Pre-Presidential Pandering in Ohio

Apparently it's news that the presidential candidates are rehashing the tired NAFTA debate in an all-too-familiar strategy to secure the blue collar vote in Ohio's March 4 primary.

But the opinion among more future-oriented thought leaders is that the next President of the United States would do better by the Rust Belt - and the nation as a whole - with practical ideas to help the region evolve and compete in the global economy. Not fight it.

That requires a bold strategy to rebuild cities torn apart by a century of government approved pollution, highway construction, and sprawl. Yet not one candidate actively promotes an agenda to modernize urban areas, the epicenter of culture and commerce in the 21st century.

It means restoring incredibly degraded but globally unique environmental assets, particularly waterways, in an effort to elevate a distinct quality of place and attract talented workers. Yet not one candidate actively promotes the major public works proposal to restore the Great Lakes ecosystem now languishing in Congress.

And competing successfully in the global marketplace - particularly for states like Ohio and Michigan - demands an incredible cultural shift in how working people value education. Yet the candidates, at least when campaigning in the Great Lakes, have yet to seize in any compelling and consistent way on the importance of "innovation" in the knowledge economy.

Which brings us to the real story now emerging. The economy is the number one priority in the Midwest. But the leading candidates for President continue to lack a detailed, comprehensive, and transformative strategy to return prosperity to America's Heartland. Simply fix NAFTA, they want voters here to believe, sprinkle in a little health care and some rebates for college tuition, and everything will be alright.

The challenge, in reality, is much more complex and deserves more genuine and candid debate.