Editor's Note: Responding to John McCain’s plan to offer a $300 million prize for the scientist who builds a long-lasting car battery, Barack Obama contrasted the scheme with how President Kennedy set the nation on course to send a man to the Moon in the 1960s.

“When John F. Kennedy decided that we were going to put a man on the Moon, he didn’t put a bounty out for some rocket scientist to win,” Obama scoffed. “He put the full resources of the United States government behind the project.”

In this guest essay, columnist Brent Budowsky puts some meat on the bones of Obama’s idea:

The next president should issue a call to action and a moon shot-magnitude program to enlist all Americans to a new generation of technology, science and research leadership, similar to JFK reaching the moon within a decade.

First: The president-elect should host a summit including industry leaders, investors and the great minds of American science and technology. They would develop a program to be introduced as S-1 and HR-1 in the new Congress and signed into law by Presidents Day 2009.

Second: The program would have a clear goal of achieving 100-mile-per-gallon-or-better cars within five years. It would create new public and private initiatives and incentives to promote solar, wind and geothermal energy and cutting-edge energy-conservation technology and business.

Third: The program should enlist and benefit all Americans and abandon economic theology of the left and right. It should include demand-side Keynesian proposals to benefit consumers and build economies of scale to mass-market new-generation autos and energy sources, with supply-side incentives to companies and investors.

Fourth: Let’s revisit capital gains. For new-generation cars, promotion of renewable energy such as solar, wind and geothermal, and to support cutting-edge conservation business, capital gains tax cuts make sense.

Let’s consider a two-year capital gains holiday for investors holding long-term assets in automotive companies that reach the 100-mile-per-gallon target within five years. We could add an additional one- to two-year capital gains holiday, or an extraordinary employee tax credit, for companies increasing employment by 15 percent above current levels.

Capital gains tax reduction aimed at new-generation companies and products would create huge incentives for managers, dramatic benefits for workers, rich rewards for investors and the equivalent of a giant progressive tax cut for consumers, saving major money through lower energy costs.

Capital gains tax cuts for next-generation business will create a new wave of jobs for workers who pay taxes, and economic growth from new-wave business that reaps huge energy cost savings for consumers and companies.

Fifth: A $5,000 tax credit for consumers who buy 100 MPG cars and tax credits for buying products suchas solar energy, and the creative use of government procurement purchasing power, would stimulate demand and accelerate progress.

Sixth: Create a new Civilian Conservation Corps to inspire young people, including grants for extra summer courses to study new energy science and business, support research and education, and serve in the Peace Corps to help developing nations save energy.

I am posting on The Hill’s Pundits Blog the JFK speech challenging our nation to reach the moon. In those days, our presidents did not go hat in hand to royal monarchs begging for oil. America did not surrender our security and prosperity to oligopolies, cartels, royal families and speculators putting profit ahead of patriotism.

When JFK pointed to the moon, it was big, bold, hard and daring — and we made it. America is a good, great, powerful nation. We can do it again by mobilizing our incredible ingenuity, talent, brainpower, entrepreneurial spirit and patriotic citizenry to set bold goals and surpass them.

Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and to Bill Alexander, then the chief deputy whip of the House. A contributing editor to Fighting Dems News Service, he can be read on The Hill Pundits Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.

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