Improving consumer confidence, unexpected growth in the fourth quarter, brisk new home sales encouraged the federal reserve to back away from cutting interest rates. The Fed thinks things are getting better. Wall Street, however, remains nervous.
The Enron scandal has shaken the "Street's" confidence. Investment firms are questioning how many accounting firms are "cooking the books." More broadly, many are wondering how a company that enjoyed heavy political influence, and operated thousands of "partnerships" in a climate of benign regulatory oversight, could still lose so much money. Were the folks who ran Enron, an anomaly, just boardroom stooges, or are they representative of the American executive corps?
In Rural America the questions are more fundamental. The concerns there are more resource based. A case in point is the matter of western water.
Powerful and regular storms off the pacific have replenished much of the western snowpack eaten by last year's drought. But controversy over water use in the region is persistent. .
For example last summer In Southern Oregon, a government diversion of water from irrigation to secure minimum streamflows for endangered fish in the Klamath Basin provoked angry demonstrations from farmers. Current snowfall suggests there will be ample water for all uses this summer. But a White House announcement is refueling the dispute over how water is allocated.
The administration wants to restore the amount of water available to agriculture to the levels farmers enjoyed between the years 1961 and 1997. The plan would ensure farms would be fully irrigated for at least the next decade. However, Environmentalists, Indian Tribes and members of the billion dollar coastal fishing industry complain the new plan will destroy fish runs if another drought like last year's should occur.