Tom Fiegen - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Democratic Candidate U.S. Senate - Iowa

Tom Fiegen

Courtesy: Tom Fiegen Courtesy: Tom Fiegen

1) What is your family and educational background?

I am the oldest of eleven children raised on a diversified family farm north of Larchwood, Iowa, just across the line into South Dakota.  My parents just retired after raising 56 crops. 

I received my law degree and Masters of Economics from the University of Iowa in 1988.  While at U of Iowa, I volunteered two-three nights a week at one of the first Farm Aid Clinics in the country, in Hills, Iowa.  It lead me to take up bankruptcy reorganization law to save family farms and small businesses for the last 28 years. I have had many clients in northeast Iowa over the years.  

2) Small, rural communities like those in northeast Iowa seem to be in a constant struggle to not just thrive, but even survive. What hope can you give to residents of these types of communities in the area you represent to want to remain here and live their lives?

I believe the local food movement is one of the bright spots for Iowa and rural America.  In the 1920s, Iowa lead the nation in apple and tomato production.  At that time, we had 11 congressmen.  Today, after riding the corn and soybean roller coaster, we are down to four, if you count Steve King.  Decorah has lead the way, with both Luther College and the K-12 school system locally sourcing almost all of their food.  I hope to write the next Farm Bill, and will have it emphasize local food production, processing and marketing. 

We also need to encourage local entrepreneurs with business incubators, community college training at Calmar, and low interest loans.  Iowa has benefited from inventors who turned a good idea into a marketable product.  Kinze Manufacturing and Vermeer come to mind.  We also need to look at employee stock ownership, so that a whole community benefits from the success, not just one or two families. 

3) What do you feel are the most troubling challenges facing our nation, and what does your candidacy offer in addressing those challenges?

Number one, I endorse Bernie Sander's and his platform. I agree with him that the single biggest issue is corporate PAC money and billionaire money in our politics.  The wealthy have rigged the rules of our economy since Reagan.  Our Congress and every federal law is for sale to the highest bidder.  Until we fix this problem, we will not be able to fix any other problem.  I have refused corporate PAC money.  I will propose a law that prohibits any Congressperson or Senator from accepting a campaign contribution from a person, company or industry that has legislation pending in front of them.  I will also propose that every FCC license renewal be conditioned upon granting free air time to every federal candidate on the ballot.

Second, the monopoly and oligopoly power of the six big banks.  I support the 21st Century Glass-Steagall.  I also support aggressive antitrust enforcement of all industries when the top companies have 40% of more of the market share.  Every day in my law practice, I see family owned businesses at the mercy of major corporations that they buy from, sell to and compete with. Wall Street has squeezed Main Street to increase its profit and power.  Enough is enough.

Third, our disaster called NAFTA, CAFTA and TPP.  I will work to repeal and block these agreements and negotiate a more level playing field.

Fourth, the poisons in our water.  Iowa is losing 20% more people to cancer than 40 years ago, despite all the medical advances.  This is directly related to the poisons in our water like nitrate and Roundup.  I will include a clean water requirement in the next Farm Bill and work to ban Roundup and related herbicides. 

Finally, climate change.  I would phase out the use of coal.  I would impose an additional excise tax on over the road trucks to reflect the true cost of bringing products from overseas.  I would also have the U.S. invest in high speed electric rail to catch up with the rest of the world.

4) What do you consider to be the strengths and weaknesses of this nation's health care reform, and what do you think can be done to improve that reform?

The good news - more people have coverage.  The bad news - costs are still too high.  

I want to go to Medicare for all.  I want to repeal Medicare Part D so that we can negotiate prices for prescription drugs. 

5) What should the government do to reduce this country's dependence on foreign oil?

#1 - Stop exporting oil. 

#2 - Increase fleet mileage requirements for automobiles.

#3 - Raise the excise tax on trucks and ship more by train.

#4 - Devote more resources to conservation.

6) How can the government hope to overcome the large national deficit without raising taxes? Can taxes be cut for any income bracket in light of the growing deficit?

First, tax offshore earnings of U.S. corporations when earned, like we tax domestic earnings.  There is currently estimated to be over $3 trillion in corporate earnings stashed in tax havens like the Cayman Islands. If these earning were taxed last fiscal year, we would have finished the year with a $400 billion surplus.

Second, raise the marginal tax rate for high income Americans to the pre-Reagan rates.

Third, slash the bloated military budget. 

Fourth, repeal all the tax breaks/extensions passed by the Senate Finance Committee since Chuck Grassley joined the committee in January 1991.

7) What role can the federal level of government play in helping small family farms remain operational?

First, stop subsidizing larger operators who use federal money to bid up rents and land prices.

Second, establish land trusts and rent to own programs for beginning farmers.

Third, help the local food movement with subsidies, education and online markets to compliment local sales.

Fourth, help with low interest loans for refrigeration and scaleable processing to help extend the growing season and sales of small farmers. 

Fifth, subsidize rural broadband and require RECs to pay "net metering" prices for renewable electricity generated by small farmers.

Finally, create opportunities for off farm supplemental income.

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