Q: What concerns are you most hearing about from Iowans?
A: Without a doubt soaring inflation is uppermost in the minds of Iowans. Every time Iowans fill up their gas tanks and check out at the grocery store, family budgets are taking a big hit. Estimates show the average U.S. household will spend an extra $5,200 this year compared to last year for the same basket of goods. Consumer prices are driving the conversation around kitchen tables across America and policymaking tables in Washington. Today’s 40-year high inflation is a stark reminder of the Carter administration when inflation chewed through wages and savings. Back then, America faced an energy crisis, too. Cars lined up around the block to fuel up at the pump. U.S. households, small businesses and family farmers remember what happened when inflation went through the roof. The Federal Reserve started cranking up interest rates to tap the brakes on inflation. As we saw in the 1970s and early ‘80s, the Fed is in a delicate situation to tap down on inflation without tipping our economy into recession. In the 1970s, the combination of allowing inflation to go unchecked for too long followed by aggressive Fed interest rate hikes, eventually led to double digit home mortgage rates, a steep drop in the value of farmland and a recession. Sky-high interest rates caused borrowers and job creators to pull back and economic activity languished, leading to high unemployment amidst the energy crisis and high oil prices. Stagflation drove a stake through the heart of America’s economy. Fast forward to 2022. The Biden administration last year insisted inflation was nothing to worry about and pushed ahead with a $2 trillion spending spree that I opposed and no Republican supported. That was on top of $4 trillion in pandemic relief Congress had already passed. The big spenders insisted inflation was merely “transitory” and blamed bottlenecks in the supply chain. Now that 40-year-high inflation has taken a foothold, I’m concerned failed Carter-era policies will come back from the dead to haunt us again. Liberals are already starting to whisper about government price controls and higher taxes that would steer us back to the “malaise” and stagnant economy of the Carter years. The Federal Reserve is signaling interest rate hikes in the coming months. It will have its work cut out for it to tame inflation without stalling the economy. I know what it took to get us out of the fiscal mess when Iowans first elected me to Congress. I’ll continue working to rein in reckless government spending sprees that would add more fuel to the fires of inflation and make it harder than ever for families to make ends meet.
Q: What’s your proposal to help lower gas prices?
A: Unlike the Biden administration, I’ve been a leading voice with a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers to champion U.S. energy independence. The volatility in oil prices underscores what I’ve said for years. Energy security is national security is economic security. The U.S. economy should not be held hostage to geopolitical affairs dominated by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Counties (OPEC) and autocratic regimes, such as China, Russia, Iran and Venezuela. All told, OPEC and 10 non-OPEC members who coordinate with OPEC control 90 percent of proven oil reserves. OPEC’s stated mission is to “coordinate and unify petroleum policies of its Member Countries.” That’s the definition of anticompetitive conduct and collusion. I’m spearheading the effort in Congress to pass the No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels (NOPEC) Act. My bill would empower the Department of Justice to sue oil producing cartel members for antitrust violations. Once and for all, it would create an effective tool to ensure U.S. companies are no longer beholden to artificially inflated gas prices that hold American consumers hostage to higher prices at the pump. Notably, President Biden supported this measure during the Clinton and Bush administrations.
We must restore U.S. energy independence. That means we also need an all-of-the-above energy strategy. That includes drilling, fracking and mining to produce energy below the ground and capturing energy above ground with wind, solar and home-grown biofuels. Most recently, I’m pushing the Biden administration to unleash higher blend biofuels into the fuel supply. If the Biden administration would allow E-15 to be sold year-round, consumers would get relief at the pump during the busy summer driving season. Greenlighting higher biofuel blends would lower gas prices for Americans and displace foreign oil. The Home Front Energy Independence Act, which Sen. Joni Ernst and I are leading, would make E-15 available all 12 months of the year, establish a biodiesel tax incentive, direct EPA to finalize its E-15 labeling rule and provide for biofuel infrastructure and compatibility with retailers. Higher ethanol blends means lower emissions and better air quality; lower gas prices and more money in consumer pockets; and better corn prices for Iowa farmers. Biofuels are good, good, good for the U.S.A.