Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thinking Missouri...

The ankle bone's connected to the leg bone. The leg bone's connected to the thigh bone. What's this got to do with Ohio?

A timely reminder from two fronts on how actions in one part of the country have such a big impact on another part of the country, and how flood waters and environmental laws spilling inside one set of borders is only part of a bigger picture.

"The Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District began increasing reservoir water releases today after actions taken in the flood-stricken lower Ohio River region were successful in reducing water levels.

Water levels on the Monongahela, Allegheny, Beaver and Ohio rivers will begin to rise gradually today and the public should expect higher than normal flows for weeks depending on the forecasted weather. Anyone going in or near the water should consult river and weather conditions and show caution during these high flow times.

The Corps plans to lower water levels at its 16 upper Ohio River Basin reservoirs to normal summer pools by the Memorial Day weekend. Current high water levels are impacting some recreation areas."

Read carefully, it just stands to reason all those submerged fields, towns, cities and farmlands along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers would have an impact at some point up the Ohio. It is so bad in Missouri that levees were blown up, flooding hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland, rather than washing out towns, villages and cities under threat.

What we send downstream eventually winds up in New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico or, at worst, overflowing all over Missouri, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. Hence the complicated systems of dams and locks to control these mighty fluid highways so people and commerce flourish instead of seeing their future flushed downriver every time there's a hard rain.

Really not much different when it comes to laws and tax policies states find themselves coming to terms with these days.

Michigan's GOP is under fire for approval of a new law that would tie that state's environmental laws to federal standards. Supporters say it would essentially provide a level playing field for businesses navigating EPA requirements, setting a common bar between state and feds. Critics say it would take away from unique needs in Michigan the federal rules don't address, in a state with more freshwater coastline than any other.

The same argument goes for tax laws. AkronNewsNow's Chris Keppler is working on a story detailing some of the very impressive and exciting economic prospects coming from local colleges and Universities. He says those folks in charge of developing our intellectual capital point out the muscle making those products isn't here in Ohio, or even the United States. Tax policies have a lot to do with it: starting up a business in the Buckeye State means less in the pockets of the risk-takers than in some other states.

That "less in the pocket" may sound like they're all greedy bastards, keeping profit for their own personal use. But most job creation comes from small business just like these start-ups, and it's those companies providing the true engine for the recovery fueled by their imagination, their hard work, and their smarts. Those profits make them rich; they also pay for the people, products and services that make up economic prosperity.

We have advance warning this spring that river levels will be high because of concern over what all the water will do to our neighbors, friends and fellow Americans down river. The same applies to the river of the economy, except it's the stream of cash that matters.

In Ohio's case, it would be nice to figure out how to keep more of it here rather than continuing to send it flowing there.

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