May 102010

Looking towards the new economy that we must build out of the ruins of the old, the president has it right. We can’t go back to the old bubble-bust economy built on debt and speculation. We need to build on a new foundation. That includes public investment in areas vital to our future: education and training, a 21st century infrastructure, research and development, new energy.

Roger Hickey, Co-Director of the Campaign for America’s Future

Composition of American Recovery and Reinvestm...
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First let me say that I completely agree with the major premise of this post. The stimulus plan already put into effect has helped to limit the depth of the current recession. I’m even in whole-hearted support of further government spending in the specific areas mentioned here: education and training, a 21st century infrastructure, research and development, new energy. But spending alone is not a solution.

One problem with the spending component of the first stimulus plan was that rather than being directed where it would do the most good — to the areas mentioned above, it was an open spending spree. Much of the money was largely wasted. Another problem is that just pouring cash into broken systems is foolhardy by anyone’s measure. These are the issues that set moderates against such initiatives.

What America is lacking right now is a cogent plan for how we can make the transition to our new economy. One thing is certain, as stated in the post, tax cuts for the rich have been proven to do nothing but provide more wealth for the wealthy. So, when will we start the conversation about raising taxes to help fund the programs we need? There has to be a plan to balance the books at some point. I believe that there are masses of moderates who would support efforts if shown the path.

The path will include spending on education, but it must also include reform of the public education system. Mr. Hickey mocks moves to limit teacher tenure, because so many teachers are being laid off, but he ignores the fact that many of the best are finding the streets while tenure protects the worst. Tenure needs to go, and meritorious pay needs to start. Our education system was designed over a hundred years ago, when the central demand was for factory workers — it’s in serious need of reform. It doesn’t change because of the entrenched lobby.

Few will argue that our infrastructure has not fallen to shambles, but where is the leadership on how to best restore its utility? Public transportation is one vital area for focus. We are woefully behind Europe and Japan when it comes to rail transit. Such forms of public transportation would help to unclog roadways, reduce pollution, and gain energy independence, but again — there are entrenched lobbies that will resist every step of the way.

Energy is the road forward and America’s best bet to establish new technologies and markets to drive our economic engine into the future. We need to leave fossil fuels behind and develop renewable sources for the demands of our 21st century society. Where is our roadmap? We have none. Instead we have President Obama promoting offshore drilling. We need to take a new look at nuclear, and we need to invest in alternatives. We have to admit that clean coal is too expensive, and that natural gas makes more sense as an interim solution. We need a freaking plan, but again, it’s the entrenched lobbies that hold back progress.

Each of these core areas will benefit from the fourth — R&D. Americans are nothing if not innovative. We are very close to breakthroughs in solar power and medicine that can help springboard our economy forward. Alternative energy, transportation, education, power distribution, communications, nanotech — all will see rapid growth over the near term. We are at the base of an exponential technological curve that is going vertical as I write, and America can either lead or follow — it’s up to us.

We need real reform and a real plan, and we need leaders with the guts to bring the issues to the fore. In every case, there are entrenched groups who will resist change because they stand to be adversely affected. We need to acknowledge their situations, but we can’t allow them to deter progress. We don’t need more gifts to the vested interests — like the recent healthcare bill or the weak form of financial reform now making its way through Congress. We need real plans, real reform, real regulation, and real benefit for the average American.

Of course, this will never happen so long as the lobbies own the Congress. So, as with every issue, we need to start with campaign reform. We need to get Congress back to working for The People.

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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