The author was born Jan. 6, 1940. I have seen great challenges like World War II, Russia motivating us to the Moon in 1969, and now the coronavirus disturbance. These end up being very costly but ultimately enhancing our society and the world. In that light, I have made a list of new initiatives for the 2020s that might be appropriate. Remember, we will probably have excess unemployment if we don’t put people to work.
1. Build a high-speed tollway throughout the U.S.A. traveling at 200 mph for passengers and freight. It turns out that a 200 mph, autonomously driven vehicle system is about 20% of the cost of high-speed rail, which in the U.S.A. we don’t build. Good. Rail is too expensive. One tollway lane in each direction has enough capacity anywhere. Lockheed Martin, Delta, and United Parcel Service could play a role to the benefit of Atlanta.
2. Make sure we can and do produce everything in the U.S.A. That is pretty recognized by the public now. But keep up free trade also. Manufacturing employment will continue to decrease because of automation. Good.
3. Do some unification of home delivery. The United States Postal Service loses money. We have UPS, FedEx, and now Amazon. Unification would save energy and reduce congestion.
4. Make it more attractive for kids to participate in neighborhood sporting events. Particularly outside. Baseball games in people’s yards was a favorite of mine as a kid
5. Make advanced education free for all highly qualified high-school graduates. We have had free high school in the U.S.A. since the mid-1800s. Two of the first graduates of the Durand, Illinois high school were my great, great aunts in 1870. My wife and I went to grade school in the same old building. Advanced education includes trade school. Require high standards and performance in such education.
6. Make monitoring of personal health nearly automatic, likely to be tied to smartphones
7. Understand and heal the national money and debt difficulty. Modern monetary theory is the basis. It turns out that when unemployment is high or even modest, quantitative easing can be used to “print” money electronically, and if spent to increase the gross domestic product, there is no future interest or payback cost or inflation. We are sitting on about $4.5 trillion now; Japan on about 2.5 times its GDP and no inflation.
8. Remove more carbon from the atmosphere than we put in. It appears that if we harvested our crops and carbonized the entire vegetation and shipped the carbon back to the coal mines, we could do this, probably for less than $5 per ton. The whole world could practice.
9. Make second homes much more common. Build more small lakes for folks to have their weekend cabins. Consider your hometown (common in Europe) and nearby mountain land, including federally owned.
10. Remake the urban transit systems in large U.S. cities. The improvements include technology like Uber and Lyft, but support luxury vanpools driven by regular passengers. Riding in such is more pleasant and productive than driving alone. Standard bus and rail transit can be updated using high-occupancy lanes and autonomous vehicle technology to double average speed. With more people not driving alone, Uber, Lyft and standard transit are more widely used.
11. Increase normal vacation time. Let’s move toward eight weeks per year. Let’s not worry about maximizing GDP, but vacation is part of GDP.
Because we will soon be out of the coronavirus problem with many unemployed, projects like the above could be part of rebuilding.
The writer is a professor emeritus at Georgia Tech and a board member of the Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority.
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