If Obama Had Been President During the Dot.Com Bubble Crisis (a speculative history)
(A White House press conferences convenes)
President Obama: Good morning. When I took office four years ago, I inherited a devastating crisis from my predecessor, who, through a negligent lack of government regulation and oversight, had allowed stock prices for what we call “dot.com” companies to become dangerously inflated. When that bubble burst, and those stocks began to fail, Americans were put at great risk. Average, ordinary Americans were losing huge amounts of their money, and untold numbers of hard-working people were losing their jobs, as the dot.coms, having gone through their startup cash without turning a profit, began laying people off.
It was a crisis. But it was also an opportunity.
To me, it was clear that the only way to stem the disaster was through direct government action. Within a month after my election, I established a new federal agency, the Office of Internet Oversight (OIO), to take over the Internet and run it properly.
There were those, especially in the opposing party, who foolishly believed that the dot.com market could correct itself without a government takeover. This unrealistic belief is representative of the kind of thinking that Americans must never allow themselves to fall prey to – a belief that the free market can run effectively and fairly without direct government control.
Had those “free market” extremists had their way, had the government not taken over the Internet at that time of terrible crisis, imagine what we would be facing today. Those “pie in the sky” free marketers would have us believe that leaving the Internet alone would have led to a time of increased Internet development and access in which dot.coms that offered products and services people actually wanted would pay for themselves.
Thankfully, we never had to go through the trauma of seeing just how wrong those snake oil salesmen would have been. Had I not stepped in and taken control, these days there would likely not even be an Internet, and what existed would have been accessible only to the top one percent of millionaires and billionaires.
Immediately after creating the OIO, we began taking the necessary measures to save the Internet from total collapse. We took over the failing dot coms, and now, because of our actions, the public still has access to sites such as Pets.com, Flooz.com, and Beenz.com. The employees of those sites still have jobs. And, most importantly, the taxpayers can take pride in knowing that the sacrifices they’ve made through the 15% Internet surcharge I imposed have made it possible for their children to grow up in a world in which Kozmo.com is still on the ‘net.
Along with the 15% national Internet access charge (which, as some conservatives deceitfully claim, is not a “tax”), I also imposed the ten-cent-per-email charge, which is also not a “tax,” but a penalty levied against those Americans who choose not to use the U.S. Postal Service.
Apart from keeping wonderful sites like Boo.com afloat, the money from those surcharges and penalties goes toward keeping the Internet fair. Before I took office, corporations, acting out of pure greed, were discussing creating an expanded network of expensive wireless and broadband services. This would have taken the Internet entirely out of the hands of the 99%. Therefore, to stem this short-sighted greed-laden attempt to steal the Internet for the 1%, I passed the historic “Dial Up Mandate,” in which all Americans, not just the greedy few, are able to enjoy the Internet fairly and equally. With dial-up, overseen and administered by the federal government, being the only allowed form of Internet connection, we have seen a great expansion of technological improvement in my four years in office. Today, it is possible to download a one-megabyte color photograph in less than fifteen minutes. Al Gore, director of the OIO, tells us that in ten years, it might be able to be done in less than TEN minutes.
Truly, these are amazing times.
Director Gore also reports a 7% increase in buffering speeds for videos. Why, just before coming out here to begin this press conference, Sasha, Malia, and I were on the Internet Explorer 1.0, looking at a funny and adorable kitten video. And my daughters assure me that the video will have finished buffering by the time I’m done speaking to you today. Or within a reasonable time period afterwards.
In closing, I would like to remind the public, as I run for reelection, to consider the disaster that would have occurred had I not had the federal government take over the Internet during the dot.com bubble crisis. You will be facing two very clear visions this election. One vision, that of the extreme wing of the opposing party, believes that people can be trusted to create and market things on their own, free to succeed or fail, without government intrusion. The Internet would have disappeared from human history had we left it in the hands of those kinds of people – people who believe that when you create or build a business, it’s “yours.”
The other vision, the one that’s right for America, is that none of us do anything on our own. We owe the government from the day we are born into a hospital that almost somewhat surely couldn’t have existed had the federal government not paid for the interstate roads that may very well have possibly helped some of the medical equipment get to that hospital at some theoretical point back when the hospital was being built. Indeed, before there was a federal system of direct taxation, no one ever built roads or hospitals. Because they couldn’t. And now, because of this shared debt you all owe to the government, Americans understand that no individual can run anything better than the government can. We’ve proven that with the Internet, as we celebrate the four-year anniversary of when my administration, under my guidance and authority, took what I believe is one of the most important steps toward progress in my time, by taming the wild west that the Internet was fast becoming, and making it fair and equitable.
Sasha and Malia have told me that the kitten video is still buffering, so I’ll take a few questions.
Reporter: Mr. President, when you proposed taking over the Internet, you received some opposition from the youth wing of your own party. Does that opposition still exist?
Obama: No, Jim. I was able to deal with that opposition by explaining to those young progressives that, since they want the government to control healthcare, financial institutions, the auto industry, all natural resource and energy companies, and education, why wouldn’t they also want the government to control the Internet? I mean, think about it. If the federal government is good enough to control life-and-death medical decisions, why wouldn’t it be good enough to control the Internet? Seriously, nobody is that hypocritical, nobody is that stupid, to want a government takeover of healthcare but not the Internet. To think for even a minute that there are people that dumb, people who walk around completely ignorant of how idiotic they look by demanding government-run healthcare while claiming that the government would harm the Internet if it took it over, is insane.
And now, of course, these young people have seen the amazing job the OIO is doing in running the Internet. In fact, I received a letter from a young man in Oregon who told me that the thirty minutes it takes for his friends’ profiles to load on Friendster gives him much-needed study time. Indeed, this young man thanked me for helping him get good grades. I told him no thanks were necessary – the 7% “social media tax” he pays for using Friendster is thanks enough.
Reporter: Mr. President, are the sites that the government owns, like Pets.com, ever going to show a profit?
Obama: I think you’re asking the wrong question. Just like with my many “green energy” projects, it’s not about thinking in terms of profits, but about an investment in the future. Yes, one day, perhaps many decades from now, green energy will pay off. And, equally, perhaps one day, people will start using Flooz.com. But the simple fact is, with all of the money we’ve poured into the dot.coms we took over, we simply can’t let them fail now.
Reporter: Mr. President, you told us before the press conference that you would show us some graphs and charts relating to the current financial state of the government-run dot.coms. Do you have those to pass out?
Obama: Uh, I started downloading those PDF files this morning. They should be fully downloaded in a few more hours.
Reporter: Mr. President, the GOP has advanced a bill that would allow people to use wireless or broadband if they wanted to. What are your thoughts on that?
Obama: I am open to allowing for some use of advanced connection technology, but only under the system I proposed of “cyber credits,” in which someone could, yes, pay for a wireless connection, but it would be prohibitively expensive, with the money paid via those credits going to ensure that our national dial-up network remains strong. So yes, if the 1% want those kinds of luxuries, they need to be prepared to pay their fair share.
Um, I’ve just been told that the kitten video crashed our White House computers. I’ll have the OIO prepare some hard-copies of the data you asked for, and I’ll get it faxed over right away, or delivered by courier. Thank you.