President Obama’s Legacy: America at One Gigabit Per Second?

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).

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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8 Responses to President Obama’s Legacy: America at One Gigabit Per Second?

  1. pauladkin says:

    Please look at my post from 17th January to see the real root of the problem:

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      I read your post at your site. Interesting, but I don’t think taxes have gone up on the middle class over the years (as you claim). The issue is that we had two wars that we didn’t pay for, a Medicaid law that we didn’t pay for, and the Bush tax cut that we didn’t pay for. The result is deficits. People won’t be chopping off heads over taxes, but spending and revenue has to come into line (which means spending cuts and some tax increases). California recently brought these two together to balance the budget. The country can do something similar, but both the left and the right won’t give for the greater good of the country’s fiscal health. Hence the impasse.


      • pauladkin says:

        In Europe the taxes have all gone up. In Australia indirect taxes were not introduced until the 1990s. There are more Middle Classes in the world other than the USA. Why do you turn your head at the criminal tax evasion by the wealthy? If they declared everything they earned there would be sufficient wealth for the Welfare State. But then, what do you know about the Welfare State in the USA, you’ve never really experienced it.

      • Santi Tafarella says:

        I doubt a soak the rich strategy for sustaining the welfare state is the answer. At some point, productivity and employment decline if you put too much stress on the profits of investors and business people (small and large). There’s a balance between economic incentive, financing government, individual responsibility for one’s own life, and the social safety net, obviously, and it seems that a lot of countries don’t have that balance right.

        Reality always kicks in, sooner or later.

  2. Luke says:

    Thank you Santi for a sane comment. I would add that there is a difference between taxing the wealthy at a level they can afford and taxing the wealthy at a level that is moral. Suppose you tax someone that makes $10M at 90%. They can probably survive on the remaining $1M. However, this level of taxation is immoral and nothing less than thievery, even if there are starving disabled orphans eating out of garbage cans.

    • pauladkin says:

      If someone earns $10m a year, that in itself is immoral if it is not good for the society. What is good for the individual is immoral if it is harmful to the society. In order to earn so much money you must be exploiting someone else, probably millions of “others”. And if you are depositing $9m of that 10m in tax havens then the money is being removed from the system. The tax haven should be regarded anti-systemic, the system just cannot function with it. The capitalist economy is approaching disfuncionality at present and the reason is mainly the fact that money is being taken out of it. The thievery is the forceful removal of capital out of the ecomomy and that happens through offshore banking.

  3. Luke says:

    You make many unwarranted assumptions. There is nothing immoral about making lots of money, quite the contrary- it is one of the most moral things a person can do. Money is a medium of exchange. A person creates value for others and gets compensated through money. In most cases, if you make considerable amounts of money, it is because others highly value what you do. It is simply socialist dogma that anyone who is wealthy has exploited others (do you seriously believe that!!). Second, in my example, $9M is paid in taxes, not taken offshore. Third, you seem to assume that money in offshore accounts just sits there like a lump of coal. It is invested just like other funds. Last, your comments are reflective of a lack of knowledge of the banking system. There is no shortage of money in the economy. The money supply is at historic levels. The federal reserve is pumping money into the economy as fast as it can and hyper inflation is a real possibility. I presume (please correct me if I am wrong) that you are in favor of much higher taxes on the wealthy. The end result of that policy will be more money moving offshore.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      I largely agree with Luke, but the hyperinflation concern is misplaced.

      But there are also a lot of people who make money off of people’s stupidity and in ways that are not really productive. They “earn” big bucks but are pretty much leeches on the general welfare. I’m thinking of crony capitalists and people who peddle such things as fortune telling, diet systems, worthless vitamin and herbal packets, and reverse mortgages. There’s a lot of legal crookery in the world.


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