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Candidate Profile: David Young

Read this candidate profile of 3rd District Candidate David Young. He was interviewed as part of IPR's 2014 Primary Voter Guide series.

Give an example of an experience you had in Washington working for Senator Grassley that you believe has prepared you to be a member of congress.

Well, when you’re serving Iowans in the U.S. Senate as Senator Grassley’s Chief of Staff you are, in some ways, the face and ears of the senator when he can’t be in front of everybody at once. And so, I spent many of my days, long hours but enjoyable hours, on the phone with Iowans and in meetings with Iowans, listening to them because that’s a big part of it. You hear a lot of politicians talking and seeing them with their mouths open, but listening is the most important trait that I learned from Senator Grassley when it comes to representing Iowans because only by doing that can you, therefore, advocate for them.

Is there one thing you can do in congress that would help create jobs in Iowa?

When I look at what is happening around the state and the country, what you can do is give businesses, entrepreneurs, folks who have capital and want to invest in this economy, certainty as to what’s going to happen ten, twenty, thirty years out. With the tax code as it is today, particularly the corporate tax code, when it comes to businesses who want to create jobs, it’s a patchwork tax code of one, two, or three years. A lot of businesses and entrepreneurs sit on the side lines because they’re not sure what’s going to happen in the next ten years. And so, certainty and permanence with the tax code can really be helpful.

Polls indicate that a majority of people are beginning to support a possible increase in the minimum wage. Would you support an increase in the minimum wage?

I want to see everybody do well in this economy and make more money. I’m not sure the best prescription of that is necessarily the minimum wage, but there are bipartisan ways to go about doing this. It was the senate who just a few years ago increased the minimum wage and I think the vote was 96 to 4. If it’s going to happen, I think you also need to give relief to small businesses because they employ about 70% of the workers in the workforce. And so, if we can help the worker but at the same time ease that burden for small businesses, I think there’s a pathway out there.

The proposed changes to the renewable fuel standards 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 have a national appeal?

First of all, having the EPA do this alone is not a bipartisan way to do this. That is the administration taking this up all on their own through rules and regulation and maybe even executive orders. This debate needs to happen in Congress where both sides of the aisle can sit down have the hearings, have the floor debate and go about this in a methodical way so that they are representing their constituents. We should have this debate in the legislative way. I think the EPA, personally, has gotten out in front of too many issues that they don’t understand and are burdensome to this economy and farmers as well in the agricultural economy.

Speaking of agriculture, even with a former Iowa governor at the head of the Agriculture Department, farmers were kept in limbo for years over the new farm policies. How would you represent the interests of agricultural communities in an environment that is heavily urban?

We have a very low unemployment rate. I mean, we are just above 4% and part of that is because of our agricultural economy. We fuel and feed the world, so when it comes to agricultural policy, we need to make sure that there is certainty for our farmers, and there is a component that goes along with the SNAP programs. So, we need to make sure that we have that debate and that it’s clarified that when folks are talking about the hefty price of the farm bill that they know that all that money is not going to farmers necessarily it’s going to the SNAP programs and the food programs. I kind of get tired of farmers getting thrown under the bus for taking all these subsidies when 80% of the Farm Bill funds go to the SNAP program.

You’re running at a time when the approval ratings for Congress are pretty low. How do you think we got to this point?

I think hyper-partisanship, some of the toxic language some members of Congress use and some in the media use, pundits as well, and gridlock has definitely gotten us there. We need to make sure that Iowa sends somebody to Washington who wants to govern, who wants to sit down at the table and approach the hard issues that are facing the country, whether it’s taxes, entitlement reform, this economy.  I don’t want to blow up the government, but I want to take a stick and whack it here and there. I want to serve and be there to be part of the solution because Iowans want someone at the table who’s going to move the ball forward. That doesn’t mean that you have to compromise and give up your principles necessarily, but you do need to cooperate. And I will be there for Iowans because, should I be elected to Congress, I will remember that I represent all Iowans in the third district.

Can you imagine yourself working with the other party to accomplish something for the good of Iowa?

Yes, and it’s happened before. My former boss, Senator Grassley, whether he was chairman or ranking member of the finance committee, he worked with Senator Max Baucus a Democrat from Montana and they moved tax reform, they moved trade agreements, and took care of some issues regarding Medicare and social security regarding some smaller fixes. What you have to do is come to the table in an honest open fashion and say, “I am somebody you can work with. I do not want a political issue to ride on. I want to fix the problem.”  And I think that a good policy out there is the best politics in the end.”

Nearly every candidate talks about cutting government waste and bringing down the deficit. Can you name a program or a department you would cut and explain why?

I think that you have to leave no department or agency untouched and you have to look at all of them because we’ve heard of enough waste, fraud, and abuse all over the board from the EPA, Department of Education, Department of Defense, and Department of State. What we need to do is get into the books of these federal agencies. Folks talked about auditing the Federal Reserve. I’d like to do that. I’d also like to audit the full federal government. Congress has a responsibility to guard the tax payer dollars of their constituents and find out what is going on with them. Also, there are so many duplicative programs out there. I think the last count there were 37 job training programs spread out over dozens of agencies. If we can get a better accounting of what’s going on in our government and audit it, we can help cut back on some of these duplicitous programs and really zero in on where some of our taxpayer dollars are being spent.

Are we spending enough on national defense?

The president wants to move the Department of Defense dollars down to pre-World War  II levels. Let’s take a look at this world today. I am war weary, certainly like a lot of Iowans and a lot of Americans, but we have some real issues out there with some madmen. There are leaders of other countries that we do not trust as president; whether it’s Putin or Assad or Rouhani. And some of our allies are maybe not so trusting either. We need to make sure that, should there be cuts in defense ever, that they are not hurting our readiness and not hurting the safety of our troops.

Immigration reform is an important issue to Iowans. It’s stalled in Congress. What immigration reforms would you support?

First of all, I think we need to put a face on the issue. For the most part, I think that the folks who are coming here, legally or illegally, want a better life, and they want to do better for their family. They want that shot at the American dream that so many of our forefathers and foremothers had when they came over here. We are all immigrants. We are a nation of immigrants. I know that we need to control the border first. The law is the law. It’s for our sovereignty and our national security. And, if you think about it, there wouldn’t be so many folks coming in illegally if we reformed our legal immigration system and really got a hold of what was going on there with our legal system.

Almost all scientists and scientific organizations now pretty much are on the same page as far as climate warming. Do you believe in the science that you’re reading about climate change and that it is caused by human intervention and if so, should the government get involved in making changes?

I’ve seen, like a lot of people, credible studies on both sides of this issue. I do know one thing for sure:  We need to use sound science and not put this into a political science box. We need to make sure also that if this is going to be put through public policy, it needs to not be done unilaterally through this administration, through executive order, or by the EPA. It needs to be done in Congress. The people of Iowa and all over the country vote for folks to represent them in Congress to take on these tough issues and not to just buck them to an agency. So, let’s have this debate and we need to be very careful about how we go forward with this. And it needs to be a long debate with amendments, a fully fledged debate, because this can have some real impact on this economy, especially the agricultural community as well.

Is there anything else that you’d like to say or any other issues that are especially important to you?

I will say that what distinguishes me from the rest of this field is that I’m ready on day one. I have served Iowa as Sen. Grassley’s Chief of Staff and I know what works and what doesn’t work in Washington D.C. Everybody listening knows that most of it doesn’t work and Washington is dysfunctional. But beyond being a vote for Iowa, there are tools there that can be used, that more members of Congress should use:  Those tools of oversight and investigation to make sure that this government is accountable to the taxpayer because this government is big and it’s overshadowing us and it’s watching us. I know how to get in there and watch this government for the taxpayer. I’ll be ready on day one.

David Young's website

Katherine Perkins is IPR's Program Director for News and Talk