© 2021 Iowa Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

3rd District Congressional Candidate David Young on the Minimum Wage, Trust and Immigration

Young for Iowa
David Young

David Young says it’s time for the Government to start working for the people instead of the other way around.

Young emerged as a candidate to represent Iowa’s 3rd district after five rounds of voting at a special Republican nominating convention. Even though he finished last in the primary, he says he's ready to represent Iowans and sees major deficits he wants to try to correct in Washington D.C. He talks with Ben Kieffer in this River to River interview.  Read the transcript below.

Kieffer:  What is the key, what are the key policy difference between you and your opponent, Staci Appel?

Young: Well I’m running on what I have seen as three deficits within our government, that’s the budget deficit, you know $18 trillion of debt we’re almost at. The jobs deficit, with the economy. And just the general trust deficit. You know, the misguided policies of our federal government. Some being very nefarious and behind closed doors. I want to help to restore trust and accountability in our federal government.

Kieffer: How do you do that though, specifically? This is what every politician, especially new ones, like to play the Washington outsider and I say, “I’m going to fix it.” And I don’t mean to be snarky here, but we do need some specifics. How do you go about it?

Young: Well sure, and it’s a good, and it’s a good question. And the proposition is, that there is more than what a congressman can do than just vote and offer constituents’ service.

There are tools that our founding fathers gave members of Congress; the tools of oversight and investigations to watch this government. Because this government is big and it does watch us. And um, it’s time that this government started working for us. There are many tools—

Kieffer: Do you mean this government, excuse me, this administration? Or are you talking about the government, including Congress? Or are you saying this administration needs to be supervised and investigated?

Young: I think any administration is getting too big. And we’ve seen it in the past. You know, I’m an equal opportunity watchdog here, whether it be—you know I can remember one of the first investigations, just watching the news as a kid that—of Sen. Grassley’s when he looked at the Defense Department, and you know we realized that they were selling hammers and toilet seats for hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. And some of that transparency, we need to keep that going. And these are the tools that every member of Congress, Ben, can use and I know how to use them and I will use them, regardless of who’s in power.

Caller: In March you mentioned that you thought the minimum wage was more hurtful than helpful. Can you give me some examples, or explain what you mean by that?

Young: Ah, sure. Like you, like every other Iowan, I want to see Iowans put more money in their pockets. I think we need to be very careful with the minimum wage in this sense that it can really hamper some small business owners in what they’re trying to do. And even the people that they employ. Small business owners may have to make the decision of cutting back hours, if the wage gets too high for them to take care of.

So you know, when I look at this issue, you know I’m open to a raising of the minimum wage in the way that it’s been done in the past. In a bipartisan effort where there is also some small business tax relief.  And I think that has been the way that it has worked and I think these have to be bipartisan solutions. So I am open to it, but we have to just remember that you know 70 percent of the American workforce out there is employed by small businesses.  And we need to keep those small businesses going. They are the engine of our economy. But that’s a good question, thank you Bob.

Kieffer: What about the refrain that no one working fulltime, say two people in a family working fulltime, that family should not live in poverty. What about that refrain?

Young: Well you know, I don’t want to see anyone live in poverty, obviously. And you know, there are some, there are some ways that we can get at that with the tax code I think by—I want to see taxes lowered on our families. I want to keep those taxes low, and not only just for, for businesses so they can expand, but also for, for workers who can have more buying power for their buck. And we need to keep the income, earned income tax credit in place. We also need to keep that, that small bracket, the lowest bracket, 10 percent in place.

And we need to keep our economy going. And grow our economy and so we can have some better jobs out there. We’re doing pretty good in Iowa, as you know Ben. And I tell folks, you know, you can thank all the legislation out there, or leaders who are trying to do this, to make a better environment out there. But if you just—Iowans look in the mirror. And that’s why the economy is doing so well, in Iowa. We just know how to work, and it’s in our DNA to do that.

Caller: Thank you for having me. Hi, Mr. Young. I just wanted to ask you a quick question. You know, given today’s, I guess, climate in Congress, and as we, as we celebrate 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, the passage of that, um just wanted to find out, and also given the deficiencies that the modern GOP has in attracting diverse voters, women and people of color, you know that obviously back in ‘64, that the GOP overwhelming voted in the House for the Civil Rights Act, would you work with Republicans and Democrats to reauthorize and reformulate the current Voting Rights Act?

Young: You know, I will sit down with anybody who is an honest broker out there and who doesn’t want to be involved in a debate just for partisan reasons, to see things shot down and stopped. You know, I have, from my experience, if you want to get something done, you have to step over to the other side. Because, many of our solutions, as you know, are going to be bipartisan solutions. They’re not going to be partisan and we have to work across the aisle. Doesn’t mean you have to compromise your beliefs, but you can cooperate, and sometimes you have to walk away from the table, but I want to make sure that everybody has, you know, equal access to the voting booth. And that there’s no discrimination at all.

Caller: I just wanted to know, Mr. Young, if he would be willing to, if he would be willing to work with…basically the main thing is would he be willing to reformulate that Voting Rights Act, which is needed.

Young: I would, I would be at the table.

Kieffer: Thank you for your call, from Des Moines. Let’s go to Derek in West Des Moines. Hi, Derek.

Caller: Mr. Young, I’ve been listening to you. And, you know, I’m kind of impressed, but I’ve been listening to a lot of the debate on the immigration, about those children at the border, and it makes me concerned about the overall immigration debate we’re having right now. What are some of the big things you can get done, or at least ideas you can bring to the table, in order to change the—our immigration system right now?

Young: Well first of all, we do need to secure the border.  And that’s a bipartisan issue here. We have folks on both sides of the aisle realizing that we just need to—to secure our border. We have, we are a nation of laws. And when it comes to that, you know in the senate bill that passed, it gave certification of the border being secure to the Department of Homeland Security. And I don’t like that. I don’t want to give that much power just to one person to do a check off and say, “Hey, it’s secure.”

I want members of Congress to have some skin in the game on this. And I’m sure it will be secure once they are able to certify it, because they’re going to have skin the game and they don’t want to get that one wrong for fear of getting—voted out of office, number one. Which shouldn’t be the fear of any member of Congress. The quest here is just to do what’s right. And so that’s an issue for me when it comes to securing the border.

Kieffer: Let’s talk about the other side of the equation there that I’m sure Derek wants to get at too. Describe the type of immigration reform you would support. What elements would you support and not support? Would you support a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented workers in this  country currently?

Young: Well you know, I would like to go back to what we did in the 50s and 60s; a program called the Bracero Program. It was a guest-worker program, where folks could go across the border, in and out of the country, with legal status, and perform work where work was needed.

If there is a path to citizenship, I think those who have broken our laws—it should be a check list of many different things, and I think they should get at the back of the line. Because now, if you look at our legal immigration system, we have a lot of folks waiting at the front of the line, who came in here the right way, and we need to pay attention to them first of course.

And you know, we do have a crisis down there on the border, Ben.  And, you know, we have to put a human face on this. We are the greatest country in the world and there’s reason why people are coming here. And they’re coming here for a better life.  And we must not demonize people’s yearning for wanting to do better for themselves and their children. But we have a crisis here. It’s turned into a humanitarian crisis it seems. And we’ve heard both Republicans and Democrats, and independents talk about that. And I believe as early as today, or maybe it was yesterday, they have already, you know, taken some of these children back to their homes in Central America. And I think we need to reunify them with their families.

Kieffer: David Young you’re a former chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley. How many years in that position?

Young: I was his chief of staff, serving Iowans, for seven years there. It was a great job. A pleasure every day to do so.  

Kieffer: How did that job prepare you for what you hope to be your next job as a U.S. Congressman?

Young:  Well you know, there are three things that I learned really from Senator Grassley.  And um, how to listen.  You know, I’m talking to you right now, but I love taking questions, I love being out on the road, and I love talking to Iowans and listening to them. I’m often times asking more questions than they are, because I want to know what Iowans are thinking, because I can be no better advocate in the U.S. Congress if elected than if I—if I don’t know what Iowans are talking about, then I’m not going to be very effective.

Also, you have to remember who your boss is. Iowans are my boss. And you saw what happens when people forget that. Look at what happened with Eric Cantor and his primary in Virginia. I, think maybe he forgot who his boss was. Iowans are my boss, they have the ability to hire and fire, and also you can, you can keep your integrity and you don’t have to lose your soul in Washington by getting something done. 

Kieffer: Laura from Audubon asks, in the last 20 years, have you lived longer in Iowa or Washington, D.C.?

Young: Well, unfortunately, Washington, D.C. I wish the U.S. capitol was here in Iowa. We’d be able to invoke a lot more—

Kieffer: It would be in the center of the nation. That would make sense, wouldn’t it?

Young: It would make sense, here in the heartland. And there would be a lot more common sense there. But if you want to make a difference, you know, at the federal level for your state, you gotta, you’re going to have to unfortunately move out there.

Kieffer: Working for seven years for Senator Grassley, living the majority of the last 20 years in Washington, I guess that makes you a Washington insider?

Young: Well, I got some good insights into the swamp, as they say, but you know, I’ve always kept an outside-Iowa perspective. And I found out, you know, Iowans wherever they go and wherever I meet them, there’s that Iowa nice, there’s that Iowa compassion, and Iowa hard work ethic. And, you know, standing next to Senator Grassley, shoulder-to-shoulder, we did some good things and I want to continue to do that for Iowa.  

Kieffer: Now we’ve even had a former Iowa governor heading to the agriculture department, heading it. But farmers were still kept in limbo, for years, over new farm policies. The farm bill was supposed to be renewed in 2012. It wasn’t signed until long after that. How will you represent the interests of agriculture and rural communities in Iowa? In your district, the 3rd?

Young: Well I would like to get in front of the EPA and explain to them that not all farms are the same.  And the flyover country that they fly over, that there’s very diverse farmers, different farming methods, and that their policies really can affect not just farmers, but the economy in general. And we’ve seen EPA try to do things like regulate dust. And you know, you can’t control the wind. Ben, you know that.  And you know, they’re talking about, you know, methane from cows and regulating that. And they want to redefine the term “water” under the Clean Water Act, which could really have a far reaching affect not just on farms , but other kinds of development.  

And I just want to bring some common sense and perspective to the EPA. And also I want to make sure that some of these issues, that they’re debated within Congress. And not just with rules and regulations, because we send representatives and senators to Washington for a reason, and that’s to do the nation’s business, and they should have a seat at the table of course.  

Kieffer: Morgan on our Facebook page asks for your thoughts on how money influences our legislators.  “Would you support legislation,” Morgan asks, “that makes political donations more transparent and limits lobbyists’ donations?”

Young: I’m all about transparency, in terms of the kind of oversight and investigations I want to do with this government. And also, when it comes to campaigns as well. I think there should be an ability to, to make—there is under current law already. Contributes need to be made transparent. Now, sometimes they’re made just at the end of a quarter. I think there’s a way to make that transparent even sooner, with all the technology that’s out there.

But you know I have, I have standards when it comes to fund raising. You know, it takes money to get the message out. And I solicit legally, accept  legally, and I always tell folks that, “there is no quid-pro-quo.”

Caller: So I was just very concerned about the, the government shutdown last year. And I wanted to ask you, Mr. Young, what you, what you thought about that. If there, if you would have been willing to shut down the government in the same situation? And if you see any issues on the horizon where you feel like it would be worth it for you to threaten the government shutdown to try to spur the action that you’re looking for?

Young: Well you know, the government that shutdown, and the raising of the debt ceiling, issues like that, it’s just symbolic of the dysfunction that is in Washington.  You know, the shutdown would not have happened if, if Congress would have gotten their appropriations bills done on time, in that sense.

I’m not a fan of government shutdowns and I’m not going to be banging my fist on the House floor to do so. Many times it’s really disruptive of government and it costs more in the end. And I’m somebody who’s a fiscal conservative and I want to make sure we reign in spending and a government shutdown actually costs more money.

Kieffer: You say that you are tried and true in your conservative thought. There are many shades of conservative. Define yourself more conservatively in, in the conservative part of the political spectrum.

Young: You know, Iowans hate debt. You probably don’t like debt, Ben. And neither do many of your callers. Iowans just pride themselves on shying away from debt. And so, fiscal conservative I want to make sure that we have in place within our budgeting where we get away from some of the budgeting practices that we have right now, like base-line budgeting where we just—you know Congress just gives the same amount of money, if not more, to agencies and departments as they did before. And many times there’s not a lot of justification for it. And transparency in what they’re giving to. So I want to move to more zero-base budgeting, which is what a lot of states are doing, municipalities.

And that is pretty much you have agencies and departments comes before Congress, and you assume they start at zero and you make them—you make them almost beg, Ben, for the money they need and what they need it for. I’d like to see legislation sunset. You know we—they, pass laws and it goes on forever, as you know. Why not sunset legislation at 5 years, and see what kind of effect it had on our economy, what its intention was and even our liberties?

Kieffer: David Young, you mentioned the EPA, in relation to farming a few minutes ago. According to figures from NASA, 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities. Most leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position. Do you believes in this science?

Young: Well I believe that the climate is changing. And I don’t know what the effect is from, for instance. But I tell you what—

Kieffer: You won’t agree with 97 percent that say it’s due to human activities?

Young: I’m sure that humanity does have a certain effect on this. But the question is, how much? And also, the other question is, when decisions are made on this issue, Ben, is it going to be from the EPA, alone, with the rule or guideline or that kind of thing, or should Congress once again be at the table, because, you know, Cap and Trade, these kind of issues, I think they should be done at the Congressional level and we should have a real serious debate within Congress on these things.

Kieffer: If you’re part of Congress, you’re saying Congress should act—Should, should Congress act against climate change?

Young: Well the ball should be in Congress’s court and, and not in the EPA’s court on this.

And I, and I have a—it’s inevitable that we’re going to—

Kieffer: Should, should Congress act? I guess that’s the question. Not just if it’s in their court. Should they do something with the ball in that court?

Young: I think it’s inevitable, and they probably should.          

Caller: Well, hi. I was just wondering, one of my greatest concerns is the federal budget. And I was just wondering David, you know, what you do plan to do to fix the budget, specifically?

Young: Well I talked about, just a second ago. About some of my, the principles I have when it comes to budgeting. Getting away from baseline and moving to zero-based. You know, people talk about auditing the Federal Reserve. I’d like to, to audit just about every part of the government. If not every part of the government because there is so much waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement. And only then can we really uncover what’s really going on in our government. To maybe, to reign in a lot of these programs, or maybe even cut some programs that may have outlived their usefulness.

Kieffer: Just under four months, before the election in November. David Young, have you set up debates with your opponent Staci Appel?

Young: We are, you bet. There’s, I believe there is an Iowa Public Television debate in September. And KCCI is doing one. And I am somebody who, you know, having been in the, the primary, we did a lot of forums and debates. And it’s part of the process, and I enjoy it. And I’ll do as many as I can. 

Kieffer: Remind us how you won that. Because you did not come out on top in the June 3rd  primary, but you won in convention. How did that happen?

Young: You bet. As you know we had six people in that race, and the primary was on June 3rd. And I received, I was in, I got fifth place in that. In those top, we were all within single digits from one another. And it was a pretty tight, compact group there, and so it went convention where there were 513 delegates. And that convention was on June 21, so we kind of started on ground zero, on the level playing field, and we just made a commitment to go out and touch every delegate, three different ways, whether or not its knocking on their door, a letter, a surrogate, a phone call, an email. And also just that, if you can’t, if you couldn’t be their first pick, ask to be their second. And as other candidates dropped out, folks went my way, and we just worked hard, and we were nice. Sometimes that’s what it takes. And I’m honored.

Kieffer: Nice of you to join us today, David Young, this half hour to talk about your vision as a candidate, Republican nominee for the 3rd District U.S. House race. Thank you, David Young.

Young: Ben, thank you so much. And to your listeners. Thank you.

Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River
Lindsey Moon is IPR's Senior Digital Producer