Thursday, December 25, 2008


So it looks like Obama's got most of his cabinet picked. And for the most part, I either like the choice or don't know enough about it to make an educated decision. There is one that makes me wonder though; Thomas Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture (pic related).
(BTW...he loves honey.)

First off, I don't have anything personally against the guy. And, according to national press, he's "even handed" and Iowa was "thrown a bone" with this pick because of our excellent Democratic caucus this year. But seriously, is Vilsack the best person in America for this job? Sure, I'm sure he's seen lots of corn in his day, as anyone working in Iowa would, but his experience and history is as a trial lawyer (they seem to know everything, don't they?). Not an agri-economist, scientist, or even farmer.

All that aside the major concern I have with Vilsack was a goal he set for Iowa back in 2003...which, at the time, made headlines:

"By 2010, Iowa will eliminate all impaired waterways."

Now that we're one year away from the established deadline. Let's see how we're doing:
I don't have the bar graph showing data for 2006 or 2008, but as you can see, impaired waterways in Iowa are well on the way to topping 400. Yikes. Its so bad we're now measuring poisonous algae blooms in our streams and lakes.

This trend is no surprise to anyone, even small schoolchildren. There are a multitude of reasons why. For one thing, it takes a long time (over decades) to actually clean up river systems when they've been polluted (even if the land has completely changed). Another issue is that EPA is always expanding the list of what makes a water 'impaired'. But the main reason is that the way we farm today simply pollutes water badly. The way we farm hasn't changed drastically in the last 50 years.

So why would Vilsack make a pledge six years ago that Iowa would have no impaired waterways? That about the same as me saying "By 2013, all coal power plants will be replaced by the power of imagination!" To make such a pledge, in my mind he must be either a) completely stupid or b) playing politics. Neither one of those is a great choice. I don't think that Vilsack is dumb, the only answer that makes sense to me is that he was doing what a lot of politicians do, make promises that sound great, without mentioning the cost, or even thinking they would happen. He also probably knew that by 2010 most people would have forgotten about his pledge and he'd be up on the next political level.

Well I haven't forgotten. I'd really like to hear him answer for that crazy/insane pledge he made as governor of Iowa a long time ago.


Hoboken said...

That was titilating stuff!

Travis said...

Good post Chad. I think you can't move up unless you act 'like a politician'

Leviathan said...

Thanks. I understand that to a certain point. And I don't think acting like a politician is inherently bad. But when you set statewide goals only to advance your career, its an inappropriate time for politics, in my view.

Its like Chizik using Iowa State only to get to Auburn.