Ed Fallon spoke at my luncheon club this week. I have no doubt he is a smart and honest man. That may end up being enough to stand out in a weak field, but I have two huge problems with what I heard from him:
1. His emphasis on "clean election" reform, and
2. His approach to health care.
Clean elections. Who can oppose "clean" elections? Anybody who is for free speech.
Ed is against "big money" in campaigns, and for some version of public financing. This necessarily makes the government the regulator of what is "proper" campaigning, and inevitably makes government the arbiter of political speech. When incumbents write rules regulating speech, those rules will always benefit the incumbent. If there's any area that government should not be involved in, it's this. With the best of intentions, Ed would set up the structure for a great incumbent protection racket.
There's only one solution to campaign finance that is consistent with free speech: transparency Every campaign should be required to post every contribution in a standard, searchable web format within 24 hours. The interchange barons of the world will always find a way to get money to their candidates, but we at least should know who they are buying.
Health Care. Ed seeks to get the state involved in "fixing" health insurance. He says it doesn't have to involve a government program, but you know it will, and it will be an expensive debacle.
Ed is correct that health insurance shouldn't be linked to employment. Unfortunately, the problem is embedded in the federal tax law, which limits what the state can do to solve the problem.
For the state to make a difference in health care, the biggest step is to throw open the state to health insurers licensed in other states, especially those that offer high deductible policies, and to move state employees to a consumer-driven, high deductible model. This will go a long way to making affordable insurance available. If people can afford to buy insurance and don't, that's their problem, not the state's.
So where does that leave us?
Ed stands above the Democratic field, but so does the smallest midget in the room. Still, he's a serious policy thinker, and he strikes me as well aware of the problems of traditional liberal government. But his willingness to limit political speech and meddle in health insurance could cause incalculable damage.
Jim Nussle is coming out of the House of Representatives corrupt culture of pork, which could be fatal. Bob Vander Plaats visits my luncheon club next week, and I would really like to get excited about him, but the whole "porn tax" nonsense doesn't signal seriousness.
Iowa government has been like "Groundhog Day" for a long time now, as we elect one cipher after another while the state continues to ignore its major problems of excess government and inertia. Will we ever get it right?