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11 December 2010


Russ Steele


You comment about ARRA's Buy American policy reminded me that on the ARRA Broadband Funding, the governement agencies running the program ran into a brick wall and had to get a congressional exemption. Many of the telcoms, especially the wireless broadband providers, could not build a system with out using key components manufacture outside of the US. The program was delayed almost a year, while the NTIS and Department of Agriculture obtained an exemption from the Buy American policy. We currently lack the manufacturing resources in American to bring broadband to every citizen that wants or needs it.

I also found it interesting the Asian nations and Finland, which have the higher PISA scores, have much higher broadband downlload speeds than in the US. The median download speed in the U.S. is a mortifying 2.35 megabits per second (mbps). In Japan the median download speed is 63.60 mbps. In South Korea it’s 49 mbps, and in tiny Finland it’s 21.7 mbps. These countries are pushing for high speeds in excess of 100 mbps because they see them as necessary for new health, education, energy, and civic engagement applications, according to a Brookings Institute Report.

George Rebane

Good perspective Russ. Our regulations tie our undies in a bundle, and we don't even have the high tech manufacturing to supply our high tech needs. What in the world will we compete with now?

Mikey McD

George, once the "employer of last resort" the government (or tax funded NGO's, non-profits...) are now the low hanging fruit with pay, security and benefits which the private marketplace cannot compete. It is tough for private enterprise to compete with the vacation time, sick pay, pension plans, health care, salary, low stress work place which exists at all levels of government (or tax payer funded NGO's, non-profits, schools,...). It was 3 years into this recession when Obama announced he was freezing (not cutting or laying off) federal pay for selected employees, 3 YEARS! Talk about security! The question is why would someone want to work anywhere else?!!


Bruce Hunt

The USA is in dire straights these days with very little positives to sing about. After reading this article in the Saturday, December 11 Union, it made me realize one of the serious reasons the US is falling behind in so many categories lies in our education system. It seems to me that it has become too easy to go from one grade to another these days. The students aren't challenged nearly enough. I think this is due to failure of public education. Kids cannot be taught with the idea that one size fits all. We need more charter-type schools that can better address the diversity in cultures and in with what comparative ease or difficulty different students learn different educational disciplines. In 1998 about 71% of students that entered high school graduated; more recently this figure has shrunk to about 68%. One third of public high scholl students fail to graduate. Of the high school graduates, only 27% obtain college degrees within the next six years. Of the college graduates there only 12% or so that graduate with science or engineering degrees. None of these statistics compare favorably with many Asian or European countries. I think over the longer term, in order for the USA to ever regain its number one standing in general education, technology,and quality of life, our educational process must be retooled to ensure much higher graduation rates.

College must be more accessible for more high school graduates. In 2008 the average cost of tuition, fees, and room and board for a college student was approaching $17,000. This figure is comprised of costs for both public and private institutions. I would venture a guess that a family earning less than $100k per year could not afford to send a child to college without grat financial difficulty or some form of subsidy. Only 15.73% of American families earn over $100k per year and this number is shrinking. To me, this is a glaring problem that nobody seems to want to solve. Another related remark... why would a highly motivated science, math or engineering graduate choose teaching in h.s. or college over the private sector where he/she could earn a much greater salary? What's teh incentive to teach?

Bruce Hunt

Regarding attaining "full employment" I agree with your comments in the last paragraph of your article. Yet, there are differeing thoughts of what "full or normal employment" means. I would imagine full employment would be 0%, i.e. anyone who wanted to and all who were able to work, could get employment. When I was in college and graduate school (Keynesian economics was popular then), full employment was considered to be 4%. Nowadays, I hear many folks calling it 5% or 6%, one of which is Ben Bernanke. But no matter how anyone defines full or normal employment the way we are headed is not dissimilar to the Japanese decade of no or miniscule growth. If something were to trigger even higher national unemployment, say 12% to 16%, we will head toward disinflation and depression economics. We have to make American products more valuable around the globe; create policies that make it easier for US businesses to compete. Our tax code is ludicrously complex. Bernanke has publicly stated we need a much simplified tax code. And finally, our schooling system needs a huge overhaul. I have been writing both democratic and republican politicians for a few years that "change" in these areas has to come about, however it appears I am the minority of this type of thinking because the more we want change, nothing has changed. Sometimes I feel our political leaders are either real stupid or just to worried about their jobs to think creativley.

Steve Frisch

Great comments Bruce.

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