Democratic Congressman Dave Loebsack of Iowa City and John Archer of Bettendorf, his Republican challenger, met on a stage in Newton tonight for an hour-long debate that illustrated their sharp differences over trade policies. A campaign ad Loebsack’s running that criticizes Archer for working as a lawyer for “the global division of a corporation” that shipped jobs to Mexico was the spark.
“I’ve been proud to work at John Deere for the past 12 years,” Archer said, “one of Iowa’s largest employers.”
Loebsack repeatedly refused to say the ad referenced John Deere.
“This isn’t about John Deere. It’s about the policy differences that John Archer and Dave Loebsack have,” Loebsack said. “That’s what this is about. It’s about the NAFTA-style free trade agreements that John supports that I don’t support.”
The North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, was negotiated by Republican President George H.W. Bush in 1992 and ratified during Democratic President Bill Clinton’s administration. In the past few years similar trade pacts were signed with Panama, Columbia and South Korea and Archer supports those deals.
“Which were all supported by former Governor Tom Vilsack…supported by the United Auto Workers — specifically the South Korean Free Trade Agreement was supported by the United Auto Workers…signed by President Obama,” Archer said. “These free trade agreements create thousands of jobs here in America and thousands of jobs here in Iowa.”
Loebsack responded: “In theory free trade is a wonderful thing. The problem is it’s fair trade and in these particular instances, just like with NAFTA, we’re not talking about fair trade.”We’re talking about agreements that so-called free trade agreements that will ultimately send thousands of Iowa jobs overseas just as NAFTA did and that’s where we have the difference.”
Archer accused Loebsack of part of a “dysfunctional congress.” Loebsack criticized Archer for suggesting during a recent interview that America is becoming an “entitlement society.”
“John said one of the weaknesses is that 50 percent of the American people believe that they are entitled to a government handout,” Loebsack said. “That 50 percent of the American people are those veterans, those Social Security recipients, those Medicare recipients.”
Archer responded: “By no means did my comment mean to insult any military veterans, anybody on Social Security. My point was that we have more people who are unemployed today — 7.8 percent…Almost one in six Americans are on food stamps. We need to grow this economy.”
The debate was broadcast live on Iowa Public Television and will be replayed on Friday night and midday Sunday.