I wonder if there is already enough documentation on history online that one could effectively roll up an index of web sites / pages to read that collectively make up a textbook. The major issue with an online media index as I propose is that there is no control of the content to which it points. The history records literally can change and the teacher has no knowledge of it unless they continually review it.
It would be a slick idea though to have a means for teachers to produce their own curriculum that meets certain requirements but provides them the freedom to be the most effective based on their own style of teaching and the personalities of the students in their classrooms. Imagine a tailored textbook that reads like you need it to read in order to best comprehend it. The basic facts you are taught can be the same, but the presentation can be tailored to your learning style.
Certainly it will cost money to host all that material reliably and provide it to classrooms across America, but it should cost only a fraction of what is being spent on hard copy textbooks. I have done a lot of work in IT hosting. I understand the costs of infrastructure hardware and software, hardware and software support contracts, highly skilled people to maintain and administer the environment, networking, security, etc. I think this is absolutely worth pursuing and commend McNealy for pushing it forward. Even testing and grading can be done online with a system like this, taking even more workload off the teachers who are already stretched beyond reasonable limits.
What online textbooks can't do is the direct student-teacher interaction where problems are worked on a whiteboard or via overhead projector with question/answer dialogue that meets the individual needs of each student and fosters student-student and student-teacher interaction.
Are you a US citizen? Are your parents old enough to draw social security, and use the medicare benefits? Do they use them? Have you looked at the cost of your parent's prescriptions? Could they afford them without Medicare and Social Security? I'm generally a fiscal conservative and opposed to raising taxes, more government, etc. I didn't vote for Obama. There are some programs that make sense, and these definitely help out people who need them. My mother-in-law would not have had the care she needed for multiple sclerosis had it not been for Medicare and Medicaid. She suffered from multiple sclerosis for 20 years. and was disabled and could not work for nearly a decade of her 20-year struggle with the disease prior to her death from complications related to MS.
By the way, your figures appear to be incorrect. Remember that social security and medicare are "pay as you go" programs where what is paid in by employers and employees gets paid out to current recipients. It isn't a savings account for you to bank on later. According the Obama's budget summary, social security will run $696B (not $14T), medicare will run $452B (not $76T + $18.6T). That website you quote doesn't even provide a reference to their sources of information. I looked at the President's actual budget. Don't believe everything you read on websites that try to convince you they have "the facts". Always look at where their "facts" are sourced. My numbers are from the White House web page on the President's budget at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/Summary_Tables/.
There are plenty of places where Congress should chop. Take a look at the pork barrel projects in your own state that your own Senators and Representatives toss in to get funding. Take a look at the numerous failed social programs. Take a look at the Federal procurement guidelines and how much it cost us to make an actual procurement. There are so many ways that the Federal procurement process alone could be simplified that would eliminate an enormous amount of wasted spending. For example, a private sector company can by $100,000 in IT assets and have it delivered in a week or two. It takes six months in the Federal government, and reams of paper. The larger the price tag, the more paperwork and time required to make the acquisition. I've worked in both arenas and speak from first hand experience.
Also take a look at the money the US hands out all over the world, as well as the programs inside the US. There are great causes we should support. There are countries who need help. Unfortunately, there are also plenty of beneficiaries who should not be getting a dime but they have friends in high places.
The Federal income tax revenue, and income from foreign loan interest and import tariffs, is tens of trillions of dollars annually. It isn't that we don't have enough money to fund the things we need. It is that we fund too many things we don't need. That being said, social security, medicare and medicaid are not in the list of programs "we don't need". If your parents are recipients of any of these programs, ask them how they would be impacted without them.
I've looked at the listing, and it's right! -- Joel Halpern