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Politics: More technology, less government

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Newt Gingrich took out his iPhone and showed it to the people who came to hear him speak at Pawleys Plantation this week.

“This is not a cell phone,” said the former Speaker of the House. “It’s a hand-held computer. It has more computing power than a 2003 laptop. It lets you access the world through applications. It’s the widest expansion of knowledge in the history of the world.”

Gingrich, invited to speak by the Georgetown County Alliance for Economic Development during a tour with Rep. Tom Rice, said new technology will modernize society and empower citizens to reduce bureaucracy. He invited those attending to read a book written by liberal Democrat Gavin Newsom: “Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government.”

Gingrich said the former mayor of San Francisco and lieutenant governor of California has come up with a way to use all the opportunities of the information age to get rid of government and replace it with citizen activism. People can take a picture of a pothole and send the location to the road department, Gingrich said. The book lists 200 ways regular citizens can use the Internet to improve government’s performance and save money.

Gingrich touted driverless cars and virtual classrooms as waves of the future. “All of a sudden,” he said, “things you wouldn’t automatically think about change

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Sebastian Thrun, inventor of the driverless car, taught a class at Stanford University. There were 400 students in the class with 150,000 online. That led him to found a company called Udacity with a goal of reducing tuition by 90 percent. With the Udacity model people can learn 24/7. The question, he said, is not why are you currently illiterate, but why are you still illiterate?

Gingrich said he expects to have less government in 20 years at every level because of citizen empowerment.

South Carolina, Gingrich said, needs to tap its offshore natural gas reserves and use the royalties to build infrastructure. He said a bill could be passed to grant the state 37.5 percent of royalties, the same share as the Gulf states. His new idea, royalty bonds, would raise billions of dollars to dredge and modernize the state’s ports, build I-73 and fix roads and bridges. The royalties from natural gas would pay off the bonds in 30 years.

“My hunch is,” Gingrich said, “as we dig deeper the offshore reserves will be bigger than we think.”

Gingrich’s third point of emphasis was frugality. “It’s a simple concept,” he said, “that is very difficult to get across in Washington.”

Gingrich said Gen. Ulysses Grant began writing orders demobilizing the Union army as he rode a train to Washington after Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox on the grounds that the taxpayer should not pay for an army a day longer than it is needed.

Calvin Coolidge was very frugal, both personally and as governor and president, he said. “The Navy said it needed 24 planes for training,” Gingrich told his audience, “and Coolidge suggested they buy one and share it.”

Gingrich said there is a big difference in frugality and austerity.

“People don’t hire folks who give them pain,” he said. “They will fire you if you give them pain.”

He quoted the Weekly Standard as reporting that Vice President Biden spent $585,000 on hotel rooms for a night in Paris. “I don’t think that’s frugal,” Gingrich said. “It sets a tone for the whole system.”

Medicare and Medicaid have between $70 billion and $110 billion a year in theft. Gingrich said a cocaine dealer learned in prison how to defraud the government through Medicaid and Medicare. Caught after stealing $40 million, he told a judge it was safer than dealing cocaine and a whole lot more profitable.

“The frugal party,” Gingrich said, “can get re-elected for a long time. The austere party can not.”

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