In The New York Times this week, Thomas Friedman shared his take on the world we live in:
It’s a world in which the increasing velocity of globalization and the Information Technology revolution are reshaping every job, workplace and industry. As a result, the mantra that if you “just work hard and play by the rules” you should expect a middle-class lifestyle is no longer operable. Today you need to work harder and smarter, learn and re-learn faster and longer to be in the middle class. The high-wage, middle-skilled job is a thing of the past. Today’s high-wage or decent-wage jobs all require higher skills, passion or curiosity. Government’s job is to help provide citizens with as many lifelong learning opportunities as possible to hone such skills.
In President Obama’s State of the Union speech, Friedman would like to see him hit these bases:
In the State of the Union, I’d love to see Obama lay out a detailed plan for tax reform, spending cuts and investments — to meet the real scale of our problem and spur economic growth. We’ll get much more bang for our buck by deciding now what we’re going to do in all three areas, and signaling markets that we are putting in place a truly balanced approach, but gradually phasing it in. If you tell investors and savers that we’re going to put our fiscal house in order with a credible plan, but one that is gradually phased in, all the money now sitting on the sidelines paralyzed by uncertainty will get off the sidelines and we’ll have a real stimulus.
As for investment, I’d love to see the president launch us on an aspirational journey. My choice would be to connect every home and business in America to the Internet at one gigabit per second, or about 200 times faster than our current national household average, in five years. In an age when mining big data will be a huge industry, when online lifelong learning will be a vital necessity, and when we can’t stimulate our way to prosperity but have to invent our way there, no project would be more relevant.
I like this “aspirational component” for Obama’s speech, and it would signal to the business community (if it could actually get done) that a wider frontier of profits will open up down the road, increasing investment confidence.
I wonder how much such a project would cost (and how much more it would cost the nation, long term, if we don’t do it).