Save the banks, save Detroit, save the housing market, save the whales. Mr. President, you can’t do it all no matter what your lieutenants tell you or
how much you gouge the wealthiest 5%. Pick a project or two or three and hang your hat on it. FDR built stuff, JFK went to the moon, Nixon opened China, Reagan ended the Cold War, Clinton reformed welfare, and ‘W’ overhauled the national intelligence community. I start to listen when someone or something acts like it is going to provide everything to everyone. It would appear that the ‘weekly’ government stimulus packages passed by Congress and signed by President Obama fit that category.
A trillion dollars can cover a lot of territory, but at what cost; especially knowing that Americans have zero confidence in governmental competency in general, ergo those that will administer the process. I know its late in the game but, since “we”, (you too, middle class; yes, I know what The Man said) will be required to pony up for this chunk of stimulus cash I think “we” should get a chance to weigh in on how its spent, not just the hacks that hang around the offices of Reid, Pelosi, Dodd, and Frank.
President Obama, here’s my take. The economy will fix itself far faster than you can engineer it and with half the future pain. Yes, there will be many failures enroute but as Federal Reserve Bank President Thomas Hoenig says, “Capitalism without failure is like religion without sin”. Commercial and investment banks, car companies, insurance companies, and newspapers will have to find a way to deliver what the consumer wants or face capitalist Darwinism. True, people will lose jobs and some will lose their homes and be forced back into rental situations, but this is not something you can cure. Cold? Probably, but not nearly as cold as the certainty of a devastating, long term fiscal future with only a ‘potential’ of easing some short term pain.
What you should do is provide what you promised; hope. Use your position to cast a vision of challenge and initiate three (or fewer) all encompassing and detailed projects in the areas of national security, energy, and transportation. In doing so you will show an element of leadership that a prepared speech and a teleprompter cannot provide, give the nation an attainable goal, change the dour national mood, create jobs, provide for much needed innovation, and guarantee your legacy. If Ike could do it in one term simply by building a world class Interstate road system that didn’t bankrupt the country surely you could pull something off with your hand already in our pockets up to the elbow.
I know very little about energy production but making a nationwide goal of say, 50,000 high megawatt wind turbines and breaking ground on 25-30 new nuclear power plants over the next eight years would be a great start.
I know even less about our electric grid but I do read enough to realize it is a vital yet very vulnerable component of our national security. There’s great motivation to fix it and protect it from 21st century threats.
Our transportation sector and Air Traffic Control System are areas however where I am fluent. A few times a year I work for NASA in a consulting role at their Langley Research Center. I sit in their cockpits and fly their simulators to evaluate their work in designing the aeronautical and cockpit technology for the next generation. I represent the ‘basic pilot’ that sees life, procedure, and technology through a different prism than does a NASA scientist. I communicate in terms if throttles and instruments while they speak in algorithms. In essence I dumb down NASA genius into bite sized pieces that will make sense to pilots. We are wired very differently and that difference is just what they need.
Their project, called ‘Next-Gen’ represents a concerted effort at overhauling our antiquated radar based Air Traffic Control system to one that utilizes satellites and ‘gee whiz’ technology. Progress has been phenomenal. This shovel ready work is literally 10-12 years ahead of how the current fleet of commercial airline cockpits is designed and what the Air Traffic Control system can handle.
The US lost its edge in the aviation world much the same way we lost it in the auto industry. You experience its deficiencies almost every time you fly. The main culprit for most delays is not the airline but our antiquated system of traffic control. NASA has developed the technology to safely accommodate 3-4 times as many aircraft as our system currently handles. Politicians and bureaucratic bean counters have paid lip service to upgrading this system for decades but never with enough veracity to commit. As evidenced in January of this year, the Government Accounting Office took this project off their high risk list because they felt progress was being made. Have you seen any progress?
This is your big chance, President Obama. In the 2009 stimulus package $600 million out of $900 billion went to NASA. Unfortunately, $400 million was earmarked for (give me a break) climate change ‘studies’ while only $150 million was designated for Next-Gen. This barely shows tepid sentiment, not commitment toward a valuable program which defines the phrase ’shovel ready’. Even AMTRAK got a whopping $8 billion; an entity that hasn’t used black ink since day 1. Next-Gen would benefit all Americans immediately in terms of technical jobs to construct infrastructure, a safer and more robust transportation sector, as well as enormous energy savings for the ailing US airline industry.
There you have it; three attainable goals with defined milestones where Americans could not only monitor the progress but take advantage of their success after these collective efforts have been completed. But what do I know; I’m simply a Basic Man