Joni Ernst, the new Republican senator from Iowa who delivered the GOP response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech Tuesday night, called in her address for cuts in government spending and described how her views grew out of her own "simple" upbringing, one in which her family diligently watched ever scarce penny, to the point where she owned only one pair of shoes.
But an investigation of public records by the Washington D.C.-based District Sentinel online news site showed that between 1995 and 2009, Ernst's family received nearly a half-million dollars in government handouts, payments targeted toward subsidizing farms with taxpayer funds.
"I had only one good pair of shoes. So on rainy school days, my mom would slip plastic bread bags over them to keep them dry," Ernst described in her State of the Union rebuttal Tuesday.
"But I was never embarrassed. Because the school bus would be filled with rows and rows of young Iowans with bread bags slipped over their feet. Our parents may not have had much, but they worked hard for what they did have."The address sounded many of the same themes used by Ernst in her election campaign in 2014, one which featured an advertisement depicting Ernst castrating a pig, as she declared that because her family learned to "live within our means," the federal government should "do the same."
But the District Sentinel investigation showed that Ernst's own father, Richard Culver, received $38,395 in taxpayer handouts, almost all of which went to corn subsidies. The Iowa senator's uncle, Dallas Culver, made out even better, soaking up almost $370,000 in federal agriculture subsidies.
The total subsidies enjoyed by members of Joni Ersnt's family came in upwards of $460,000.
Ernst failed to mention her own family's reliance on government assistance in her speech touting the virtues of self-reliance. According to Media Matters for America, no major media outlets that covered her speech made note of her family's willingness to benefit from government spending, at the same time that Ersnt called for the new, Republican congress to "cut wasteful spending."
CNN, for example, highlighted Ernst's "hardscrabble upbringing," while NBC News told how the 44-year-old Joni Ernst "brushed aside the president's call for higher taxes on the wealthy, vowing that Republicans would cut wasteful spending and propose meaningful tax reforms."
The Wall Street Journal even criticized Joni Ernst for not calling for enough cuts to "wasteful spending," noting that her outspoken opposition to "federal government subsidies" was a big factor in earning her election to the Senate.
But neither the Journal nor any of the other major media outlets made note of the fact that the family of Joni Ernst herself would have benefited from exactly such "federal government subsidies."