Economic Priorities


This week President Bush focused on social security and overhauling the tax code during a two-day economic conference at the White House.  Unless changes are made, the Social Security Trust Fund that funds social security could run out of money by the year 2042.  Although 2042 seems so far away, 38 years isn’t that far into the future.  I personally am not counting on social security to be there for me and my spouse when I retire.  I will have other sources of income that will support me and my spouse after I retire.  It’s supposed to be a social safety net, but it is a shaky one for those of us whose retirement is far down into the future.  The fact that the president is even broaching such a hot-button issue as social security is gutsy.  The system does need to be changed so that it remains solvent after the year 2042.  Nevertheless, at present I believe other domestic economic concerns are more pressing and need to receive higher priority than social security or tax code reform.  They should be prioritized as follows:

  1. Reduce the federal budget deficit.  President Bush has made a pledge to reduce the current account deficit by 50%.  He needs to make this his top economic priority.  Over-reliance on foreign investors to buy U.S. debt is dangerous.
  2. Bring down the trade deficit.  The president needs to leverage America’s strengths and fight battles for the country in forums such as the WTO to reduce the nation’s trade deficit.  This is not a problem he created; he inherited it from his father and President Clinton.  He needs to come up with a solid plan for narrowing the trade gap beyond currency devaluation.
  3. Focus on energy self-sufficiency.  It is in the interest of the U.S. to decrease its dependence on foreign oil.  The president needs to evaluate all options ranging from conservation to fuel cells to domestic drilling to minimize energy consumption and maximize domestic production.  Purchasing foreign oil contributes to both #1 and #2 above.
  4. Promote job creation.  The president needs to focus on creating good domestic jobs.  Foreign outsourcing and productivity have put pressure on job creation, leading to fewer good, long-lasting domestic jobs.  I add “long-lasting” because job creation must focus on creating domestic jobs that can withstand an economic downturn.  Job creation during the second Clinton administration was impressive, but these jobs did not survive the dot.com bust.  Those types of jobs are not what the economy needs.  Jobs that can be easily outsourced such as traditional manufacturing jobs are not what the economy needs.  Good jobs with staying power need to be created in fields the U.S. dominate, including technology, services, and biotechnology.

These economic issues should receive highest priority during the second Bush administration.  Focusing on social security and tax code reform are fine as long as these basic priorities are first addressed.

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Will the library become obsolete?


Google (of which I own shares) announced today that it will make available online the book collections of five major universities and library systems.  The institutions are Harvard University, Stanford University, the University of Michigan, Oxford University, and the New York Public Library system.  All I can say is, “Wow!”  If they can pull it off that would be a major coup for the upstart technology company.  In recent months following Google’s IPO it has faced a number of challenges from its two largest competitors, Yahoo and Microsoft (MSN).  It has met these challenges well so far.  When MSN announced its new beta search engine, Google announced that it had doubled the number of indexed, searchable web pages on Google.com–twice as many as are available on MSN.  It was the first to release a new Desktop Search Tool ahead of Yahoo and MSN, both of which recently release versions of their own.  Google is taking on Yahoo and Hotmail/MSN head on by offering Gmail, a free E-mail service.  When Google announced it was giving away free 1GB E-mail accounts, both Yahoo and MSN upped storage capacity for all users.  Google is the only one of the three to allow free POP access to E-mail through clients such as Outlook.  Accoona.com is a new Google copycat search engine backed by President Clinton, among others.  It will be the exclusive provider of China Daily content online.  Today’s announcement is akin to Google responding with, “So what?”

Anyway, I digress.  Google’s recent announcement of Google Scholar and the new library initiative may foreshadow its rise to rareified air.  If it can successfully make these collections available online, Google will no doubt be the elite search tool for the next decade.  It will probably not render physical libraries obsolete, but it may do to library usage what E-mail did to snail mail–decrease the volume of usage.  I hope this initiative is successful.  It will substantially increase the value of the World Wide Web by having offline and out-of-print resources available online.  This could be the start of a new paradigm shift.  For years people have wonder when, if ever, books in print would be replaced by digital e-books.  This could provide an inkling of that potential future.

Today when I came home I again saw a murder of crows hovering around our building.  It was a scene out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.  The sky was dim, well past sunset.  The trees are skeletal, and the landscape was quite murky.  The crows flew about so that they were nearly indistinguishable from bats.  Tonight would have been a perfect setting for Halloween.

I also put together an English-Korean song put to the tune of “The 12 Days of Christmas.”  Once I’m finished I’ll post it here.