STAFF: The following is an unrehearsed interview with Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, speaking to you live from Washington. Participating in today's public affairs program are Theresa Rose with KILJ Radio in Mount Pleasant and John Podgoniak with the Northwood Anchor in Northwood. The first question will be from Theresa Rose.
QUESTION: Hello, Senator.
GRASSLEY: Hello there, Theresa.
QUESTION: Last night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid unveiled legislation to extend coverage to all but 6 percent of eligible Americans and bar private industry from denying insurance because of pre-existing conditions.
GRASSLEY: Well, my thoughts would go along this line. First of all, I've got to read the entire bill, but a lot of the bill will be things that I've read previously that have come out in the Senate Finance Committee. But I've got to check and make sure that there's not much change. And not much has changed.
But I would sum it up by saying that there's billions in wasteful spending and expanded government. There's a half a trillion in damaging Medicare cuts. There's billions in new taxes. We're going to suffer lost jobs and lower wages. We're going to have higher premiums and health costs. There's government health care that could eventually, through what we call a public option or a government-run health insurance program, lead up to a 100 percent government-run program like they have in Canada.
It's the biggest Medicaid expansion in history, and allows federal funds to pay for abortions.
Now, I'll bet you that, if we were sitting around the coffee shop on a Saturday morning in your town and people were talking about health care reform, they would not expect premiums to go up, taxes to go up, and so much coming out of Medicare, or anything coming out of Medicare, and doing nothing to control costs. They would say, "Well, that's not health care reform." And they'd be exactly right.
QUESTION: Thank you. OK. Senator Grassley, it's a pleasure to talk to you today.
GRASSLEY: Sure, thank you.
QUESTION: I'd like to talk about energy production today. As co-owner of the Northwood Anchor, I had the pleasure of covering a ground-breaking ceremony that you attended back in 2000, I believe it was, at the Top of Iowa Wind Farm near Joice.
GRASSLEY: Yes, when it was so cold that we had to do it in a church.
QUESTION: I remember it being so cold...
GRASSLEY: And you couldn't get -- you couldn't get a shovel on the ground.
QUESTION: Right. And that day, the hard hats kept getting blown off.
QUESTION: We were in the right place for wind energy, that's for sure.
QUESTION: But my concern is, at that time, the wind turbines that were going up -- there was some 90 of them in phase one, 90 turbines producing approximately 900 kilowatts per turbine -- the people of the area thought that that energy was going to be going to them because it was said to be going to 25,000 to 40,000 homes.
And the way it turned out is that all that energy that's being produced locally here -- and those 90 turbines have now turned into what looks like a couple of thousand and more going up every day -- all that energy is being sold to places like Chicago and Milwaukee, Madison.
And while we are experiencing rate hikes (inaudible) for our kilowatt hours on our energy bills that just keep going up -- I think it's gone up 25 percent now just in the last couple years.
I was wondering what your thoughts are on this.
GRASSLEY: Well, my thoughts are these: Eventually, Iowa's going to have such a surplus of wind energy. We need transmission lines to get the surplus out of Iowa. In the meantime, I would think that most of it'll be used in Iowa.
And I'm not disputing what you say, but I -- we got so many different wind energy farms, I don't know one from the other. But from what I've been led to believe, it would be used locally because we don't have the ability to transmit it out.
And -- and Iowa is going to become a wind energy surplus state, and maybe could do that to some extent now, except we just don't have the grid to get it out of the state.
So there's a lot of effort being done through the stimulus package to put money into getting a grid so that we can get -- as we get a surplus of wind energy, we can export it and make it available.
Because the Upper Plains States are the biggest source of wind energy. And it's not going to do us much good to have wind energy and the investments, and we won't have as much investment if we can't get it out.
But I -- I guess I'm a little bit surprised to hear you ask your question, not because it's not a
legitimate question. It is legitimate. But it's my understanding that we had the opposite a problem of what you're describing.
QUESTION: Yes. This may be an anomaly, because this is being shipped out in our -- our energy comes -- our electricity comes from a -- a natural gas-fired plant in Mason City.
QUESTION: And so we're paying a higher premium, I believe, and it's kind of working backward for us.
QUESTION: It's a question that I get quite a bit.
GRASSLEY: Sure. Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Senator, I want to go back to health care reform. You spoke on Wednesday about the IRS's role in Americans' health care choices.
Can you give us some examples of the challenges and costs of administrating the health care reform changes as far as the IRS is concerned?
GRASSLEY: Well, I wish I could. And here's the problem, that I can't. Because we have sent letters to the Treasury Department and also to other departments that might be involved in the administering of this program, of what it's going to cost to do that.
And -- and you know what the IRS commissioner told me...
GRASSLEY: ... and I can't believe it? But he told me, he couldn't even estimate it. And so I'm inable -- unable to answer your question. And I think it's wrong that I can't answer your question. So I think it's more wrong that people that have to carry out these laws won't tell us what it's going to take.
Because this is not figured in to the cost of the health care reform bill. And I think all these factors ought to be figured in.
QUESTION: Do you think it's because they can't, they won't, they don't know yet...
QUESTION: ... might be that it's just going to be so great?
GRASSLEY: Might be a little bit of both, but I think there's also because this bill is so expensive that they're doing everything they can to make sure that -- to make sure that the cost doesn't look higher -- and there could be pressure for them not to do that.
But there is some signals we're getting, kind of bad signs, that the trouble -- that the IRS may have a great deal of trouble trying to administer this law, particularly the small tax credit programs that the bill has.
QUESTION: All right. Thank you.
QUESTION: OK, I'd like to stick to -- on the energy subject, Senator Grassley. After all the billions of taxpayer dollars that have been handed out in an effort to stimulate the economy, I was wondering has anybody ever given any thought to setting up a federal program whereby individuals would purchase personal energy sources for their own private farms and acreages.
QUESTION: It seems to me it'd be a self-sustaining industry...
QUESTION: ... that would put a lot of people to work, help with the global warming issue and any looming energy crisis. And it would put a lot of skilled and semi-skilled laborers to work.
I'm wondering what your thoughts are.
GRASSLEY: Well, my thoughts are that that's good, and we already provide that. There's some grant programs through the Energy Department for small businesses. You see some of these -- you know, mostly you're looking at the big wind energy farms. So maybe you'd be -- as you travel some places, you might be a little bit oblivious. But there is some of these other very small wind energy production.
Just east of Marshalltown you can find two -- you can find one by Adair, by a company down there. And so we have the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Energy with programs like this.
QUESTION: I'm speaking specifically to the possibility of the federal government giving a rebate to citizens who actually purchase and install their own power system, and then they could live within the means of their own generating capacity, and then get at their excess needs off of the...
GRASSLEY: Well, yes.
QUESTION: Is that something that anybody's...
GRASSLEY: Yes -- to get their excess on to the grid is what you're asking about...
GRASSLEY: And the answer is that there's present state law that requires utility companies to take that surplus -- surplus energy.
GRASSLEY: Thank you, Theresa and John, for participating in today's public affairs program.
This has been Senator Chuck Grassley reporting to the people of Iowa.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
GRASSLEY: Thank you both very much.