In the radio interview, John Archer said the United States had become an entitlement society and that half the population believes it’s entitled to a government handout.
The complaint comes the same day that Archer said he began airing a new television ad that pressed his accusation that Loebsack attacked Deere & Co., a major employer in the state.
With less than a month until Election Day, the Archer and Loebsack campaigns are beginning to engage in sharper tones, and the three-term congressman’s campaign said he plans to use the Archer comment on a tour of the district.
At issue is a May 2 interview on radio station KROS in which Archer and then-GOP primary opponent Dan Dolan were asked to analyze the country’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Archer, an attorney for Deere & Co. who is now on leave, said this: “Some of our weaknesses here in America. You have an entitlement society. You have about 50 percent of the American population now believes that they are entitled to a government handout. That’s a real weakness.”
Loebsack said the comment was an insult to people such as veterans and senior citizens, who are on programs such as Medicare and Social Security.
“Clearly, he links those folks to a weakness of America,” Loebsack said. “I don’t think that’s acceptable.”
Loebsack said the remarks were similar to comments by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at a private fundraiser this spring in which he said 47 percent of the public is dependent on government, see themselves as victims and are looking for a handout.
Conservatives have long complained that about half the country doesn’t pay federal income taxes, and the burden is being shifted too heavily to the other half. However, the federal income tax is only part of the federal revenue stream, and progressives have argued many people who don’t pay federal income taxes still pay payroll taxes, as well as state and local taxes.
In a statement, Archer responded: “Once again, Dave Loebsack is trying to scare Iowa seniors with misleading statements. My statement was exemplifying the weaknesses in our nation’s current tax code, not casting a negative light on any individual or group.”
Archer said Congress hasn’t taken action to fix a tax code that confuses people about whether they owe or are due money — and at the same time prompts people to look for loopholes.
“We need to put an end to the tax code loopholes while at the same time lowering rates for all taxpayers,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Republican’s campaign launched some criticism of its own Thursday. It said it began airing a new television ad to press its case that Loebsack insulted Deere last month. The new TV spot faults Loebsack’s record on taxes, health care and regulations and accuses him of “attacking a company that employs thousands of Iowans.”
The reference is to a previous Loebsack commercial in which he said Archer is part of the outsourcing problem and linked him to Deere’s 1998 decision to move some production work from North Carolina and South Carolina to Mexico. The ad says there were 900 U.S. jobs lost.
“We need a voice in Washington that will vote to support our local businesses, not attack them,” Archer said in a statement early in the day Thursday that accompanied a news release announcing the new ad.
Loebsack has said he doesn’t have a complaint with Deere, only with Archer’s policies. However, the ad clearly refers to Deere’s decision in calling Archer part of the problem. Archer didn’t start at the company until 2000.
Asked Thursday whether he had a complaint with the company’s decision to move its production line, Loebsack said: “I’m not being critical of John Deere at all.”
Since the ad ran, Republicans have attacked Loebsack, and Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, praised Deere when he was asked about the controversy recently. The company initially responded to the flap by saying it has a strong commitment to American manufacturing and had added 5,000 jobs to the U.S. work force in the past two years.