By: AKA- Josh Raines
Prizes & Incentives
In June of 2008 John McCain fronted a plan in which the principles it is based on could be the solution to our energy problem and perhaps much more. On June 23rd, 2008 Senator McCain offered his vision on energy which will be utilized in his administration. The Senator’s plan calls for a $300 Million grand prize to the first person or company who can develop an automobile battery that far surpasses existing technology. McCain said such a device should deliver power at 30 percent of current costs and have “the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars.”
While this plan is most likely the best “government solution” we have had on the table, the Senator cannot take complete credit for the idea of incentives and prizes. Former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich outlines similar proposals in his book Real Change (This book was published before Senator Obama started his campaign for “Change’).
“Prizes are powerful because they allow anyone to compete, opening the door to new ideas and new players. In addition, prizes stimulate the imagination and the competitive spirits of many who would never waste their time in a bureaucratic process” (Gingrich 189). Speaker Gingrich points to several examples in his book about private sector and government incentives that get jobs done quickly and effectively. He cites the examples of Charles Lindbergh who flew from New York to Paris in 1927 for a $25,000 grand prize. More recently he points also to more recent incentives such as the $10 Million Ansari X Prize which was offered for reaching space twice within fourteen days. Gingrich adds that various billionaires and other entrepreneurs spent over $200 million combined trying to win the prestige and satisfaction of victory, the winning entry spent $20 million to win the $10 million grand prize.
It is clear Senator McCain is on the right track when it comes to forward thinking, however, when it comes to dealing with budget issues, the Senator would have the opportunity when elected to demonstrate the ability to do more than cut pork barrel spending and actually cut unnecessary government programs. Gingrich points to a big federal money sponge in his book, with a $450 billion budget to get to mars NASA, Gingrich argues will spend quite a bit of time and money, thinking, planning and studying. With incentives offered by the federal government we could reach our goals much more quickly and as Gingrich puts it, “with much more cost effectiveness”. In his book Gingrich lays down a plan to offer a $5 billion tax free reward for the first permanent lunar base and a tax free $20 billion prize for the first team to reach Mars and back. This plan would save the American tax payer an estimated $200 billion in projected NASA spending.
I believe Senator McCain is on the right track and is in touch with the American people on this issue. We should continue this policy of reward, incentives and prizes into other aspects of government to help make it more efficient. According to Speaker Gingrich’s American solutions poll, just over 79% of the American people support prizes for key breakthroughs.