Arianna Huffington on Technology
2004 former Independent Challenger for CA Governor
In 2009, the American Society of Civil Engineering (ASCE) released its comprehensive infrastructure report card; the overall grade was an appalling D. The report noted a downward trend since 2005. It' the kind of report card you would have expected on the eve of the collapse of the Roman Empire.
But despite the desperate state of affairs, America remains in denial. According to the ASCE, we would need to invest $2.2 trillion over the next 5 years just to bring our existing infrastructure up to a passable level (let alone a level appropriate for the 21st century). But we've only budgeted $975 billion for that period. America's antiquated infrastructure is desperately in need of an extreme makeover
At the moment, the only high-speed train in the US is Amtrak's Acela, which travels the Washington-NYC-Boston line. And I use the term "high-speed" very loosely. While in theory the trains have a peak speed of 150 mph, the average Acela speed is just 71 mph, while its trains frequently stuck behind slower-moving ones on the heavily traveled tracks.
Meanwhile, countries such as Japan, France, and Italy all have reliable train services that surpass 200 mph. Same with China. For example, the 600-mile ride between Wuhan and Guangzhou is completed in 3 hours by bullet trains reaching 217 miles per hour.
The stimulus bill included $8 billion for high-speed rail projects in thirty states. While this new investment is a start, it's only a drop in the bucket.
To help close the widening gap between us and the rest of the digitally connected world, the Obama administration has proposed a national broadband plan, with the goal of increasing broadband access from around 63% currently to 90% by 2020. The plan would also ensure that every high school graduate is digitally literate. This sounds great. But 2020? That hardly has the sense of urgency you'd expect from a country that is quickly falling behind.
But if itís really big, bold ideas Bush wants, how about forgetting Mars and concentrating on another planet thatís in need of some attention: Earth. Starting with the steadily deteriorating condition of our environment. Itís not like Mother Earth is exactly the picture of health.
I donít mean to play psychologist, but Bushís Mars initiative seems yet another step toward completing his fatherís unfinished business. Papa Bush also proposed a manned mission to Mars-a program that was shot down due to its projected $400 billion to $500 billion price tag. And those are 1989 dollars. Iím not sure how Junior is planning to pull it off for a mere $12 billion.
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Milton Friedman (Nobel Economist)
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