Cash for Clunkers: A Job Well Done

July 31, 2009

cash-for-clunkersIf you can remember back to a time when I posted about Google’s 10^100 Contest, then you can see that I mentioned having put in a suggestion of my own.  And even though you may think that I am lying, my submission was almost word for word what the “Cash for Clunkers” program has become.

The original description of my idea looked something like this:

“Set up a program, backed by the government or some independent investors, that uses a pool of money to offer car buying vouchers for people that trade in older cars for newer, more fuel efficient vehicles.  This helps people in multiple ways.  It can increase the number of cars that are sold, giving a much needed boost to the economy.  And it can make the average fuel efficiency of cars in the country go up more than it would without this help.”

So, of course, when I saw the initial idea for Cash for Clunkers, I was very excited.  I backed the program, thinking that it would definitely help do exactly what it was designed to do; spur the struggling auto industry, and get more fuel efficient vehicles on the road.

And now, less than a week after the program was launched, it appears that the program was so successful that it ran out of the appropriated money that was supposed to last until November 1st.  For more information on exactly what the Cash for Clunkers program is, how you can take advantage, and how the government is adding more funds to help keep the program alive, check out this article from The Politico.


Obama Looking to Small Businesses for Growth

March 16, 2009

obamaIt was not obvious to everyone during the campaign, but it always appeared that Barack Obama understood the role of small businesses have in the US economy.  An entrepreneurial culture, where small businesses can innovate and drive change is important to any economy, especially a struggling one.  And Barack Obama stressed that more than any of the other candidates.  And now, that message is moving to the front of the economic battle.

Today, President Barack Obama will announce a plan to help struggling small business owners.  This article, from CNN, discusses the two programs that his plan will address right away.

The first, called “the 7a Program“, allows for the Small Business Administration to back up to $2 million in loans to small businesses.  This frees up banks and other lending institutions to once again free up some funds and help small business owners meet the financial needs within the company.

The second, called “the 504 Program“, guarantees up to $4 million for small business development project.  Under the new plan, the fees for borrowers and lenders will be reduced or eliminated to make applying for these funds more attractive.

These are two important steps in turning things around for small businesses.  It is even more important that Barack Obama and the rest of his economic team focus on what small businesses can do to give a much needed boost to the economy.  Increasing the availability of short term funds will go a long way toward relieving many small business owners.  But to improve the nature of the economic climate, it may take more of a concentrated effort on paving the way for successful small business to grow and compete.

Often times, small businesses will find solutions to problems before the larger companies.  The problem is, the landscape is such that larger companies often have too much power and are resistant to change.  We have seen this in the auto industry, the printing/media industry, and the financial industry.  Times are changing and we need the President and his administration to see our flaws and empower those people with the answers to change things.

Small businesses are the start.

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Energy Chief and Climate Czar: Time to Step Up

December 11, 2008

global-warmingSo Obama reportedly has named Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize winning physicist, to be his Chief of Energy.  And after being turned down by Al Gore, has selected Carol Browner to be his Climate Czar.  This will be the most important department of the cabinet in the coming years.  Let the debate begin.

Obama has stated that fighting Climate Change and Energy Crises would be a top priority of his administration, a topic that has never gotten the attention it requires.  He said that he would devote $150 Billion over ten years to clean energy technology research and development.  And these two positions will be the topmost voices on where and how we spend this money.

Climate Change and Energy are the most important challenges that face this country right now.  The economic crisis is bad, but we have been there before.  Though it will take a while, things well shake out, and we will get back on track.  Don’t start thinking that the world is falling down around us.

Global warming is something that is affecting the entire planet in a way that we have never seen before, something that, without our attention, will continue to get exponentially worse.  There have been major advances in technology that will allow us to potentially reduce the negative affects we have on the environment, but many more are needed.  We have to continue to raise interest and awareness, continue to develop infrastructure, and continue to invest in new ideas and innovations that allow us to move forward in this area.

The pressure is on the Department of Energy to step up and deliver from day one of the Obama Administration.  As a country, we cannot allow them to hesitate.  We must demand that they experiment with new technology, invest in new ideas, try new things, fail, and try again.  The time is now, and the US has to begin setting an example for the rest of the world to follow.  And guess what, all those people that think this issue is not as important as the economy may want to consider the positive impacts that growth of new energy technologies will have on jobs, trade, and investment.

Remember, Steven Chu and Carol Browner won’t have all the answers.  Give them your ideas, and get your voice heard at Change.gov.

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Think Innovation, Not Bailout

December 5, 2008

Making headlines today will be the announcement of the decision on whether or not to bailout the US Auto Industry.  What started as a $25 Billion request has turned into a $34 Billion request, and will most likely continue to grow if congress goes with the bailout option.  I read a great quote yesterday that made me think about this issue, saying that if the Big 3 could not handle the money that they earned, how do they expect to handle the money that we give them as a gift.

I am not one to relentlessly praise and uphold the free market, deregulate everything and let the chips fall where they may.  But I do think that when a company, or group of companies, are in danger of failing because of poor business practices, we need to let the market determine their fate.  The automakers have continued to be stubborn, throwing billions away on advertising campaigns, and dismissing the needs to provide more efficient vehicles that consumers have been asking for.

Now, I know that many proponents of the bailout will argue that these companies are simply too big to fail.  The fact that their downfall would affect so many other people is troubling, and the one point that makes me think a bailout is necessary.

But what if we take that money and put it into startups within the industry, or outside the industry?  What if the government would set up a program whereby entrepreneurs and small business owners could submit ideas through a selection process and get government backed loans to grow and develop?  Let others have a chance to succeed where the big 3 have failed.

Help out an innovative battery manufacturer in Toronto gain access to, or start their own, production facility.  Help out the more efficient manufacturers by allowing them to hire more people and expand production.  Help out parts manufacturers, allowing them to upgrade their shops with the latest technology.  Shake up the entire industry, then let the market play out.  New leaders will rise to the top, and soon, if the big 3 are still in business, they will learn to compete in the NEW auto industry.

It’s time to send a message to the various sectors of the economy.  Be smart, practice good business, and grow and develop efficiently.  There will be no more handouts to companies with flawed business practices.  That would be real change, and though it may take awhile to catch on, it would leave us better off in the long run.

I want your opinion.  Check out the poll below:

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The Government Doesn’t Get It

July 15, 2008

Innovation is hard.  As a concept, innovation is not something that just happens on its own, hence the whole point of this blog.  It becomes even harder for those of us that are not used to and have not been built on innovative principles and experience.  Case in point, our government.

The government has never been an institution that has embraced change all too well.  They are slow to move, slow to act, and quick to defend the old ways of doing things when presented with change.  When presented with a situation in which change is necessary, they don’t know what to do.

One example of this is the current economic conditions.  They know that certain things must be done to help the individuals and the companies that have been hurt the worst.  The Federal Reserve has arranged buyouts and bailouts for struggling financial institutions.  Congress approved a stimulus that put billions of dollars back in the hands of consumers.  And now everyone seems to be debating what to do about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Short term fixes and get out of jail free cards will never get at the heart of the problem.  These are not solutions because they do not address the underlying issues in the financial institutions.  They are just cover ups, like medicine for the common cold.  I am not going to sit here and say that I know what to do, but the government needs to take a long hard look at themselves and realize that in this day and age, they need to be able to adapt to change quickly and decisively.  No longer can partisan politics keep this country from moving forward.  It causes more pain in the end when we hesitate or do nothing than simply taking action.