Crossposted at Future Majority.

It’s funny how much more relevance a “radio” address takes on when it’s on YouTube. Of course, it could be that we now have a leader who has priorities that are more in line with ours. Either way, President-elect Obama’s address this week is important because for the first time in a long time, we’re going to be embarking on a grand effort to improve our country from the inside out.

Today, I am announcing a few key parts of my plan. First, we will launch a massive effort to make public buildings more energy-efficient. Our government now pays the highest energy bill in the world. We need to change that. We need to upgrade our federal buildings by replacing old heating systems and installing efficient light bulbs. That won’t just save you, the American taxpayer, billions of dollars each year. It will put people back to work.

Second, we will create millions of jobs by making the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s. We’ll invest your precious tax dollars in new and smarter ways, and we’ll set a simple rule – use it or lose it. If a state doesn’t act quickly to invest in roads and bridges in their communities, they’ll lose the money.

Third, my economic recovery plan will launch the most sweeping effort to modernize and upgrade school buildings that this country has ever seen. We will repair broken schools, make them energy-efficient, and put new computers in our classrooms. Because to help our children compete in a 21st century economy, we need to send them to 21st century schools.

As we renew our schools and highways, we’ll also renew our information superhighway. It is unacceptable that the United States ranks 15th in the world in broadband adoption. Here, in the country that invented the internet, every child should have the chance to get online, and they’ll get that chance when I’m President – because that’s how we’ll strengthen America’s competitiveness in the world.

In addition to connecting our libraries and schools to the internet, we must also ensure that our hospitals are connected to each other through the internet. That is why the economic recovery plan I’m proposing will help modernize our health care system – and that won’t just save jobs, it will save lives. We will make sure that every doctor’s office and hospital in this country is using cutting edge technology and electronic medical records so that we can cut red tape, prevent medical mistakes, and help save billions of dollars each year.

What’s refreshing about this, of course, is the attention this president is paying to the future. Let’s place this next to an example of our current president’s lack of vision and stubbornness, when he rebuffed the National Governors Association’s request to invest in the nation’s infrastructure last February.

President Bush rebuffed appeals from the nation’s governors on Monday to increase spending on roads, bridges and other public works as a way to revive the economy.

Governors said Mr. Bush had told them at a White House meeting that he wanted to see the effects of his economic stimulus package before supporting new measures.

A bipartisan group of governors is pushing for major road and bridge projects as a way to create jobs and foster economic development. But the White House says the money could not be spent fast enough to be of much immediate help.

“There’s no short-term stimulus to the economy for some of these projects,” Dana Perino, the White House press secretary, said.

Moreover, Ms. Perino said, the president will not accept any bill that raises taxes to finance such projects. Governors would have more money available, she said, if Congress ended the wasteful earmarking of billions of dollars for specific projects.

One roadblock the Transportation Department tried to put up in order to keep from doing work was the argument that the jobs don’t happen fast enough in order for it to lead to any stimulus.

Brian G. Turmail, a spokesman for the Transportation Department, said highway spending was not an effective way to stimulate the economy because “it takes too long to get the money into projects.”

Rather than asking for an increase in federal highway spending, Mr. Turmail said, governors should seek additional money from the private sector, including pension funds and investment banking concerns.

Obama’s answer — use it or lose it.

We’ll invest your precious tax dollars in new and smarter ways, and we’ll set a simple rule – use it or lose it. If a state doesn’t act quickly to invest in roads and bridges in their communities, they’ll lose the money.

Of course I only really focused on infrastructure in this post, but Obama’s overall big-picture and future-oriented thinking on these issues naturally emphasizes civic engagement among youth. You get the idea, with his Facebook/YouTube/MySpace use, that he’s serving as America’s dad. With a large younger audience listening intently, Obama is teaching us how to put America together again. He’s showing us the priorities this country has, and he’s investing his time so that when he is no longer around, we know what to do in order to keep this country safe and moving forward. He’s not an authoritarian parent; he’s one that empowers his family to work hard and do the right thing.

Meanwhile, Perino’s/Bush’s focus on short-term stimulus speaks volumes. The future is only important to this administration when it comes to some Rovian project to rewrite history. Bush was so paranoid about not getting credit for any long-term strategy that he decided to not do anything, repeatedly rejecting any sensible long-term ideas. No wonder the GOP has major youth issues.

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