Weekly News Roundup: Grassley Tells Trump He Was Dropped from Tax Committee, Author Investigates Farmer Suicides

And Gov. Kim Reynolds remains silent about her campaign co-chair Steve King's latest tweet sympathizing with white nationalism

Gage Skidmore/Flickr

The Informer’s weekly news roundup, presented in partnership with KHOI community radio.

After Chuck Grassley was roundly criticized for remarks he made to the Des Moines Register about how ending the estate tax would value those who invest their money over “those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies,” Iowa’s senior senator was dropped from the Congressional committee tasked with negotiating a tax reform deal between the House and Senate. Grassley announced the news on Twitter, messaging President Trump directly:

The Senate version of the controversial tax reform bill, which Grassley and his Iowa colleague Joni Ernst both supported after it was rushed through the upper chamber, would end the Affordable Care Act’s individual healthcare mandate, allow for drilling in Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuge, raise taxes on graduate students, and disproportionately benefit the wealthy over the middle class.

Meanwhile, the Washington DC-based Environmental Working Group has reported that Grassley is one of seven members of Congress who have received a combined $15 million over the past two decades in federal assistance from farm policies they supported. According to the group, Grassley has received nearly $370,000 in commodity subsidies since the mid-’90s.

Northern Iowa Radio Employees Fired for Racist Remarks

The northern Iowa radio station KIOW-FM fired two employees after they were caught making “insensitive, thoughtless and degrading” remarks about high school basketball players from Eagle Grove with Latino-sounding names. The comments were made on an online video service broadcasting before a game between Eagle Grove and the hometown Forest City team. Fired were announcer Orin Harris and board operator Holly Jane Kusserow-Smidt, who later resigned from her position as a third-grade teacher over the controversy. After the two called the basketball players “foreigners,” Harris remarked, “As Trump would say, go back where they came from.” Kusserow-Smidt replied, “Well, some would say that, yeah. Some days I feel like that too.” A video of their conversation went viral on Facebook.

Steve King Again Echoes White Nationalist Rhetoric on Twitter

On Friday, Congressman Steve King made another comment on Twitter reflecting the views of white nationalists, writing, “Diversity is not our strength,” before once again quoting the authoritarian Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban: “Mixing cultures will not lead to a higher quality of life but a lower one.”

In response, Democrats and other critics of King called on Gov. Kim Reynolds to condemn the congressman’s remarks because he serves as a co-chair of her 2018 gubernatorial campaign. They were met with silence, although Jeff Kaufmann, the chairman of the Iowa GOP, indirectly reacted to King’s tweet with a quote from Ronald Reagan, who said that Americans were “filled with the spirit of our land in all of its magnificent diversity” and “our nation was built by the hopes of all humanity.”

Author Investigates Why Farmers Are Killing Themselves in Record Numbers

Writing for The Guardian, former farmer Debbie Weingarten recently investigated why farmers have been committing suicide at a rate more than double that of military veterans and currently higher than that of people in any other job. She interviewed Ginnie Peters, a Perry resident whose husband killed himself. Peters described finding a number she didn’t recognize on her husband’s phone that he called on the day that he died. It belonged to Mike Rosmann, an Iowa farmer and psychologist focused on the behavioral health of farmers.

Gavin Aronsen
Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.