Sugar-and-salted irony: Grassley runs ‘favorite food’ at Iowa State Fair contest days after voting against capping insulin doses at $35

August 18, 2022 8:00 am

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, attended the Republican 4th Congressional District convention in Carroll on April 23, 2022. (Photo by Jared Strong/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Iowa Writers 'Collaborative. Linking Iowa readers and writers.This is rich – rich by both caloric standards and a spectacular, if not cruel, lack of awareness, or give-a-damnism. And the timing is deadly.

Within a week, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley opposed efforts to cap the price of a dose of insulin at $35 and announced an online contest in which he is asking Iowans to “share their favorite food” from the Iowa State Fair.

The day-to-day traffic at the State Fair is something of a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade of people who are diabetic, will be diabetic, or as least look the part, enough so they could be cast in one of the Big Pharma commercials.

The foods peddled by vendors at the fair are diabetes accelerants, intentionally comical in their fried and sweetened and salted excessiveness.

Take for instance the “OMG Chicken Sandwich” at Chicken City, which is, according to the Iowa State Fair website, a “chicken sandwich is a chicken breast that is lightly battered and covered in sugar coated corn flakes fried to golden brown and served on a glazed doughnut. As if it wasn’t enough, it’s topped with bacon and drizzled with syrup. It’s an ‘OMG’ combination of sweet and savory.”

This is trouble, Iowa, and Grassley should know better.

Like on East Side Night, ever notice how everyone on the grounds of the State Fair is either 100 pounds overweight with an ever-present layer of forehead sweat, as if they’ve been living on the “Super Size Me” plan since the documentary aired in 2004, or 100 pounds underweight as if they vacationed from their serial unemployment in a double-wide-housed, but to be fair, contained, meth lab for the month of July with just their stepkids, not their real ones, of course, as there is still something to be said for love.

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And these Fair-going Iowans, many of them suffering from diabetes, must maintain their restraint amid dozens of food-vending locations. Now Grassley is celebrating it, running a contest. It’s like the Korean production organization that developed “Squid Game” only cast fat, white people from west of Interstate 35 in Iowa. Instead of playing a deadly game of tag, the Iowans just have to survive Grassley’s term in office. The early morning line is on the Koreans.

Post fair, with sugar rushes and salted nights feeding food-binge hangovers, as the diabetes persists, arrives or escalates, there is no $35 cap for the poor fairgoers. Grassley helped see to that — despite his protestations to the contrary, that anyone challenging him on the vote just doesn’t understand the legislative process, you know, because the Founders determined in rarely mentioned sessions in Philadelphia that it takes 40 years in Congress and 88 on the planet to understand how an idea becomes a bill and then butterflies into law.

I’m not trying to be The Grinch Who Stole The State Fair Corndog or unsweetened that State Fair lemonade. I get that the fair-food contest is an annual fun-spirited endeavor the Grassley staff schedules. But to run an eating contest tied to two weeks of gluttony days after your boss takes a public-relations beating on failing to back the insulin cap? Well, it’s just not Christian. Or very smart. It’s the sort of thing Iowans used to laugh at people in Missouri for doing — along the lines of committing a murder and then getting caught with the body in the trunk because you are speeding in a residential area, as school lets out.

But once you make a bad move, the next one is just a step away.

What’s next, sending scavengers in blue-and-white GrassleyWorks T-shirts to Michigan to find the late Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s assisted-suicide van so the Iowans who fatten up on fair fare can take please-shut-the-back-of-the-van-door-and- close-your-eyes exit ramp into the eternal before leaving the State Fair’s Grand Concourse and facing the prospect of budget-busting insulin prices.

Grassley should go to the fair on East Side Night. All the patrons will be too drunk to process this most irreconcilable of weeks for Iowa’s senior senator. Or he could just stand in front of a Walgreens eating one of his beloved Dairy Queen ice cream cones and brag to the infirm that he can still do pushups at age 88.

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Douglas Burns
Douglas Burns

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa journalist whose family operated the Carroll Times Herald for 93 years. He is the founder and director of development for the non-profit Western Iowa Journalism Foundation. Additionally, Burns founded a marketing and advertising firm, Mercury Boost, which is based in Council Bluffs. He is the business development director for Latino IQ, an Iowa-based organization. Burns, who resides in Carroll, writes for a number of Iowa newspapers with his work also having appeared in The Minneapolis Star-Tribune and Kansas City Star. You can subscribe to his blog, The Iowa Mercury, on Substack.