Saturday, December 06, 2008

Universal Broadband, Universal Health Care

Universal broadband and bringing all public school buildings into the 21st century have to be key components of the $500 billion stimulus package. On that add roads and bridges. Although initially not intended to be so, universal health care has to be part of the same package. And it can not be about throwing good money after bad. The problem with health care in this country is not that there is not enough money in the sector as is, the problem is that the sector acts like there are no market forces at work. It is socialized medicine, not socialized medicine for the people, but socialized for the insurance companies and big pharma. If market forces were at work in the medical industry, the paperwork would for the most part vanish, companies would compete with each other to adopt the latest in information technology. They would compete to cut costs. Cutting down paperwork is a big part of cutting costs in the sector. Yes, people may keep their current insurance if they like it, that is the Obama message, but the amounts those people pay have to go down. Universal broadband should similarly have a downward pull on the cost of education. And roads and bridges and public schools are things that you repair periodically. There is wear and tear involved. Giving the public schools a new look and feel is key to breaking the cycle of chronic poverty in the inner cities and in rural America and in the Appalachia.

In Bill Clinton's 1990s America saw the early pangs of becoming a knowledge economy. But it never got there. And then Bush happened. Finally we can dream again. Obama is in. Universal broadband and universal health care are the bedrock of a possible knowledge economy. A knowledge economy is not just about dot com companies and flash in the pan millionaires. A knowledge economy is about lifelong learning for everyone. In that scenario it is going to be perfectly normal for people to not just have many jobs but several careers over a lifetime. That flux will add to the productivity levels. But that flux will increase anxiety levels instead of productivity levels if there is no universal health care.

Granted Paulson is making the right moves right now, the $700 billion to the financial sector will come back as a trillion in about five years, possibly more. Anything above $700 billion will more than pay towards this $500 billion stimulus expense.

But the number one reason for this stimulus deal is that if you don't do it, the economy is going to spiral down into an even deeper recession. Can't allow that to happen. Deeper recession means wealth will vanish. There is going to be deflation in several sectors.

This 500 billion deal also allows Obama to get America to take the first steps towards energy independence. JFK took America to the moon, Barack gets to take America to energy independence. It might not happen in eight years, or 10, the challenge is bigger than landing a man on the moon. But a Manhattan Project like focus in research and development is needed.

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