average national-level Republican politician. He’s a lovable old feller and can tell enjoyable stories, but he’s nothing special when it comes to being a senator. He seems full of benevolent intentions. At the end of the day, though, he’s perpetuating the cycle of looting Americans. Eventually we will run out of resources to pay the interest on our debt and somebody will want to break our legs.