Obama's "Five Year Plan"
By Isaac MacMillen
During the era of the USSR, Soviet leadership introduced “Five Year Plans” on a consistent basis. The plans, based on lockstep, centralized control, were intended to jump-start the Soviet economy, which was unsuccessfully attempting to compete with the powerful Western, capitalist-based economies.
Now—apparently only vaguely familiar with the failed Soviet experiment—President Barack Obama has proposed similar state-focused measures. While his plans are not set in a literal 5-year block, they match the spirit of the Soviet measures, with many of the same central-planning-based principles. In fact, a quick glance at his economic agenda on WhiteHouse.gov could soon have visitors humming “The Internationale.”
The site touts the “American Recover and Reinvestment Plan,” a plan that extends the tentacles of Big Government even further into schools, research labs, health care, energy, the infrastructure, and just about every other aspect of American life:
- “Doubling the production of alternative energy in the next three years.” As the liberal site climateprogress.org reported back in August, Barack Obama's green energy plan includes large amounts of heavy government involvement, mandating that states meet the alternative energy goals set by the administration.
- “Modernizing more than 75% of federal buildings and improve the energy efficiency of two million American homes, saving consumers and taxpayers billions on our energy bills.” Again, more government intervention. The President's plans even call for a light bulb-changing brigade.
- “Making the immediate investments necessary to ensure that within five years, all of America's medical records are computerized.” There have been a number of objections raised to computerized medical records, with some doctors concerned that the “yes/no” questions asked by the computer programs would stifle doctor-patient open discussions. Additionally, it will cost hundreds of billions to adapt. And the question of security remains a serious concern—security not only from those who would use the records for ill-purpose, but also from a prying federal government, eager to get its hands on information about its citizens.
- “Equipping tens of thousands of schools, community colleges, and public universities with 21st century classrooms, labs, and libraries.” The coffers from which he will draw the money must indeed be bottomless. And what will those schools, community colleges, and public universities have to give in exchange? No government program arrives without strings attached reaching all the way to Washington.
- “Expanding broadband across America, so that a small business in a rural town can connect and compete with their counterparts anywhere in the world.” Internet service providers are already doing just that. And they are doing it more efficiently, with an eye on the market. If the government forces them to install broadband in regions that give a net loss profit, then the ISPs may end up needing a bailout of their own. Unless, of course, the government decides to simply nationalize them—along with the banks and auto industry.
- “Investing in the science, research, and technology that will lead to new medical breakthroughs, new discoveries, and entire new industries.” Investing how much money? Billions? Tens of billions? Hundreds of billions? And will this money be provided to private industry—which, historically, has pioneered some of the most amazing technological advances—or will inefficient government bureaucracies be pumped full of taxpayer cash? If the past is prologue, Big Brother's pockets are about to bulge.
How realistic is President Obama's plan? History would say not very. Government projects for long-term change rarely work out as planned. In the 1970s, then-President Jimmy Carter pushed for coal-based gasoline, due to high oil prices. The subsequent price drop in the 1980s killed that initiative.
Similarly, the economy and low gas prices have seriously hurt any momentum for alternative energy that existed back in mid-2008, when prices had skyrocketed (largely thanks to Big Government's drilling bans). History is not on the side of government attempts to provide its own solutions to market-based problems. But then again, who would have thought that Congress would give away well over 1 trillion dollars in bailouts, in order to gain control of private enterprise?
Given the freedom, private industry is more than capable of modernizing the country. But when taxpayer dollars are doled into their hands, some begin to look to government as their subsistence, and forget the free market. They become slaves to the desires of the federal government. Those that persist in providing what the market demands are then burdened with regulations until they are forced, by the rule of law, to submit. Either way, government wins, markets—and the American citizens who make up the markets—lose.
Prior to the introduction of the first Five Year Plan, Soviet leaders had used another plan, the NEP: New Economic Policy. Under this plan, government allowed individuals to start small businesses, but retained control of major institutions—such as banks. It appears that Congress, under the Bush Administration, has already done that. Now it's time for Obama to introduce his Five Year Plan—and complete the government's conquest of major—and minor—industries.
So, hold onto your hats—and your wallets.
Isaac MacMillen is a contributing editor of ALG News Bureau.