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Uncle Sugar

Wow, who knew presidents-elect gave weekly radio addresses. I guess the magnitude of just how important the election of Barack Obama is hasn't sunk in with me yet. Placards proclaiming a non-existent "Office of the President Elect" and weekly radio addresses before January 20th strike me as...well, silly. But he's the boss so I guess he can do whatever feels right.

So while a lame-duck do-nothing Congress tries to shirk responsibility for politically unpopular bailouts, President Elect Obama has been strangely silent on specific topics du jour. His latest radio address is a "present" vote on sending additional funds to the Big Three automakers. If by "present" you mean "goes completely unmentioned". Instead, it's chocked full of safe, pleasant sounding, and mundane make-work platitudes. Let's take a look at phase one of Obama's New Deal.

First, we will launch a massive effort to make public buildings more energy-efficient. Our government now pays the highest energy bill in the world. We need to change that. We need to upgrade our federal buildings by replacing old heating systems and installing efficient light bulbs. That wont just save you, the American taxpayer, billions of dollars each year. It will put people back to work.

Energy efficiency is a worthwhile goal - within reason. Reducing what the government pays for electricity will save us some money over time, but what will the endeavor cost and how long will it take to recover the expense? Would a better use of funds be to reduce the cost of energy?

Granted, unleashing teams of HVAC contractors on federally owned buildings will make work in that industry over the short term. It may reduce energy consumption in government buildings by 20% long-term. Considering the average family spends much more on their residential electricity bill each month than they contribute towards government energy consumption in a year, unleashing teams to construct new nuclear power plants will reduce electricity prices for decades to come and benefit Americans far more.

There's no reason the US shouldn't be the world leader in nuclear power. France currently generates 70% of its electricity at nuclear power plants. Right now 104 nuclear reactors generate ~20% of the electricity in the US. Nuclear has a much smaller footprint than windmills or solar panels and runs at its designed capacity regardless of weather conditions. High tech plants, high tech jobs, and lower electricity prices for decades. Nuclear power is clearly a much better investment than HVAC and light bulbs.

Second, we will create millions of jobs by making the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s. Well invest your precious tax dollars in new and smarter ways, and well set a simple rule - use it or lose it. If a state doesn't act quickly to invest in roads and bridges in their communities, theyll lose the money.

What exactly does this mean? More bridges to nowhere? Repaving all the Interstates? Ensuring no American ever has to drive down a dirt road? Haven't the feds been using highway fund extortion to keep the drinking age at 21 in all fifty-seven states? Where have those funds been spent? Would Obama be willing to see states eliminate set-asides for minority and female-owned contractors to ensure they can act quickly to invest in roads and bridges?

If we're going to spend a substantial amount of federal money on infrastructure we need to focus on our electric grid. As appealing as a nation of ditch-diggers may be, the reality is electricity consumption is going to increase by ~30% over the next two decades. Perhaps even more if electric cars actually become economically feasible/practical. Our grid is running at near capacity in many areas now. As Americans plug more and more things in around their houses and businesses those areas are likely to see brown/blackouts.

There are much more pressing needs than a surge of make-work transportation projects. They usually end up being the worst kind of Washington pork.

Third, my economic recovery plan will launch the most sweeping effort to modernize and upgrade school buildings that this country has ever seen. We will repair broken schools, make them energy-efficient, and put new computers in our classrooms. Because to help our children compete in a 21st century economy, we need to send them to 21st century schools.

Again with the energy efficiency. Geez. I can't think of a more spectacular example of government failure than federal spending on education. Since the Department of Education was spawned test scores have declined while spending per pupil has skyrocketed. Of course, if anyone knows about throwing good money after bad with no improvement in student performance it's Barack Obama.

Nobody wants children to be educated in dilapidated schools. But years of "modernization" hasn't improved student performance. And call me crazy, it seems computers in the classroom may be beneficial for learning computer programming but just a distraction when it comes to reading, 'riting, and 'rithmatic. Thanks to the advent of text-messaging, in twenty years there won't be anyone left who can compose a business letter in proper English. While computer skills are essential in today's job market we shouldn't ignore classical education.

Funny that children who come to the US from Asian countries have a far better mastery of math and English than native children. If we really want to prepare children to compete in the 21st century it might be better to adopt Asian educational philosophies rather than masking students' lack of educational basics with a machine that spell checks every sentence and performs all their calculations.

Educational vouchers would drive more improvement in student performance than merely increasing dollars spent per pupil. Schools forced to compete for tuition dollars would educate children or they would fade away. An increased focus on vocational education would give children who are uninterested in/unsuited for a classical education the skills needed to get good-paying jobs in the trades industry. Give the dollars to parents and let them decide where they should be spent educating their children.

As we renew our schools and highways, well also renew our information superhighway. It is unacceptable that the United States ranks 15th in the world in broadband adoption. Here, in the country that invented the Internet, every child should have the chance to get online, and they'll get that chance when I'm President - because that's how we'll strengthen America's competitiveness in the world.

There's already excess fiber capacity, the biggest issue with getting everyone on a broadband connection is the geographical size of the country. DSL signals can only travel a short distance and cable Internet service is limited by the cable company's willingness to string coax cable. Using electric lines is probably the easiest option and there's been considerable work done toward that end.

Once again, Internet access can be of some utility to a child, but most recent studies show that computers and television distract children form their studies. This is an issue the market will fix over time and hardly a priority.

In addition to connecting our libraries and schools to the Internet, we must also ensure that our hospitals are connected to each other through the Internet. That is why the economic recovery plan I'm proposing will help modernize our health care system - and that won't just save jobs, it will save lives. We will make sure that every doctor's office and hospital in this country is using cutting edge technology and electronic medical records so that we can cut red tape, prevent medical mistakes, and help save billions of dollars each year.

Sounds great, why don't we just cut their taxes and change accounting rules to let them spend their own money on new technology? The marketplace does work - they will spend the money more efficiently and won't see 40% skimmed off the top to cover the government's administrative expenses. Reducing the impact of HIPPA legislation would help save costs and ease the transfer of patient data as well.

I think we're getting a nice preview of what we can expect from President Obama. Easy decisions. Profligate spending. Feel-good proposals. Ever expanding federal involvement in all aspects of life. Incremental socialism. And the creation of a new class of Americans who rely on Washington D.C. for their livelihood. That's hardly a recipe for sustained, robust economic growth.

Barack Obama's done quite well for himself by giving good speeches and not doing much. That's probably the best conservatives can hope for from President Obama - lots of pretty words and few deeds. Our best hope is that he governs counter to the Democrat-led Congress and its historically low approval ratings. So far, he seems to be fashioning himself after Bill Clinton - not the worst possible trajectory from a conservative perspective. Only time will tell.

It's worth remembering a government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you have.

Posted by Baron Von Ottomatic


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Comments (15)

His ideas sound nice and in... (Below threshold)

His ideas sound nice and inspiring, but his leftist illuminati is talking about throwing around money that our country doesn't have.. really doesn't have, and really won't have once we give away $15b

Obama - "use it or lose... (Below threshold)

Obama - "use it or lose it. If a state doesn't act quickly to invest in roads and bridges in their communities, theyll lose the money."

He needs to take a comprehensive look at how that has worked in the U.S. Military over the last couple decades.

I've been on that end of D.C.'s money train and it ain't purty. The reality is come late August and thru September (you know the end of the fiscal year) your chain of command puts out the word:

"Spend it or lose it!" And that's just what happens, and every command ends up with crap that is un-needed, dupes of what all ready on hand and just plain STUPID shit (a 400 buck digital clock that measured about 5 inches square comes to mind and easily obtained at Wal-Mart for 20 bucks) just to keep from sending the cash back to D.C.'s grubby little hands.

Not to put too fine a point on it but... that shit don't work. Once bureaucrats get their mitts on cash they spend it.

If we really want ... (Below threshold)
If we really want to prepare children to compete in the 21st century it might be better to adopt Asian educational philosophies rather than masking students' lack of educational basics with a machine that spell checks every sentence and performs all their calculations.
The model to use for math comes from Singapore.

A couple schools in LA started using it two years ago and have seen a 20% increase in math proficiency in that short time.

FDR socialism and the WPA w... (Below threshold)

FDR socialism and the WPA were a dismal failure. The end point for gubbermint make work jobs is always the same place, the unemployment line.

Know history, or repeat it.

Sensible ideas the Baron ha... (Below threshold)

Sensible ideas the Baron has proposed. That is why they will not be allowed air in Washington DC.

I guess you didn't... (Below threshold)
dr lava:

I guess you didn't bother to read up on much of the energy plan. First is the easiest, lessening the load with smart buildings and conservation, saving 15%. Next are expanding the wind farms and CSA in the southwest and building the smart grid connecting the sources of power to where the electrons are needed with low loss HVDC. Next empowering, literally, citizens to create and feed the grid.

No nukes needed.

The electronic medical reco... (Below threshold)

The electronic medical record is a total joke. It will save the Government money, because it reduces the number of patients that the average physician can see by roughly 50%. That's a 50% savings on Medicare payouts to physicians!

Sucks to be a patient, but who cares?! We've cut medical waste!

Work harder Dr. Imhotep....the government needs your tax dollars to pay for all the bailouts for companies to pay employees not to work.

Next empowering, literal... (Below threshold)

Next empowering, literally, citizens to create and feed the grid.

Right, feed the grid.

Windmill power.

Hmm after a couple of seasons of freezing winters I doubt the mindmill will be on any American's minds.

Especially after the incoming president fulfills his promise to bankrupt the coal industry.

It's okay, sometimes the best lessons are the ones hardest learned.

I guess I've had enough o... (Below threshold)

I guess I've had enough of the pity party now, time to get to work and see about making the changes at my level.

I refuse to cede my country to these morons.

dr lava, the best windfarms... (Below threshold)
Baron Von Ottomatic:

dr lava, the best windfarms only generate electricity at 35% of their engineered capacity. It's impossible to make the wind blow all the time. During the season with peak power usage (summer months) wind power is at its most variable.

Beyond the practical obstacles, wind power is not competitive without massive subsidies. If it is a viable, low-cost alternative why was T. Boone Pickens in Washington hat-in-hand begging for federal dollars? I know first hand the cost of wind power because we pay the highest residential electric rate in the southwest here in Texas - home of the most wind-powered electric generation in the nation.

Not to mention that massive windmills are an eyesore. There's a windfarm near my relatives' home in Lawton, OK. Imagine my delight as we we're taking a scenic drive through America's oldest mountain range (the Wichita Mountains) and I see the horizon bespoiled by dozens of giant white windmills. You could safely tuck away a nuclear plant that would generate an order of magnitude more electricity - at engineered capacity year round - and maintain those scenic views. What a waste.

There is no downside to expanding America's nuclear electric generation capacity. Once the plants are constructed the operating costs are driven almost entirely by labor costs. Fuel cost is almost a non-factor. We've already build a spent fuel repository at Yucca Mountain and facilities to reprocess depleted uranium. It is a no brainer.

I believe anthropogenic global warming is the biggest scam ever perpetrated on humanity. Carbon emissions from power generation are of no concern in my energy equation. Without factoring in "green" concerns nuclear is the best long-term solution. Factor in the "green" - unspoiled wilderness, no emissions, small footprint - and it's an even bigger winner. There's no rational argument against it.

Our energy policy should be entirely focused on providing the power we need at the lowest possible costs. Low energy costs will stimulate every segment of our economy from manufacturing to farming to transportation to distribution to retailing. It is a tax cut for every entity in the country. An policy that gives America the lowest cost energy in the world is a key to ensuring our economic dominance for the foreseeable future.

La La ideas from the la la ... (Below threshold)

La La ideas from the la la president and leader of the la la party. These ideas only work in la la land. These are the best he can do? The stock market will be in the low 100's by the time Obamalala prances into the W.H.

Okay, let's not do anything... (Below threshold)
Disingenuous liberal provacateur:

Okay, let's not do anything else as far as a government stimulus is concerned. All of those economists from every side of the political spectrum who are arguing that we will sink into a prolonged recession if we don't act are full of it. Let's just wait for that invisible hand to do its thing, just like the Japanese did in the 1990's. That really got them out of that slump following their own housing boom. The private sector will reignite the economy and that's that.

And if we're going to have a stimulus let's simply have more additional tax cuts so that we can all head over to Best Buy and the mall and buy all of those Asian electronics that are so cool. This is what we need to do since 70% of our economy is based on retail spending. Let's keep it that away. The market will do its thing.

By the way, how do you like that political wilderness so far?

Whats ever become of RADON ... (Below threshold)
Spurwing Plover:

Whats ever become of RADON GAS you dont hear anymore about it i mean where is all this RADON GAS and as for energy efficency what about all those liberals still traveling in the huge motorcades and especialy AL GORE and JOHN EDWARDS why don they still insist the rest of us become more enviromentlay aware while they still live their estrangent lifestyles and the same to ROBERT KENNEDY Jr and LEONARDO DeCAPRIO and LUARIE DAVID

I tend to be a liberal abou... (Below threshold)

I tend to be a liberal about the role of government and no fan of free market economics but you are right on a couple of points. We definitely need to expand nuclear energy. Even a number of environmentalists like Dr. Patrick Moore - the founder of Greenpeace - now support building more nuclear plants. Nuclear can benefit the environment and bring us closer to energy indepedence. Building more nuclear plants would create a lot of good-paying jobs.

School choice is a progressive idea if not a civil rights issue. A poor child living in the inner-city needs to have the same educational opportunites as the rich kid living in the suburbs.

I second Marc and Baron.</p... (Below threshold)

I second Marc and Baron.

Imhotep needs a better EMR, hardware, or training to use it. Given the right software and hardware, coupled with support staff, you can see more patients, with fewer errors, and way better documentation. Of course there is the requirement of Uncle Donkey to submit all sorts of useless data that only EMR's can provide easily. Lets get rid of that crap.

#12 I have to agree with, but perhaps solved not by government intervention but by personal recognition and behavior changes. After all, that's what the O Man has been preaching. Time to stop giving away our country's wealth for toys that will break before we are defeated by our own foolish behavior.






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