Obama $50 Billion Infrastructure Plan to Create Jobs in 2011

Sep 6, 2010 12:12pm

ABC News' Jon Garcia reports: As the economy continues a sluggish recovery and with midterm elections right around the corner, President Obama spent his Labor Day championing the American worker and pushing a new, $50-billion vision for revamping America’s crumbling transportation infrastructure. But don’t expect that money to create many jobs soon. At a “Laborfest” event with union workers and their families in Milwaukee, Obama called for a push to build or repair 150,000 miles of roads, 4,000 miles of railway and 150 miles of runway—and an update to the air traffic control systems.  “We used to have the best infrastructure in the world and we can have it again,” Obama told several thousand union members.   “We want to change the way Washington spends your tax dollars; we want to reform the way we fund and maintain our infrastructure to focus less on wasteful earmarks and outdated formulas, and we want competition and innovation that gives us the best bang for the buck,” he said, adding “this is a plan that will be fully paid for, it will not add to the deficit over time – we’re going to work with Congress to see to that.”  But senior officials haven’t articulated exactly how they’d get the $50 billion up front needed to start this 6-year project.  They said hoped some of the funding would be paid for by closing tax loopholes used by oil and gas companies.  Obama also promised that “all of this will not only create jobs now, its also will make our economy hum over the long haul.” But officials down-played the notion that this would be a quick jobs bill. “That is not what this is … this is a permanent policy change,” a senior administration told reporters. The official said jobs would start being created in 2011 but couldn’t say how many or how soon. The plan also calls for consolidating and streamlining projects already under the current funding programs as well as creating an “infrastructure bank” that would administer funds differently than the normal Congressional earmark process.  The new bank would use “performance measurement” and competitive practices to dole out the funds, but when asked how this would be insulated from the politics often seen on spending projects, the officials said that the details have yet to be worked out. The rail system revamp will overlap with the existing  Amtrak infrastructure but will include new high-speed light rail programs – some controversial and already well into planning in California and Florida. The officials said the $50 billion is new money, separate from the funds already being handed out through the $787-billion Recovery Act.  Obama made his pitch at the annual Milwaukee Labor Day festival at an amphitheater on the shores of Lake Michigan. As expected on a holiday dedicated to workers and at event that is overwhelmingly comprised of union members, he opened with praise for union labor. “There are no better workers than American workers. I’ll put my money on you any day of the week,” Obama said. “My grandparents taught me early on that a job is about more than just a paycheck, as important as a paycheck is.  A job is about waking up every day with a sense of purpose, and going to bed each night feeling like you’ve handled your responsibility.  It’s about meeting your responsibilities to yourself, to your family, to your community,” he said. Obama also took the opportunity with a partisan crowd to swipe at Republicans. Obama said he's faced challenges from "some powerful interests who had been dominating the agenda in Washington for a very long time.  And they’re not always happy with me.  They talk about me like a dog.   That’s not in my prepared remarks, it’s just — but it’s true," he said. “When it comes to just about everything we’ve done to strengthen the middle class to rebuild our economy, almost every Republican in Congress says 'no.'  Even on things we usually agree on, they say 'no.' If I say the sky is blue, they say 'no,'" Obama said. He also declined to identify House Minority Leader John Boehner by name instead calling him “the Republican who thinks he will be Speaker” of the House. “Anybody who thinks we can move this economy forward with just a few at the top doing well, hoping it’ll trickle down to working people running faster and faster just to keep up – you’ll never see it. If that’s what you’re waiting for, stop waiting. It’s never happened in our history,”  he said.  “That philosophy didn’t work out so well for middle class families across America.  It didn’t work out so well for our country.  All it did was rack up record deficits and result in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We have tried what they are peddling” Obama said. UPDATED at 6:10 pm ET.  -Jon Garcia

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