Art Cullen Highlights Delaney’s Economic Insight, Rural Platform in Editorial

FRIENDSHIP HEIGHTS, MD – Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Art Cullen highlighted John Delaney’s economic expertise and rural platform in an editorial published in the Storm Lake Times on Friday. Last month, Delaney introduced his Heartland Fair Deal plan, a comprehensive policy program to revive rural America.

In his piece titled “Delaney on What Ails Us”, Cullen wrote, “Delaney deserves attention. The talk is all about who just raised the most money, who is on the left and the right, who’s in and who’s out. Delaney is talking about serious stuff with an understanding of markets, technology and, increasingly, of what afflicts Iowa.”

Delaney is the first Democratic candidate since the 2008 cycle to campaign in all 99 Iowa Counties.  

The editorial is copied below:

Delaney on What Ails Us
Storm Lake Times
By Art Cullen

John Delaney said something near the end of the Heartland Forum on Saturday that caught our attention, but he didn’t have time to expand on it: There has been a massive capital outflow from the Midwest as industries like agriculture, retail and manufacturing consolidate and seek efficiency. And this stunning statistic: 80% of venture capital is invested in 50 of the 3,100 counties in America — mainly in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston and New York.

We called to follow up and he was more than happy to talk.

“Eighty percent of the smart money went to 1.6% of the counties,” the former Maryland congressman told us. “That’s a problem for every citizen in this country.”

As ownership has left rural America — whether newspapers, banks, hardware stores or farrowing hogs — capital (profit) that otherwise would have remained in the community flows to where the owners are, and they are not primarily in rural areas. We see it all over Iowa. Delaney believes the trend can be reversed through incentives for a zero-emissions energy economy that still burns fossil fuels, and that targets investments in renewable energy and digital technology jobs in partnership with communities.

He shares views articulated by Rep. Tim Ryan, of Youngstown, Ohio, that the implosion of the Rust Belt and rural environs can be stopped and even turned around if we shift subsidies from fossil fuels to carbon capture and renewable energy.

“Talent follows opportunity,” Delaney said. “But you can’t rely on the kindness of strangers — words uttered by a prostitute, in the play. You gotta create a reason for capitalists to do it. You do that by offering a lower tax rate in an opportunity zone.”

The new tax bill, which Delaney voted against while a member of the House, contains his amendment that created opportunity zones in each state. Storm Lake is one of them. Starting this summer, people who sell stocks or real estate can reinvest those proceeds in an opportunity zone and not pay capital gains tax on that sale for 10 years.

Delaney also wants to require 20% of all government contracts to go to opportunity zones, everything from call centers to digital coding.
He wants to shift from fossil fuels subsidies to create new carbon sequestration markets and funding streams. He says that carbon can be sucked from the air by methods (more grass, less corn) and by machines — there are devices that can suck carbon from the air and bury it in the ground, but they are expensive and more research funding is needed. His point is that the efforts lend themselves to rural areas. If climate change is an existential crisis, as more people think every day and clamor for action, then capital will flow to it.

Conservation payments can be a new source of substantial farm revenue. That’s what Sen. Tom Harkin envisioned when he authored the Conservation Stewardship Program while chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. It pays for conservation practices on working lands, and encourages soil-building rotational practices that can solve most of our surface water problems and suck a lot of carbon back into the ground. In the latest farm bill, Congress cut funding for the CSP by 50%. Delaney believes that the demand for carbon sequestration is so urgent and will be so great — as Iowa recovers from flooding — that it can be a sustainable source of significant rural income.

“Yes, I do believe that,” said Delaney, a lawyer by training and an entrepreneur who made a fortune financing small health-care enterprises.

Delaney, Ryan and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Cal., (one of the few not running for President) also think that population and job loss can be reversed by schooling rural students in digital skills. Ryan and Khanna toured Appalachia and the Rust Belt to see if they could link Silicon Valley to West Virginia and Youngstown. They are. Khanna also is launching an initiative with Iowa Central Community College in Jefferson in which Pillar Technologies will hire graduates with digital certificates to work in a “forge” with high-paying jobs on a vo-tech degree. Khanna thinks the program can be templated in Storm Lake and spread through rural Iowa in three or four sites. 

He claims that Silicon Valley is eager, if government provides the incentives as Delaney suggests.

How do you lure them back to the farm once they have seen San Francisco or Boston? Or even Des Moines? “Build it and they will come,” Delaney says.

Iowa State University economist Dave Swenson, who studies rural trade, says that western Iowa communities are simply “too far from the bulkhead.” People want to be on the coasts, or in Chicago. They go there for reasons other than a job, and they go for more income where all that capital and brainpower is concentrated, and where innovation occurs. “If we’re talking about forced resettlement, Mao tried. It didn’t work,” Swenson said.

If you believe that you can direct capital flows and innovation through tax policy, direct investment in socially desirable practices (such as soil and water conservation) and targeted job education, Delaney deserves attention. The talk is all about who just raised the most money, who is on the left and the right, who’s in and who’s out. Delaney is talking about serious stuff with an understanding of markets, technology and, increasingly, of what afflicts Iowa. He is dumping enough money into his campaign himself to make it through the primary season and force at least some of us to think through what he says.