University of Iowa College Republicans watch party for President Donald Trump's speech to Congress. (The Daily Iowan, Molly Hunter)
University of Iowa College Republicans watch party for President Donald Trump's speech to Congress. (The Daily Iowan, Molly Hunter)

What Trump’s agenda means for Iowa

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By Maria Curi | maria-curi@uiowa.edu

Forty days after his inauguration, President Trump pitched his legislative agenda on Tuesday to a joint session of Congress. This is what Trump’s four major policy proposals mean for Iowa:

IMMIGRATION

In his speech, Trump proposed a merit-based immigration system and what he said would be a “great, great wall” at the southern U.S. border.

According to the Pew Research Center there are approximately 40,000 undocumented immigrants in Iowa.

“It will save countless dollars, raise workers’ wages, and help struggling families, including immigrant families, enter the middle class,” Trump said. “And they will do it quickly, and they will be very, very happy indeed.”

The Iowa Policy Project estimates the average undocumented family pays around $1,671 in taxes each year, 80 percent of the amount paid by a documented family in Iowa earning the same income. In aggregate, undocumented families in Iowa pay between $40 million and $62 million in taxes every year.

University of Iowa political-science Associate Professor Cary Covington said there are a lot of Iowa employers who rely on immigrant labor rather than native-born labor.

According to the Iowa Policy Project, immigrants account for 56.3 percent of meat cutters and 33.2 percent of meatpackers, fillers, and wrappers in Iowa.

“Trump’s statements regarding immigration enforcement and creating this registry of immigrant violence is certainly going to up the level of anxiety in those communities,” Covington said.

“To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, I would ask you this one question: What would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or their loved one because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?” Trump said.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, in the long run, immigrants do not reduce native employment rates and the U.S. could benefit from an immigration system that is more responsive to broader economic conditions.

“The most rigorous work on the effect of immigration on wages finds extremely modest effects for native-born workers, including those with low levels of education,” the report stated.

 

HEALTHCARE

Trump campaigned on the promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. At the same time, Trump has suggested reforming the act instead.

“Tonight, I am also calling on this Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and, at the same time, provide better health care,” Trump said.

According to a study from the Urban Institute, if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, 230,000 fewer Iowans will have health insurance by 2019. Nationwide, 29.8 million people would lose their insurance by 2019.

“There are a lot of people in Iowa who have health care now because of the ACA; this will be a big test for the Republicans,” Covington said.

UI College Republicans President Patrick Wronkiewicz said Trump’s most important message to Iowans was the repeal and replacement of ObamaCare. Wronkiewicz then said there are parts of the health-insurance act Democrats and Republicans agree on.

“There’s a misconception that there’s going to be this repeal of ObamaCare and take away things that people really care about,” Wronkiewicz said.

“ObamaCare is collapsing – and we must act decisively to protect all Americans,” Trump said. “So I am calling on all Democrats and Republicans in Congress to work with us to save Americans from this imploding ObamaCare disaster.”

In a prepared statement from the office of Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, he said, “He [Trump] also reiterated his call to dismantle the ACA, yet continues to have no replacement that would provide quality, affordable health care to all Americans.”

A report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said if the health-insurance act is repealed without a proper replacement, Iowa would lose $7.4 billion in federal funding and pay more in uncompensated care costs.

“In Iowa, repeal means the loss of $180 million in federal marketplace spending in 2019 and $2 billion between 2019 and 2028,” according to the report. “Iowa would lose $446 million in federal Medicaid funding in 2019 and $5.4 billion between 2019 and 2028,”

 

TRADE AND AGRICULTURE

Acting on his “America first” campaign slogan, Trump promised to move toward protectionist trade policies and renegotiate the NAFTA among the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.

“We have lost more than one-fourth of our manufacturing jobs since NAFTA was approved, and we have lost 60,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001,” Trump said.

Covington said the risk in renegotiating NAFTA is losing markets for Iowa’s agricultural product.

According to the International Trade Administration, Iowa’s top two export markets include Canada, which imported $3.351 million in 2016 and Mexico, which imported $2.306 million that same year.

“There are always winners and losers in any trade agreement; agriculture commodities are the winners [in NAFTA],” Covington said. “We sell a lot of agriculture products to Mexico, and anything that undermines that … if he [Trump] makes it harder for products from Mexico or Canada to come into the U.S., then they are going to reciprocate and that will have serious consequences for Iowa.”

Wronkiewicz said he supports Trump’s trade proposals.

“I’m still for his things on trade restrictions,” he said. “I think NAFTA, and CAFTA, and all those deals haven’t been helping the average American or average Iowan. Pulling out of TPP, that kind of helps.”

In a prepared statement from Sen. Chuck Grassley’s office, he said it is important to maintain the integrity of existing laws meant to encourage the use of clean energy, such as the Renewable Fuel Standard.

“Renewable energy employs tens of thousands of Iowans and many others around the country,” Grassley said. “That ought to stay as it is and even improve,”

On Tuesday, Renewable Fuels Association CEO Bob Dinneen said a White House official had called the his organization to inform it about a pending executive order that would free refiners of the responsibility to combine biofuels with gasoline and hand that responsibility to lower-level companies such as retailers.

Given that Iowa is the largest producer of ethanol and biodiesel in the United States, this shift would weaken the demand for its corn and soybeans. Meanwhile, the change would lower costs for refining companies such as CVR Energy, which is owned in part by Trump’s regulation adviser and billionaire Carl Icahn.

Several hours before Trump’s speech, the Iowa Democratic Party issued a prepared statement from Iowa Democrats head Derek Eadon.

“While campaigning, Trump made a promise to Iowa’s agriculture community that he would protect the Renewable Fuels Standard that supports thousands of Iowa families,” Eadon said. “It appears that President Trump is poised to break his promise to Iowa farmers with an executive order that guts the Renewable Fuels Standard and stabs Iowa farmers in the back.”

The Iowa Republican Party has not issued any statements regarding the executive order and did not respond to Daily Iowan email requests for comment. White House spokeswoman Kelly Love said the executive order does not exist.