I can't remember being so excited by a show topic. We wanted to get some of our favorite thinkers in various disciplines to tell us what they might do with $700 billion - you know, stuff that's more "forward looking" than a bailout of our financial system. Catie Talarski found some great voices for me, and from the phones, we got some great responses: Gordon Adams summed up a lot of the feelings we heard:
"I am just wrapping my head around these large numbers. I am angry. This money could have paid for a lot of infrastructure repair, new schools, school repairs, health care and so much more. This is so much money drained from the system, going to the financial markets. It is stealing."
We talked about education, the environment, cancer research, national security and more...but didn't really get to what West Hartford's Chris Stan wrote about: "I would use the money to form a New Deal-like program based on the Civilian Conservation Corp of the FDR Administration. This new program would be called the Civilian Transportation Corps. It would recruit and train people to repair our Nation's ailing bridges, highways, railways and other infrastructure. This would be a bottom-up investment in America's economy and would help prevent unemployment stimulate growth, education and economic activity."
Wyn Achenbaum gave us a great list of ideas, which you can find on our show page. But the point got boiled down to this: "We can solve these programs at which people would like to throw money. But not through throwing money at them -- and indeed, throwing money at them will actually make many things worse, not better, in the medium and long run, if not in the short run!"
We got several calls of this type - and it makes sense of course. I was going for a bit more "blue sky" thinking - but pragmatism is a pretty important part of these conversations.
My favorite, though, was Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational. He essentially made a call for a new system going forward that holds Wall Street more accountable - but uses the politically volatile word "revenge." I wish more people really said what they meant.
By the way, we got love from our Courant buddy Susan Campbell, who wrote about the show in her charmingly titled blog, "Fear, Itself."
Now, if only the phones had worked better today....