Per a breaking news report at Politico on Obama’s Saturday message to the nation:
President-elect Barack Obama added sweep and meat to his economic agenda on Saturday, pledging the largest new investment in roads and bridges since President Dwight D. Eisenhower built the Interstate system in the late 1950s, and tying his key initiatives – education, energy, health care –back to jobs in a package that has the makings of a smaller and modern version of FDR’s New Deal marriage of job creation with infrastructure upgrades.
Watch the video, or scroll to the bottom of the Politico report, for a summary of the proposals on energy, roads and bridges, schools, broadband, and electronic medical records.
I applaud the President-elect’s vision and boldness in making these proposals. But I also encourage heightened caution and scrutiny, in particular, on the last two categories; i.e., his plans for broadband and medical records.
Regarding broadband … a disclosure before anything else: I am employed by a mid-sized broadband service provider. In the course of that work, I’ve seen government nose into broadband before, with lackluster results. These failures have many causes. I’ll cite two, for now. First, government repeatedly fails to either understand or acknowledge the critical difference between broadband availability (can I get it?) and adoption (will I pay for it?). Second, government too often ignores or discounts the private sector’s broadband expertise, including the expertise housed at the largest, most successful broadband service providers. Bad idea. The private sector has already fostered significant innovation and made substantial investments to help extend broadband to remote areas. The private sector has also already crunched the numbers on what it will take to connect the remaining areas of this nation. That perspective should be duly represented and respected when the next “grand scheme” is devised.
Regarding medical records … I understand the efficiency and cost-saving variables. It’s the access and security variables that worry me. We simply won’t achieve efficiencies and reduce costs in this area without some risk to privacy and civil liberties. Thus, any American concerned about those things should be on high alert to the details of the evolving proposals in this category — advocating loudly for extra security and safeguards.