By now, we have all heard that the Democrats are planning a massive fiscal stimulus package to be passed only a few hours after Barack Obama is officially swornin as the 44th President of the United States.
Estimates for the package are now estimated to be in the $500-700 billion range. The usual list of spending projects includes infrastructure spending such as building or rehabbing roads, bridges and even older school buldings. It also, supposedly, includes another round of middle class tax cuts.
But, the most intriguing aspect of President-elect Obama's plans are spendiong on so-called "green" technology, whatever that means. Below, I have a few suggestions on what we should be spending our money on, and I hope you will all list some ideas of your own.
First, I suggest that we use that fiscal stimulus to build out a massive fiber optic network. Right now, the task is largely funded through private industry and investment. But, this is taking too long, is uneven, and is assing to the cost of your cable and cell phone service.
The United States should treat fiber optic networks similar to how we treated the Interstate Highway system in the 1950s. As a national security public investment, that will have enormous spin-off eceonomic benefits.
Second, I also propose that we spend that money on creating a network of alternbative fuel/plug-in fueling statiuons across the united states. reportedly, the City of San Francisco is planning to build a plug in refueling network, and we should seriously contemplate doing so for the entire United States, at least along the interstate highway system. One of the problems the auto makers face is that they have spent a large amount of money developing next generation fuel cell technology, but they have no hydrogen refueliung infrastructure to make production of the vehciles practical right now.
In my view, one of the things the automakers need to do is start producing generation skipping vehicles, such as hydrogen fuel cells -- rather than hybrids. This will make them immensely competiiive, and drive the market for these vehicles. But, you need hydrigen refueling stations to make it work. [One recent cost estimate for building a reliable nationwide hydrogen refueling network is $20 billion.]
The DOE recently created a report on how transitioning to a hydrogen-based economy will effect employment in the United States. Under an aggressive development plan, the DOE estimates that converting to hydrogen will create a net of 675,000 jobs nationwide. But that is by the year 2050! If we accelerate that time frame to within the next 10 years (i.e. by 2019) -- you would get the impact of that in a much closer timeframe. I also think that is an underestimate of the number of jobs it woudl create.
A third candidate for the use of the fiscal stimulus, is to help finance on-the-shelf urban redevelopment projects that have stalled out due to the financial crisis. Re-building roads and bridges is nice. But, it would actually make sense to fund commercial developments (in exchange for an ownership stake, of course) -- that would help revitalize urban environments. Cities such as Detroit could benefit tremendously urban renewal projects, building out the fiber optic network, and revitalizing crumbling schools.
These are just a few of the ideas I had. I don't want to see the same old conventional projects being funded. I want to see the United States take advantage of this situation to massively trasnform the way of life -- and move ahead of every other industrialized democracy into the 21st century. So, what do you all think? And please list your own ideas.