David Yepsen published his final column in the Des Moines Register before starting his new job as director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University. It reprises some themes from many previous columns, such as the need to create a world-class education system and thriving economy in Iowa, with fewer layers of government.
As often happens when I read one of Yepsen's columns, I wonder why he ignores some obvious paths to achieving his admirable goals. For instance, he wants Iowa to "set the goal of having one of the highest per-capita incomes in the country within 10 years." Is this the same columnist who never met a labor union he liked? It reminded me of how Yepsen periodically slams the excessive influence of big money in politics, but won't get behind a voluntary public financing system for clean elections.
In Yepsen's final column, one passage in particular caught my eye:
Let's set a goal to have the cleanest environment in the country within 10 years. The cleanest air. The cleanest water. The best soil- and energy-conservation practices.
We've had education governors. We've had sporadic focus on growing the economy. For some reason, we've lacked a similar focus on the environment. Creating a clean environment will create green jobs, but it will also make Iowa more attractive as a place to live and do business.
"For some reason"? I think most of us have a pretty good idea why improving air and water quality has never been a high priority for Iowa leaders. Follow me after the jump for more on this problem.