Lincoln -- Nebraska's economic outlook is looking gloomier by the day, which cannot but cast a long shadow on the state budget for the next biennium. The earlier posts of just a few days ago, Part I and Part II, already seem dated. An emergency may be at hand. The state's "rainy day" approach to budgeting may be swept away in a tsunami of catastrophic decisions at the national level.
Suggestion: The Nebraska legislature's Revenue and Appropriations committees should hold a joint hearing on the state's economic outlook, inviting Nebraska's congressional delegation to participate and to testify on actions they intend to take to stop the hemorrhaging of revenues.
Exhibit A would be the Nebraska Farm Bureau's report on what the collapse of trade agreements is costing the Nebraska economy. This needs to be supplemented by expert testimony on the importance of trade generally to the state, to include testimony from those who provide input to the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board. A new world order in which America does not lead in free trade may be imminent.
A necessary part of the hearing must be to take testimony on why, for what purpose, and in whose name Nebraska's economy is being sacrificed. Surely Nebraska voters did not wish for the outcomes that are now being forced upon us. Or is that the conclusion of our congressional delegation?
There is irony in the idea of the Nebraska state legislature attempting to get its U.S. senators to act for the benefit of the state and the needs of its economy. Before the adoption of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, U.S. senators were chosen by, and responsive to, state legislatures. Nebraska's William Jennings Bryan led the effort to elect senators by popular vote, but Bryan – a champion for the Nebraska economy if there ever was one, and a committed worker for international peace – would surely be appalled at the current turn of events.
As I write, spot prices for corn at Nebraska's grain elevators are falling close to two dollar territory; China's leader has just returned home from Davos, where he has been recognized as the new world leader in free trade. America First, or America Last?