Read this candidate profile of 3rd District Candidate Monte Shaw. He was interviewed as part of IPR's 2014 Primary Voter Guide series.
Give me an example of an experience you had with the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association that you believe prepared you to be a member of Congress?
Both my time at Renewable Fuels as well as my time at the state central committee for the Republican Party I think have helped get me ready…we were able to focus people on the big issues. I think back to, we had a big discussion on the voter program in 2010...we were able to bring people together, focus on the facts, focus on what we wanted to accomplish. And the party really did a fundamentally different get out the vote program than we had in the past. It was very effective…
As executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association there’s been several times on legislation where we’ve worked across party lines to get things done. I’ve actually been criticized for working for a group that’s been bipartisan or non-partisan and I find that humorous because, look I’m not afraid to stand up for my conservative principals, but not every issue needs to be partisan. And the key thing is to get stuff done. So we’ve been able to get key tax credits in place at the state level that have really powered the renewable fuels industry and therefore Iowa’s economy.
What do you think is the one thing you can do in Congress to help create jobs in Iowa?
I’ve got into this race because I’ve got a son and a daughter and I’m seeing their future literally buried under a mountain of debt and spending and regulations. And the way to get out of that is to have pro-growth policies combined with spending restraint.
And the pro-growth policies would be getting our tax code reformed, simplified, reduced so that we don’t punish success, so that small businesses have the certainty they need to invest and hire people because it’s all interconnected.
When you grow the economy, you do that with investment and investment means jobs. And jobs means more people pulling the wagon, than sitting in the wagon. And so that means more tax revenue to the government. So the debt, the spending, the jobs and the growth are all tied together and that’s my number one priority in congress.
So I would look at getting rid of onerous regulations. The EPA, the Department of Labor, they have gone out of control in the last six years, and are just really just hurting our small businesses. And then we’ve got to get the tax code under control. It punishes success, punishes growth instead of rewarding it. We’ve really got the system turned upside down today.
A March Iowa Poll shows 65% of those polled support an increase in the minimum wage. Would you support a minimum wage increase?
Not at the federal level, no. I don’t think it makes any sense to have the same minimum wage in Brooklyn, Iowa as in Brooklyn, New York -- two fundamentally different areas, two fundamentally different costs of living.So if states want to look at that, they have the right to look at that and some have done it. Iowa’s done that in the past, had a higher minimum wage than the rest of the county.
But no, I think it’s a mistake for the Democrats…they trotted some guy out the other day—he was 42-years-old I think it was—married, two kids and he’s on the minimum wage.And they’re like, “See, it’s not just young people, this is why we need to raise the minimum wage.” And I’m sitting there thinking, “What an absolute indictment of your administration’s economic policies that that guy can only find a minimum wage job.”
You know, the point is, grow the economy, create good paying jobs so that people who aren’t just starting out are able to find those jobs. That’s what we’ve had at other times in our economy. And if that means we need to do some job training with our community colleges, and things like that, then let’s do it. The key is to not have everyone working at a minimum wage…
I believe in a safety net. I’ve had friends that have gone through jobs losses when companies move to Mexico and all that sort of thing. I absolutely believe in helping people, but it should never be more comfortable not to work, than to work.
The proposed changes to the renewable fuel standard seem to signal that the administration may move away from grain-based alternatives to conventional fuels. What would you do (in Washington) to work in a bipartisan manner on energy policy that would benefit Iowans and still have national appeal?
That’s really one of the things I’m passionate about…I do have a certain amount of expertise in ag policy and energy policy, and I really think I would be a refreshing voice in the House Republican caucus, which sometimes all too often is dominated by the fossil fuels folks.
I’m not against fossil fuels. We need oil. We need the other options. I want to get the Keystone Pipeline done…but we also need to make sure there aren’t unnecessary barriers like ethanol and biodiesel. So I would fight hard for the RFS.
Right now Iowa’s entire Congressional delegation — House and Senate — is united in support of the RFS. I would certainly want to continue that trend and try to take the facts out…
A lot of people think that only renewables get federal support. So I would be happy to sit down with staff and members, and explain to them everything that the oil industry continues to get from tax credits that date back over 100 years, to a federal petroleum mandate, to petroleum pipeline loan guarantees, to specialized tax structures that only they get.
I mean, the playing field is actually tilted very heavily in the favor of oil. We would love a level playing field for renewables. Because you know ethanol today is the world’s cheapest source of fuel octane. We would do just fine if there was actually a level playing field.
Even with a former Iowa governor heading up the Ag Department, farmers were kept in limbo for years over the new farm policies. How will you represent the interests of agriculture and rural communities in an environment (and from a district) that is heavily urban?
You say it’s heavily urban, but I think I’ve seen statistics that show 25% of the people in the third district have someone in their family connected directly to agriculture. Doesn’t mean they farm, but there is a lot of agribusiness as well. And I think there is no doubt that when ag does well, Iowa does well. So I don’t care whether you’re selling shoes in Council Bluffs or selling insurance in Des Moines, how agriculture does is going to have a huge impact on your personal, financial wellbeing.
So when it comes to the farm bill…this is something that sets me apart from most of the people in my race. You get people who say, “I wouldn’t have voted for the farm bill.” Well, I would have reluctantly voted for the most recent farm bill because it would have been better than reverting back to the underlying law.
I actually think there’s guys in this race that don’t understand that if that farm bill fails we go back to a 1950s era law that would have been extremely costly for tax payers and very horrible for farmers, it would have been a nightmare.
Now, were there some good reforms in the farm bill? Yes there were. We got rid of direct payments, there were some reductions to the SNAP program… but there was a lot left undone. It’s the starting point.
So we should have moved more toward an insurance system for farmers where they had the skin in the game, and away from the target prices and what we call counter-cyclical payments. There was a real opportunity to do that that was missed in this farm bill. There’s additional reforms and reductions that need done to the nutrition side in this farm bill….
So I see it as, “Yeah, at least it was a couple steps forward and it avoided us from going back to that permanent law, but there’s a lot more work to be done.”
You’re campaigning to join Congress at a time when its approval ratings are some of the lowest in history… hovering in the low to mid-teens in most cases. This has been called a do-nothing Congress. In what areas can you imagine compromising with the other party to get something accomplished for Iowa?
I get asked that a lot. “Why in the world do you want to go to Congress? It’s so dysfunctional.” And I guess the fact of the matter is, my wife and I, as we thought about this, and prayed over it, we decided that’s exactly why I needed to run.
I care about my kids. I want them to have economic opportunities like I had. And if we don’t send people out there that can do more than bang on the table… they pound their fist on the table, they shake that fist in the air, they put out a press release, and they call it good.
Look I’ll bang on the table when it’s called for, OK? And I know how to write a press release, but that’s not where it stops. You have to sit down at the table, you have to roll up your sleeves and you have to be willing to work with people to find solutions.
And I have a track record of doing that whether it’s one renewable fuels policy or...my time with the state central committee for the Republican Party. We had a diverse cast of characters on that board while I was there… but we got them to vote with us time, after time, after time, focusing on the big picture…
You got to know when to negotiate on the details and know when to draw a line in the sand on principle. And I think with my 20-plus years of advocating for conservative candidates and issues, I think I’ve learned that skill set. But it’s also mentality.
We need to send people out that are willing to put in the time and the effort… find that common ground… I’ll do it, can’t do it alone. My hope is that there’s other people out there running for Congress today that feel like me. That we understand the frustration of why people bang that fist on the table, but we can’t stop there. We have to actually do something to change the direction of the country.
Nearly every candidate running for office says they want to cut government waste and bring down the deficit. Name a program or department you would cut, and why?
I think you have to look at everything. I support a strong defense, but, you know, Chuck Grassley has shown us that any area of government where you spend that much money there is waste, and fraud and abuse. And so let’s look right there.
Let’s try not to get into so many military conflicts. I want to have a strong military, but I think we should be very judicious when you use it because it’s pretty expensive when you deploy troops.
I think that there are a number of anti-poverty and housing programs that are duplicative at the federal level, and work against each other, and you could probably combine those and black-grant them. We send money to D.C. so that it comes back to local police departments. That doesn’t make any sense.
Heck let’s start easy. Let’s stop funding federal presidential campaigns with taxpayer money. Let’s start there.
And let’s look at some of the stuff that the corporations get that is more or less corporate welfare. There’s a lot programs for overseas stuff that I don’t think are necessarily needed, so there’s a lot of places we could look at I think.
Immigration reform is an issue important to Iowa, but has stalled in Congress. What immigration reforms would you support?
If you want to get something done, first thing you’re going to have to do is secure the border. And for me that’s more of a national security issue because if you can walk across the border with a shirt on your back, you can walk across the border with a backpack that has a dirty bomb in it. And it’s just a matter of time until that happens.
But because of the federal government not fulfilling its promises made during the 1986 federal immigration reform, you just don’t have trust. So you’ve got to start by securing the border. I mean Chuck Grassely, for goodness sake, says the worst vote he’s ever cast in the U.S. Senate was for that immigration reform in 1986. He’s cast a lot of votes…
Number two, I’m in favor of reforming the legal immigration pathway. We adopted a boy from South Korea, my son. Love him to death; it was a nightmare to go through that process… took too long, too many months of his life were spent apart from Tina and I because of the system.
We need to look at the current quotas that come in. A lot of them date back to like the 1920s I’ve been told. The needs of our economy, the needs of the world have changed.
I’d like to see us, heaven forbid, maybe actually put a little bit of merit in there. Right now if you have a family member you move to the front of the line. Well…some of the world’s best and brightest people want to come and live and work and be productive in the United States. How is that not good for us? Whether it’s academic achievement…artistic achievement. Let’s sit down and talk about how to put — not solely — but have at least something for merit.
We need a guest worker program that works…it would really take off the pressure of illegal immigration both at the low end wage scale, but also at the very high end wage scale. I’ll be very honest with you, I do not believe in granting shortcuts to people to become citizens based on the sole factor that they’ve broken a law. I think that discriminates against the law abiding citizens, who I know are waiting in other countries to come here…and if we let people cut in front of them, based on the fact they broke a law that just seems backwards to me
Are we spending enough on national defense?
I think what we have to do is prioritize taking care of our troops, and their families and our veterans and then see where you can be smarter on where we spend money on the procurement of the weapons systems and things like that.
I am not a military expert, but I was able to attend the national security seminar I guess maybe two years ago at the U.S. Army War College. And so I got to spend the whole week with a bunch of military colonels. They were there to get their Masters in strategic studies. So there’s people I can reach out to, well there’s people like Chuck Grassley who have been doing this for a long time. So I would want to roll up my sleeves and help out.
You know my wife’s an army brat. She’s lived in that base housing; she’s lived overseas on military bases. And we don’t always do very well by the people who put themselves in harm’s way for us, and we don’t always do very well by their families. And that’s something where I would not want to see spending reduced like the president proposed to his budget. I think there’s other places we could look at.
The U.S. House has held dozens of votes to either repeal, defund or otherwise dismantle the Affordable Care Act. President Obama will not sign legislation repealing, defunding or dismantling this legislation. But, the law remains unpopular… with most polls showing more people opposed to, rather than in support of the law. What are your ideas for revising the law?
I do think we ultimately need to repeal it. I’m not saying there aren’t a few good parts of it. I think there is general consensus that letting kids stay on their parents’ insurance while they go to college and different things like that are good. It’s a pretty short list.
I fundamentally don’t think that the government can mandate that an employer provide a service. I think that that’s just against our constitutional values. I don’t think that a government should be able to force you to buy a private product. It’s wrong. But more importantly it doesn’t fix the problem. The problem is health care costs are going up too quickly.
And it was actually getting the consumers out of the decision making process with health care is when that happened. It happened during World War II…that’s when the employer health system started. When the government put wage controls on industry as part of the war powers to attract good employees that would help them be more productive and beat their quotas and they’d get those big bonuses, the manufactures said, “Hey, I can only pay you X, but I’ll give you health insurance…” that’s where these employer based benefits came from. That is also when the inflation rate of health costs started going up faster than normal inflation.
Right now today, if I go have a major heart procedure done, I’m going to get a bill six months later, and I’ll pay the deductible and I’ll pay the copay and that will be that. And if I had shopped around instead of paying $60,000 for this procedure, I might have been able to find a place that cost $40,000 that was just as good. And if you go ask them what their prices are most of the time they won’t tell you.
We have to have price transparency and a system that encourages and rewards consumers for being frugal. It doesn’t mean settling for a lower standard of care. The beauty of the free market, by literally hundreds of millions of individuals making their own personal value judgments, you get to a collective wisdom…knowledge or intelligence, you might say, that’s always smarter than the 20 smartest people in the world, sitting in a room. It’s worked for every other sector of our economy, it can work for healthcare—to get the highest quality product at the lowest possible price. So I want to see us more back to more consumer involvement, not less consumer involvement.
According to figures from NASA, Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities,1and most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position. Do you believe the science? Do you think government should act on this issue?
Fact is, scientific truth has never been determined by a poll of scientists. There was a time when 97-percent of the people thought the world was flat. When I was in grade school, 97-percent of the scientists were worried about the oncoming ice age, to the affect that there were serious plans being promoted to Congress to launch rockets into space…to put coal dust or something up in the atmosphere so that it would actually speed global warming. And this was in the 70’s, it was not too long ago. It would have been a horrible mistake.
So I’m more along the lines of Iowa State climatologist Elwynn Taylor on at least this part, the climate is changing, the climate has always changed. So the real question is, should the federal government do anything about it and could it do anything about it? And so far I have yet to see a plan that would suggest anything would be positive.
Let’s take the cap-and-trade program that was promoted a few years ago. Iowa State looked at that, Dr. Brown up there, and determined that if we implemented that law, world greenhouse gas emissions would go up because you would force the petrochemicals out of the Gulf Coast and into China and Asia. In the Gulf Coast, we’re efficient and we use natural gas to power the manufacturing. In Asia and China they use coal and they’re less efficient. It would have actually made the problem worse that they say is out there.
I think that the manmade emissions are fairly minor compared to what happens naturally. And I think that the climate is not changing that much more than it ever has as you go through different cycles. And I don’t think there’s a government solution out there that makes a lot of sense right now.