Monday, August 30, 2010

The Other Stimulus

We've all heard about the Recovery Act, AKA the stimulus, with most folks speaking from a political point of view as opposed to an informed one.
But we haven't heard about the other purpose of the stimulus-- to transition our economy for the long haul.
I'm sure Obama never boasts about using stimulus to transition our economy because no one much cares about anything that's long term. We are Americans and we like instant gratification, even though our economy is probably changed for good. We've just learned, whether we know it or not, that our economy can't sustain itself based on consumers buying stuff. We have to have an economy that isn't dependent on home equity lines of credit.
Time interviewed Joe Biden about the aspect of the stimulus that we never ever hear about:
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 - President Obama's $787 billion stimulus - has been marketed as a jobs bill, and that's how it's been judged. The White House says it has saved or created about 3 million jobs, helping avoid a depression and end a recession. Republicans mock it as a Big Government boondoggle that has failed to prevent rampant unemployment despite a massive expansion of the deficit. Liberals complain that it wasn't massive enough.
It's an interesting debate. Politically, it's awkward to argue that things would have been even worse without the stimulus, even though that's what most nonpartisan economists believe. But the battle over the Recovery Act's short-term rescue has obscured its more enduring mission: a long-term push to change the country. It was about jobs, sure, but also about fighting oil addiction and global warming, transforming health care and education, and building a competitive 21st century economy. Some Republicans have called it an under-the-radar scramble to advance Obama's agenda - and they've got a point.
High tech green economy:
For starters, the Recovery Act is the most ambitious energy legislation in history, converting the Energy Department into the world's largest venture-capital fund. It's pouring $90 billion into clean energy, including unprecedented investments in a smart grid; energy efficiency; electric cars; renewable power from the sun, wind and earth; cleaner coal; advanced biofuels; and factories to manufacture green stuff in the U.S. The act will also triple the number of smart electric meters in our homes, quadruple the number of hybrids in the federal auto fleet and finance far-out energy research through a new government incubator modeled after the Pentagon agency that fathered the Internet.
The four goals:
The Recovery Act's Four Investment Goals
1. Lower solar power's cost 50% by 2015, to put it on par with the retail cost of power from the existing grid
2. Cut the cost of batteries for electric vehicles 50% by 2013 and eventually reduce the sticker price of an electric car to match that of its gasoline-powered counterpart
3. Double the U.S.'s renewable-energy-generation capacity (wind, solar and geothermal) as well as its renewable-manufacturing capacity, by 2012
4. Lower the cost of sequencing an individual human genome to $1,000, enabling scientists to map 50 genomes for the same price as mapping just one today
Read the whole thing here.