A New Entitlement Program-WAMC Audio
WAMC Feb 11, 2010
Dr. Steven Leibo is the Director of the Sage College’s Program in International & Globalization Studies
There’s been something on my mind lately that I hesitate to bring up. But, I just feel compelled to blurt it out. I think America needs a new big money entitlement program. O.K., it’s true that I am very concerned about America’s federal debt. All that spending for programs from Social Security and Medicare to those wars the previous administration involved us in without responsibly raising the taxes needed to fight them.
But frankly, I still think we should add a new spending program. I propose that the U.S. government supply every American with a round the world plane ticket. Sure, round the world tickets are currently running around $ 2,500 dollars a pop. Quite a bit when you figure in 300 million Americans and then there is the hotel and food stuff. But I think it’s worth it.
Because we all know that America is standing still. After eight years with the republicans accomplishing little more than running up the debt and conquering Iraq, we now find ourselves with a well intentioned Democratic leadership that despite its clear majorities seems unable to pass those extraordinarily important pieces of legislation from health care to the conversion to newer, cleaner more secure energy sources that we need in this new century.
No, it’s clear to everybody that Washington is trapped in gridlock. But most Americans don’t have a clue about how much we are standing still relative to the rest of the world. So that’s where my new entitlement idea comes in. The way I see it, we are trapped in our own history.
In short, for most of our history average Americans did not need to know much about what was going on “out there.” It was enough for us to supply the world with so many of its most desired manufactured goods and send out the troops when the really nasties from Hitler & Tojo to Stalin needed confronting. And that was about it.
But that was then and this is now. And even as most Americans understand we are going nowhere. Few have a good idea about how much we are falling behind the rest of the world.
And I even have an itinerary in mind. How about if they start off at Penn. Station and take one of those old buses one uses to get to JFK and then fly off to Shanghai. Once there they could take that incredibly cool 21st century mag-lev train the Chinese use to move tens of thousands of people a year from the airport to downtown Shanghai.
And then we’ll send them off to visit a Chinese car show that features those new electric vehicles— Chinese manufactures are getting into with such enthusiasm, perhaps spending some time with newly employed workers, folks working in China’s increasingly green energy committed economy.
Then they might pop over to check their e-mail in South Korea with its incredibly fast internet baud rates, the very same South Korea that just beat out General Electric for a lucrative nuclear plant deal.
Or if all that flying is making them a bit woozy perhaps we might have them check out one of a dozen or more developed countries from Taiwan to France, from Japan to the United Kingdom that manage to make sure all their citizens have health care regardless of whether they have the skills and blind luck necessary to hold on to a job that supplies it.
Yes, countries that also have the advantage of all those extra medical jobs one needs to supply health care to their entire populations.
Perhaps finishing up at some of those nations from the Maldives and Australia to Bangladesh and Indonesia that are increasingly threatened by dramatic man made climate challenges.
Folks who are no doubt watching with horror as the American senate dilly dallies instead of moving to get America’s & the world’s energy house in order.
And after all that travel it might be possible that those same Americans –sick off all that flying might be finally ready to get off their butts and accomplish something here at home to move us more securely into the 21st century.