Letters graphic

Consumer protection should not be a partisan issue

Recently, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller joined 50 of the nation’s state attorneys general to announce the launch of a bipartisan antitrust investigation into Google and Facebook. I want to take this opportunity to thank Attorney General Miller and share why this investigation is important.

Railroads, steel, and oil are no longer the lifeblood of the American economy. In our modern era, digital information drives our national prosperity. However, although millions of customers assume the services offered by Facebook and Google are innocuous, it is important to consider the harmful effects on small businesses and the individuals who run them. Google and Facebook dominate the online advertising market, which stunts the growth of other companies and results in higher prices for consumers.

Prior to the advent of the information age, the federal government would apply close antitrust scrutiny to large corporations that used their size to price competitors out of business. In the case of Facebook and Google, however, this litmus test does not apply. Consumers enjoy most of what these companies have to offer for “free,” thus allowing Silicon Valley executives to fly under the radar of antitrust watchdogs.

However, the danger with Big Technology has nothing to do with prices. Rather, it has everything to do with the monetization of consumer data. Customers do not always realize their personal information is being sold to advertisers and other third party vendors, oftentimes without their consent. Like Google, Amazon uses this information to generate revenue from advertisers, and should be the next target of the attorneys general investigations. Amazon’s Alexa and Echo virtual assistants gather regular data on users, and shopping habits are carefully monitored and anticipated. This is where companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google make their fortunes and acquire the power to destroy all competition.

Historically when state attorneys general have come together in a bipartisan fashion, they have brought sweeping changes to other industries. With the recent bipartisan gathering to investigate antitrust, companies like Google and Facebook should have to answer to their actions for violating consumers trust for their own profit and gain.

Consumer protection should not be a partisan issue. However, with a presidential election coming up in 2020 and fierce disagreements between Republicans and Democrats in Congress, a re-examination of antitrust law will almost certainly provide a source of heated debate.

Linda Marsh, Council Bluffs

Delaney’s climate plan worth review

The science on climate change is hard to argue. Everywhere you go you can see the impact, just look at the floodwaters still swamping Western Iowa. The Missouri River spilled over the levees in southwestern Iowa in mid-March. Six months later, the water is still standing in farmlands that haven’t drained back to the river. For some reason, only the Democrats are talking about the need to act on climate change. Republicans play the blame game, throwing the Army Corps of Engineers under the bus for failing to properly manage the river, but Democrats know better.

Former three-term Congressman from Maryland John Delaney is a leading moderate voice in the Democratic primary for president. He was joined by Jan Norris (a Democrat and climate activist from Montgomery County), her husband James Norris (brother of gubernatorial candidate John Norris), and local elected leader Dolores Bristol who serves as a commissioner for the Western Pottawattamie Soil & Water Conservation District at a forum on the climate crisis.

Delaney kicked off the discussion with a succinct argument that to combat climate change, we need “real solutions, not impossible promises.” One of those solutions is to build a coalition in Congress that will pass laws and overcome the stonewalling of the climate deniers like Leader McConnell. John Delaney’s plan is simple — get every Democrat and the Republicans in coastal states to sign off on a bipartisan bill aimed at creating a Climate Corps, instituting a carbon tax, and introducing negative emissions technologies like direct carbon capture.

The Norris’ and Dolores Bristol provided lots of great details about the current lack of focus on climate action and how local activities, especially by farmers in western Iowa are mitigating the threat.

Contrary to Republican talking points, the climate crisis isn’t a hoax, the science isn’t an anti-business smear campaign, and climate change is real. We need politicians who have been to the flood zone, spoken with the experts, and outlined real solutions to address our growing emissions and the freak weather patterns that are a direct result. John is the only candidate offering a comprehensive plan that goes from clean energy incentives that reduce CO2 emissions to direct carbon capture technology that pulls carbon from the atmosphere. No matter which 2020 candidate you currently support, give John Delaney a look and read his climate plan at johndelaney.com.

Dixie Trebbe, Council Bluffs

Thank you to local law enforcement, county attorney’s office

I am writing this letter to express my appreciation for the diligent work done by the Council Bluffs Police Department and the Pottawattamie County Attorney’s Office. The citizens in our county are well served by the people in both of these units.

My son, Adam Angeroth, was murdered this past year in Council Bluffs. The detectives who worked the case were tenacious in their efforts to find and arrest the perpetrators. In addition, they were kind and caring toward Adam’s family, making every effort to keep us informed as the case progressed.

Once the culprits were arrested, the case went to the County Attorney’s Office. The people in this office worked tirelessly to bring Adam justice, which they did. I want everyone to know how much I appreciate all of the efforts put into this case, and that I am completely satisfied with the outcome. I believe Adam received justice.

Thank you to all who worked on this case.

Maryann Farrell, Council Bluffs

On the rich and the economy

Our federal government’s current deficit is in excess of $1 trillion, the highest it is has been in seven years. And, while ordinary individual Americans are paying increasingly more in personal income taxes, corporate income tax revenues so far this year are down by at least $65 billion.

By every measure, the Trumpsters’ 2017 tax cut has been an unmitigated failure, except for grossly benefiting the wealthiest Americans through corporate stock buy backs and increased dividends. Our two Iowa senators and the other Trumpsters in Congress have been engaging in unforgivable mismanagement of our economy.

Such incompetence by Senators Grassley and Ernst would get either one immediately fired from the position of a CEO or as an executive vice-president of any American business. Grassley and Ernst, along with the other Trumpsters in Congress, inherited a booming economy.

But they and their ilk in the Senate, in the House and in the Oval Office have managed and continue to manage to squander that economy in order to line the pockets of their major corporate campaign donors while padding their own pockets with the financial inducements to be gained from passing legislation that favors the very few at the expense of the very many.

Steven Pokorny, Urbandale

Public service vs self-enrichment

In 2016, voters across the political spectrum took a chance on Donald Trump because they couldn’t stand the idea of voting for someone as corrupt as Hillary Clinton. After 20 years of Whitewater, cattle futures, and sleaze at the Clinton Foundation, Americans were fed up.

But voting for Trump backfired. President Trump and other federal employees have used their government offices to advertise for Trump’s business more than 100 times. The president has also suggested holding international meetings at his struggling Florida resort. These are just two examples of taxpayer money going directly into President Trump’s pockets — there are many more.

Americans expect public officials to “serve” in government, not profit from it. They expect their leaders to put aside years of their lives — even whole careers — to serve the people.

In this administration, however, “service” looks a lot more like the art of the self-deal than true leadership.

Chris Gagin is a practicing lawyer, former chairman of the Belmont County, Ohio, Republican Party, a director of Defending Democracy Together, and a legal advisor to Republicans for the Rule of Law

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