A longstanding debate in our country is the role government should play in the lives of our families, communities, and businesses. While some favor an activist government, others favor a smaller, less intrusive role for our government -- sensible, responsible policies that lead to job creation, allow businesses to flourish, and enable families to raise their children in a thriving economic environment. For proof of this, one must look no further than our own great state of Nebraska, where our cities and counties have recently received accolades that pay tribute to smart, accountable governance.
Forbes annually determines the "Top Ten Most Livable Cities," using five factors: unemployment rates; crime rates; average income growth; cost of living; and artistic and cultural opportunities. Omaha and Lincoln rank as the sixth and ninth "most livable" cities in the country, respectively. Specifically, Forbes ranks Lincoln first in the nation and Omaha fifth in terms of low unemployment. In the wake of the financial meltdown and subsequent national spike in unemployment, the citizens of Lincoln and Omaha are, relatively speaking, flourishing.
Forbes additionally compiled a second list, the top ten "Places for Business and Careers." Again, Lincoln (fifth) and Omaha (seventh) made the list. In fact, Nebraska is the only state in the nation to have two cities on both lists; Omaha and Lincoln are two of the three cities to make both lists (Provo, Utah is the third). Factors for these rankings include job and economic growth; education; the cost of doing business; and the rate at which businesses and workers migrate to the city. With Lincoln's renowned low cost of business and Omaha's five Fortune 500 companies, this should come as no surprise.
Nebraska's success is certainly not limited to just Omaha and Lincoln. In March, The Associated Press released its annual rankings of the most and least economically stressed counties in America. Nebraska contributes zero counties to the "most stressed" list and three -- Buffalo (seventh); Platte (twelfth); and Madison (nineteenth) -- rank among the least stressed. These counties include the cities of Columbus, Kearney, and Norfolk, as well as many thriving rural communities. They embody the spirit of "the Good Life," the strength and work ethic of those all across Nebraska.
Nebraska's balanced presence across all of these lists is no coincidence, not in a state that balances its budget year in and year out, and takes such great strides to boost businesses, both large and small. We spend within our means and rely upon our citizens to create jobs and foster economic growth. Amid the torrent of financial woes from California to New York, and across the ocean to Greece, Nebraska's pragmatic and responsible approach to government is a breath of fresh air. Nebraska's fiscal responsibility stands in stark contrast to the runaway spending in Washington. Nebraskans have every right to be proud of their state; we truly set the standard for our country. I am hopeful that more politicians in Washington will begin to realize that we need more of this type of Midwestern sensibility to rein in our out of control spending and ballooning national debt.