A Response to President-Elect Obama’s Economic Recovery Plan

Video and Text of President-elect Obama’s Radio Message on his Economic Recovery Plan

Did anyone else notice the order of the questions in the second paragraph? To me, it tends to put priorities in order or reveal another’s priorities. In this case, President-elect Obama ordered his priorities as such: Helping parents put their kids through college. Healthcare. Retirement. Jobs.

My question: Are any of those legitimate functions of government? I hold that the first three are absolutely NOT, and the fourth only inasmuch as the government – even a limited government – is an employer and should treat its employees competitively.

In the fifth paragraph, he mentions that he won’t do it the typical Washington way, but will instead demand results. While I agree with him that energy efficiency – indeed, ALL forms of efficiency – are needed and that America should be more competitive in the world, I have to question whether National standards are the way to go. After all, anyone in education can tell you what a nightmare NCLB is. (Though don’t talk to a politician about it. Talk to a ‘crewdog’ – teacher, parapro, etc. Even administrators at the school level will typically tell you NCLB’s horror stories.) And for those that don’t know, I was a teacher in the NCLB world. I have first hand experience with it, and it AINT pretty.

On to the ‘key parts’ of his plan:

1) Make national buildings more energy efficient: Again, I can completely agree with the man here. I’m not a Sierra Club-type nutjob, but efficiency is a good thing, so long as it doesn’t place an undue burden on people. (For example: A person voluntarily replacing their 40yr old toilet with a modern extremely efficient one is a good thing. Government mandating that everyone MUST do this – or even that contractors building new houses must – is a bad thing.)

While I agree with the President-elect that it will save the American taxpayer money, I fail to see where it will create more jobs. Almost every building – particularly government buildings – in America has some form of maintenance crew already, and replacing light bulbs and HVAC units isn’t exactly something they can’t handle.

2) Jobs program tareting infrastructure: The private sector can do this faster, more efficiently, and cheaper than the government can ever hope to. Particularly in regards to the interstate system, let them put a toll booth at every on-ramp. People get the roads and capacity they want, and the government had nothing to do with it.

I do agree with his ‘use it or lose it’ approach though, insofar as this is a wise approach to use if you accept that government should be involved. As I stated a moment ago,I don’t accept that, but I acknowledge that I’m not going to get the change I want any time soon and this is a better way to do it than the current system.

3) ‘Upgrade and modernize school buildings’: Several points here. Primary again being that government shouldn’t be in the education business to begin with, particularly national government. Privatize this sector, and you no longer have to worry about buildings that would be condemned if they were a home.

He states ‘We will repair broken schools, make them energy efficient, and put new computers in our classrooms.” The first two are basically reiterations of his first point regarding repairing all government buildings.

In regards to the third point, however: I am a teacher-trained Computer Scientist. Meaning that I am a computer expert that became a teacher later (and went back to computing after some time in education). I saw first hand that the computers in the classroom is a good idea, but highly impractical within the current educational establishment. Quite bluntly, the majority of kids I encountered simply were not disciplined enough at home to be trusted with a computer, and because of laws such as IDEA and NCLB, the school is not allowed to discipline them appropriately. Furthermore, the vast majority of teachers no nothing about computers more than MAYBE basic word processing and email.

In other words, computers in the classroom are a complete waste of resources.

4) ‘Every child should have the chance to get online’: To do what, Mr. President-elect? Get on myspace/facebook/whatever? Play games?? Look at porn at 8 years old??? I have no problems putting computers with internet access in the schools or libraries, but with a statement like this you seem to be indicating another massive government program to get computers in the hands of kids, which as I stated above is a complete waste of resources.

You see, the dirty little secret in the computer industry is planned obsolescence. Even under the best of circumstances, a mid-grade computer you buy today will be useless in 5 yrs. A cheap one – around the $300-$500 range – will last half that. Yes, there are things that can be done to mitigate this – load up on RAM, bigger hard drives, Linux operating systems – but even then you are typically just buying a couple more years. (Note that Linux is the exception here. At work, I’ve recently taken computers that were completely obsolete, put a small version of Linux on them such as Puppy Linux or Damn Small Linux (DSL) and made them useable for basic Office/browsing uses.) Even with these enhancements, however, there is only so much any given processor can handle, and I’m sorry, but a 1998-era Pentium II 256Mhz just aint gonna give you the performance of a 2008-era Quad Core 2.5Ghz processor.

5) Modernize health care: I worked on this after leaving teaching before I started where I now work. Specifically, my company built an online system to handle EMT billing. And while I didn’t specifically work on that end of the house, I worked enough projects with Medicaid/Medicare links to know that the problem isn’t the electronics or even the paper-and-pen systems. It is the bureaucracy. The biggest hurdle to modernizing health care – and most other sectors-  is the amount of GOVERNMENT involved!!!!!

But I don’t see the President-elect planning to minimize the government in ANY sector, so I’m not going to hold my breath over hoping that this will actually work.

Thanks for playing, and we’ll see you next week!

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