I cited James Galbraith last night while arguing that the financial mess should not deter us from making substantial investments in our future. (By the by, you should read Galbraith’s new book, The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too.)

Today, Galbraith has a kick-ass op-ed in the Washington Post asking the question everyone else in D.C. is too scared to ask — "Is this bailout still necessary?" — and mapping out a road to recovery.

Galbraith isn’t advocating we do nothing — there’s a dense thicket of recommendations in the short space — but naturally I want to pick out the part that supports my point:

Next, let’s think about what the next upswing should try to achieve and how it should be powered. If the 1960s were about raising baby boomers and the ’90s about technology, what should the ’10s and ’20s be about? It’s obvious: energy and climate change. That’s where the present great unmet needs are.

So, let’s use the next few years to plan, mapping out a program of energy conservation, reconstruction and renewable power. Let’s get the public sector and the universities working on it. And let’s prepare the private sector so that when the credit crunch finally ends, we’ll have the firms, the labs, the standards and the talent in place, ready to go.

These are changes we have to make, goals we have to pursue. Very Serious people in Washington will try to say we can’t afford it. But look at what we can afford when the power brokers are hungry for foreign adventures, or when they feel the bite of fear. Of course we can afford it.