Iowans are worldwide leaders


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The 40th World Economic Forum was held in Davos, Switzerland in January. The forum is “an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world” by engaging leaders to shape policy. There are 1,000 business members, plus government, non-governmental, and special interests.

Some participants are familiar, such as Condoleezza Rice and Bill Gates, but most are as unknown to us as we are to them. The elite “internationalists” talk about global problems and solutions in rhetoric with a “One World” flavor. A major product of the forum is a “Global Risks Report.” The theme for the sixth report is “Shared Norms for a New Reality,” and it identifies two “cross-cutting” global risks.

One is economic disparity, both within and across countries. Though there have always been disparities, the ability of better and more timely communication has made issues such as health care, illicit trade, migration and immigration, food insecurity, terrorism, and weapons of mass destruction more visible. Population growth, increasing unemployment, and education failures are noted as causing many problems. National solidarity is decreasing, while subgroup identities are becoming stronger and more contentious. “Traditional” forms of association are eroding and trust in institutions is decreasing.

The second risk is global governance. Until recently, the “Washington Consensus” was considered the international governing standard. The Washington Consensus was a set of 10 free-market policies that were generally pursued by both advanced and emerging countries. Specific policies include reducing government deficits; tax reform, privatization, liberalization and deregulation of trade, and export led economic growth. Unfortunately, this approach is no longer considered the standard.

Negative components of the global governance issue include high debt levels, asset price decreases, savings imbalances, long-term unfunded liabilities, and government bailouts. These are issues that drove November 2010 election results. As a result, Republicans now control both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Iowa House. In not only Iowa, but also most of our surrounding states, the Republicans also won the governor races, campaigning on fiscal responsibility and economic development.

It is apparent that Global Risk Report issues are playing out today here in Iowa. Our families, workers, and political and business leaders are uniquely positioned to proactively address these issues. If government policies and business development are positively handled here, we will more broadly influence outcomes and results worldwide than our status as “fly-over” country might indicate. Specifically, Gov. Terry Branstad and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives are attempting to address these issues. House File 45, the Taxpayers First Act, addresses them in a proactive, positive way, including preschool funding, budget cuts, and management of state employees. One hopes that they have the willpower to stand by their decisions. Those who refuse to consider changes, such as unions, demonstrate the fracturing of overall social goals in favor of subgroup identities.

The report stated, as the “power and capacity of the United States to lead diminishes” emerging economies must embrace leadership. It warned of backlash against globalization and the development of “extremist parties,” specifically mentioning the rise of the Tea Party. It characterized their concerns as “arguments of economic nationalism.”

Instead, maybe the forum participants should join the potential presidential candidates visiting Iowa and get a firsthand introduction to real leadership. Leadership that is emerging throughout the United States by people confident enough to get the job done — the way the American people always have.

Deborah Thornton is a research analyst for the Public Interest Institute, a Mount Pleasant-based nonprofit research group. These views are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Public Interest Institute.

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