Is this Heaven? No, it’s Iowa

iowa wind.jpgAndrew Huff via Flickr

One of the early answers to Today’s Question echoes a theme that we’ll probably see more of as the shutdown drags on:

“I am going to need a new job come November,” writes Maria Swora. “I was getting help through a workforce center. Now my career counselor is out of work. My need for a job is such that I am willing to relocate. If this drags on, I may have to.”

I never wanted to live anywhere except Minnesota. But last weekend I drove to Iowa and discovered a few features of life there that seemed suddenly … appealing. This may seem a mite premature, but just in case Minnesota never gets its groove back, shouldn’t we have a Plan B? Mine might be Iowa. Here are a few reasons that living there might not be so bad.

1. Wind energy. Almost as soon as you cross the state line, you get a glimpse of what turbines look like in a state that does wind power whole hog. Vast wind farms seem to stretch from one horizon to the other. Smaller turbines power individual homes and businesses here and there, and altogether the graceful machines produce as much as 20 percent of the state’s electricity.

2. A state budget surplus. Did you get that? A state budget surplus. (For the Minnesota reader, a state budget surplus occurs when the state government’s revenue exceeds its expenses – in other words, when it has enough money to meet all of its financial obligations and even has a bit left over.) Today’s commentary is an editorial from the Ames Tribune. Money quote, so to speak:

In fact, the Cyclone State is now sitting on a $480 million surplus. … the approved budget will use roughly half of that total, leaving about $265 million sitting in the bank at the end of fiscal year 2012. It’s important to note that this surplus is in addition to the state’s rainy day fund, which has a healthy $430 million in it.

3. The Decorah Eagles. If you spent the second quarter of 2011 watching the Raptor Resource Project’s webcam, you know what I mean. If not, start watching the project’s Facebook page now so you’ll have a comfortable perch when the next nesting season starts in the fall. You’ll never want to watch another reality show.

4. The Iowa caucuses. Voters in Iowa get first crack at the presidential contenders every four years. More often than that, actually; Jimmy Carter basically lived there for a year. The preliminary event, the Ames straw poll, is just a month away. In short, Iowa voters get all the attention from the national candidates that they could possibly want, and then some. Minnesota mostly gets ignored, except when a national political convention comes to town. But by then everybody’s mind is made up, anyway.

5. Grant Wood. If you Google “Iowa painter,” he pops right up in the first or second spot. If you Google “Minnesota painter,” you get a series of listings for house painters.

6. The Bridges of Madison County. There used to be 19 of them; today there are six. I haven’t seen them, but they must be pretty nice to be so famous.

This is a partial list. I didn’t even mention John Wayne’s birthplace, the Coralville Reservoir or the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Let alone Nordic Fest at Luther College. And no, none of that is the equal of Minnesota, when Minnesota has its head screwed on straight. As it will, once again. Any day now.