Archive for December, 2008

Good Day for Iowa

Today is a day to feel pride and show our support for a fellow Iowan: former Gov. Tom Vilsack.
It’s still difficult for many Republicans to feel much excitement about the Democrats’ sweeping victories last month, but if we’re going to have a Democratic administration it’s good for Iowa that Tom Vilsack will be part of it. (It’s also an impressive personal accomplishment for which the Mount Pleasant Democrat deserves hearty congratulations.)
The Des Moines Register editorial board got it right this morning with its observation that Vilsack’s nomination “would put in position a smart, forward-thinking leader at a time when a hungry, fuel-starved world needs better policies shaping American agriculture.”

Knowledgeable about traditional agriculture – corn, soybeans, cattle, hogs and poultry – and a friend of the ethanol industry, Vilsack will have a prominent role in shaping rural development policies.  That’s going to be as important for Polk County as it is the rest of our state – and the rest of the Midwest.

No matter our political or policy differences may have been from time to time, Tom Vilsack’s nomination ranks as a plus for Iowa in my book.

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Faced with an economy that officially has been in a recession for 12 months now, President-elect Barack Obama has suggested that he’ll ask Congress for funding for a massive public works program designed to create 2.5 million jobs by 2011.


It’s a time-honored tradition for administrations to propose and implement public works programs during economic downturns. Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” was the most famous, of course.  John F. Kennedy’s administration had its Accelerated Public Works Act in 1962.


(Another time-honored tradition is claiming credit when it’s undeserved and it sure looks like the President-elect is positioning himself to take the credit for the inevitable results of an economic turnaround. Speaking this weekend, Obama said he would provide the leadership to see that the U.S. economy emerges leaner, meaner and more competitive.”  That’s exactly what happens after almost every recession, isn’t it?  Except when burdened by unusual circumstances like the auto industry’s unreasonable and onerous obligations to the United Auto Workers, companies do get leaner and more focused in tough times.  President-elect Obama does deserve praise for selecting an economic team that knows its business but let’s make sure he doesn’t grab the credit that should go to business owners and employees who are already doing their part to turn things around.)


There’s no doubt we need to do address tens of billions of dollars in overdue infrastructure maintenance. Yet, like many Americans, I remain convinced that it makes more sense to fund those needs through governments that are closest to us. Why? Because sending money to Washington comes at a price.  And though we’ve been getting back more than one dollar for every dollar we send to Washington, that’s true for just about every state. That means, obviously, that the federal government is spending more than it’s taking in.  Just like with the federal bailout of Wall Street, taxpayers like you and me are going to have to pay the bill.


That’s why I’d like to see Iowa’s state, local and county leaders sit down together and develop a clear plan to prioritize our infrastructure needs. That doesn’t mean we should pass up our fair share of federal dollars but I’d sure like to see other states pay for their own transportation systems rather than having you and me do it.  An Iowa Infrastructure Summit would do more than help us invest limited tax dollars better; it just might set a good example for other states to follow as that we take on more responsibility for ourselves – and rely a little less on the federal government for so many things.

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The Color of Savings

It seems like everyone is looking for savings these days. From Christmas shoppers to business executives to the Mom managing the family budget, finding greater value is a priority.


The most interesting value play I think I’ve seen recently was reported today on AdAge.com involving the multinational consumer goods company, Unilever.


The company, according to Jack Neff’s story, “Cutting Down on Colors Could Save Unilever $26 Million,” outlines a program to reduce the 100-plus hues Unilever uses on its spreads and dressing packaging in Europe to just six colors.  “Unilever’s hope is to save tens or eventually even hundreds of millions of dollars a year. By some estimates, the entire industry could save $5 billion annually if it follows suit.”


Wow!  Who would have imagined such huge savings of “green” from a simple yet out-of-the-box idea to use fewer colors?


Consumers and business leaders aren’t the only people looking for savings. As a Polk County Supervisor, I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to save taxpayer dollars.  One sure-fire approach is to encourage ideas for the people who pay the bills – the taxpayer.


I invite you to contact me any time you have an idea – big, small, mundane or out-of-the-box – that you think could increase production or reduce costs. Working together, you and I just might be able to save taxpayers some green, too.


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