Friday, March 04, 2005

Taking the long view

Sometimes I want to throw up my hands in disgust at people. The "long view" in Congress is limited to the next election, every problem is seen through a partisan lens, and we just go from crisis to crisis without planning for things ahead of time.

You know what would be great? If Congress would make a list of all foreseeable threats, their probable distance in the future, the best long-term solution, and how much money would be needed per year to fix the problem. Just picking numbers at random, you would have something like the following:

Universal Heat Death/Big Chill (total destruction) 100 trillion years -- unknown, $10 million/year basic research
Sun going Nova -- 5 billion years -- leave solar system -- $10 million/year space science
Earth becomes uninhabitable -- 500 million years -- leave earth/$50 million per year space science
Earth is struck by an asteroid -- 1 million years -- $25 million/year global watch to determine threats and $25 million/year for space science research
Storage of nuclear waste -- 100,000 years, $100 million/year storage, $100 million/year fusion research.
Global warming (climate change, coastal flooding) -- 100 years/reduce greenhouse emission/$1 billion per year industry loss/$100 million per year research
Social Security bankrupt -- 50 years, {very large number} billion to make it perpetually solvent.
National Debt/Depression / starting at 10 years/ Balanced budget in place before then, pay down the debt over next 50 years


(Yes, I just pulled numbers out of thin air. I just wanted to give an example of what I mean by long-term planning)

As new information becomes available, simply adjust the budget accordingly -- if we discover cold fusion, there's less need to find out a cheap method of disposing nuclear waste. Sure, that means that my generation might have to pay for things that will never directly benefit us, but I know the country would be a lot better off today if the founding fathers had had the foresight to fix certain things from the start -- a "balanced budget" amendment to the Constitution, perhaps, prohibition of slavery, etc. -- so I'm willing to make that sacrifice for future generations.


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