The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

78° Stony Brook, NY
The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Investing in Our Future

    The U.S. Department of Labor’s numbers are in, and they’re not pretty. Job loss has reached a whopping 533,000 cuts for the month of November. That brings the total casualties for this year to nearly two million.

    To put that statistic into perspective, the U.S. economy lost 2.7 million jobs between December 2000 and mid-2003. On top of all of this, the unemployment rate has risen to 6.7 percent, the highest level in 15 years. Average pay is dropping, economic growth is grinding to a halt, and we expect Barack Obama to fix all of this within four years.

    To say that this is a daunting task for the president-elect is putting it mildly. No president has had to grapple with an economic catastrophe of this magnitude in today’s globalized economy. There is, however, hope. CNN reports that Obama has begun to outline some more of the details in his plan to create 2.5 million jobs by 2011. Parts of his plan include making public buildings more energy-efficient, repairing roads and bridges, modernizing schools, increasing broadband access, and ensuring that health care professionals upgrade to the latest technology.

    A couple of points stand out in his bold proposal. First, it seems as if one of his main goals is to use this opportunity to improve the country’s infrastructure by investing in state and local projects, such as transportation and school systems. That might not be such a bad idea given the staggering number of job losses each month. Even temporary road, bridge, tunnel, and mass transit construction and repair work could help to stave the bleeding as layoffs continue to soar.

    Second, although the actual labor of some of these projects will only offer immediate employment, the benefits are long lasting investments. Many cities and towns are in desperate need for funds to repair these exact types of problems, and Obama’s plan will likely be welcomed with open arms when he enters office this coming January.

    The exact aim of his plan is still not entirely clear. He is obviously looking at this in both the short and long term, but whether his plan is geared more towards actually improving the state of the economy or simply towards providing relief until the nation picks itself up again is yet to be completely calculated.

    This brings up an entirely new set of dizzying questions. Most will probably be pleased to see that the incoming president is actually taking action instead of sitting idly by and fiddling, but many will likely also want to know how Obama’s going to “fix” the economy rather than just slowing down the current recession. Others will argue that the president-elect should in fact do nothing, and instead let the markets work themselves out by learning from their own mistakes.

    Perhaps the fundamental problem with this country right now is that we are stuck in a 20th century mindset on how to get things done and solve problems. It seems as if any and every wide spread recession needs some sort of “revolution” to pull the economy from out of the ditch. Look at the times when the nation’s economy has grown in U.S. history. In the 1940’s it was gearing up for WWII, in the 1990’s there was the Internet and computer boom that created hundred of new businesses and millions of new jobs. What industry will save us in the 2010’s?

    The answer might be more apparent than many realize. As the world population continues to grow exponentially and resources decrease, there is going to be an eventual tipping point where too many people are competing for too few supplies. Some of these resources include food and fresh water, but perhaps the most sought after and fought over product will be one above all others: energy.

    It is going to take an energy revolution to truly remold our economy to the point where it is of sustainable long-term growth and progress. Look at the fluctuation in gas prices over this entire year. Every American remembers seeing prices creeping steadily towards five dollars a gallon just this summer. Now, there is hopeful talk of some stations soon charging 1 dollar or less, assuming economic trends continue. The point is that oil is a volatile resource controlled not by domestic suppliers but largely by foreign countries.

    Obama’s plan addresses this fundamental flaw in American energy policy and it will be interesting to see if he follows through on his pledge to invest $150 billion over 10 years into renewable sources of power. His goal to end our dependence on foreign oil is not just a good idea; it is a necessary one.

    Perhaps this is all unnecessary, though. Maybe the markets will dictate how and when the country will emerge from its current economic decline. What is appealing about Obama’s plans and initiatives, however, is that they are not just idealistic ideas about how or why the country’s economy should function and be run. Instead, they are the necessary steps that must be taken if America and the world are going to last in the long run.

    If we decide to step back, for example, and let the market take its course, the push for these alternative energies will die down. So long as gas prices remain reasonable for the time being, there will be no incentive for anything to change. So long as speculators and Big Oil lobbyists are able to fix prices, we will not have to worry about climate change, global energy shortages, or environmental ruin, until the shortsighted markets partly responsible for our current economic problems deem such investments as worthwhile and possibly profitable endeavors.

    Even the most free market thinkers probably would argue that alternative energies are the solution to the planet’s energy crises. There needs to be a balance between government intervention and private investment and Obama’s plan is the first monumental and pivotal step in accomplishing just that. Instead of thinking about immediate profits, which is what partly caused the banking and housing debacles, let us at least give Obama a chance, and see how well investing in the future works for both us now and our children later.

    Leave a Comment
    Donate to The Statesman

    Your donation will support the student journalists of Stony Brook University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    More to Discover
    Donate to The Statesman

    Comments (0)

    All The Statesman Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *