President Obama this evening will call for a wealth of new federal spending on biomedical research, information technology, and clean energy technology, saying that now is the time to open the taxpayers' purse to new projects
While offering a nod to free enterprise, saying that the United States is the nation that created "Google and Facebook," Obama will say that taxpayer funds were responsible for much of this innovation. "That's what planted the seeds for the Internet -- that's what helped make possible things like computer chips and GPS."
To help pay for this spending increase, Obama will say, "I'm asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies."
One anti-petrol advocacy group estimated the 2009 subsidies at $52 billion. A 2001 report by the free-market Cato Institute, however, says that if you take into account taxes and regulatory costs, oil companies likely pay "their fair share of the environmental and national defense costs they impose on society."
Obama also pointed to regulatory efforts to encourage the development of high-speed wireless coverage. "This isn't just about a faster Internet and fewer dropped calls," he said. "It's about connecting every part of America to the digital age."
Another intriguing idea, which could lead to more attention being paid to e-government projects: "My administration will develop a proposal to merge, consolidate, and reorganize the federal government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive America."
Absent from the speech, however, was any mention of Net neutrality, which the Federal Communications Commission enacted on a 3-2 party line vote and which senior members of the new House Republican majority have vowed to overturn.
The Republican response, scheduled to be delivered by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the chairman of the House Budget committee, makes precisely that point.
"A few years ago, reducing spending was important," Ryan will say. "Today, it's imperative...We face a crushing burden of debt. The debt will soon eclipse our entire economy, and grow to catastrophic levels in the years ahead...Our debt is out of control. What was a fiscal challenge is now a fiscal crisis."