I do not often discuss federal government issues in The Bottom Line, but I am convinced that in the coming months President Bush will propose some radical changes to health care. After all, the war in Iraq is not going very well by most standards and he will be dealing with a Democratic Congress for the last two years of his term. I would bet that he will offer states the ability to create special insurance pools for small businesses, which is a fairly radical idea for a Republican president. I hope, though, that Mr. Bush will be able to sway Congress to see fit to make some changes to how we fund health care.
Speaking of the federal government, I was amused this week by a bill passed by the House that bans its members from accepting free tickets to sporting events from lobbyists. I guess the poor owners of these sports franchises will have to pull strings with their representatives in some other fashion. The Senate is still trying to pass a similar measure.
I read this week how corn prices are likely to reach unprecedented highs in the next two to three years as the ethanol boom in the country continues to limit corn's availability for food and feed use. A recent report said ethanol distilleries being built in the United States will need 139 million metric tons of corn by the 2008 harvest to subsist, more than twice what the federal government says is necessary. The corn growers' lobby, however, maintains that their will be enough corn in the long term to meet food, fuel and feed needs far into the future. Keep in mind that the U.S. is the biggest corn exporter in the world, so something will have to give.
On the local level, Eau Claire County is in the process of deciding what to do about funding for an expansion of the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport. I realize that county board members have a lot on their plate - namely, trying to find the funds necessary to expand its jail facility. However, if the county does not recognize the need to fund the regional airport, then most other economic development activity is a moot point. The local airport is antiquated and needs to be refurbished to allow our economic development officials to have the necessary tools to recruit new business to the region.
Lastly, I very rarely make New Year's resolutions, but this year I have decided that I will no longer do any more text messaging. I can say in 30 seconds what it takes me 10 minutes to type on my cell phone. If only cell phones had a keyboard like a computer where I could type 50 words a minute.