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Cries of 'Build, Baby, Build' Increase as Obama Proposes Massive Public Works Program

With the economy spiraling downwards, Obama crafts new New Deal as conservative dead-enders balk.
 
 
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The LA Times notes reaction to Obama's Sat. pledge to "create millions of jobs by making the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system" under Eisenhower. "Several governors and local officials embraced Obama's initiative, including Schwarzenegger, New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D-Pa.). The three issued a joint statement through their nonprofit, Building America's Future."

WSJ reports the transition team is saving "political capital" for the infrastructure plan and not for releasing another $350B to Bush's Treasury Department: "Barack Obama's transition team is resisting Bush administration overtures to coordinate more on the financial-sector rescue, convinced that neither the lame-duck President George W. Bush nor the president-elect has the clout to win a smooth congressional release of more bailout funds ... [Transition officials] made clear they would [not] lobby for approval of the funds. Their focus is on passing a separate, half-trillion dollar stimulus program that Mr. Obama said Sunday would be the largest infrastructure program since the Eisenhower administration's construction of the interstate highway system."

On NBC's Meet The Press, Obama again put economic recovery ahead of short-term budget balancing: "we've got to provide a blood infusion into the patient right now to make sure that the patient is stabilized And that means that we can't worry short term about the deficit. We've got to make sure that the economic stimulus plan is large enough to get the economy moving."

Salon's Joe Conason stresses the short-term need to combine infrastructure investment with aid to state governments: "For Obama, however, the more immediate consequence of ruinous state budgets would be to frustrate the effects of any new stimulus program. Even if federal spending vastly increases next year, the economic impact will be greatly diminished if states are raising taxes, dumping employees, and curtailing procurement from local businesses."

Former Bush Treasury official Emil Henry, in the W. Post, tells conservatives, "investment in key infrastructure is consistent with Reagan principles ... By investing in the reduction of air, automotive and rail congestion, and by improving the reliability of our power supply, we will increase productivity and foster competitiveness."

While Henry touts public-private partnerships, WSJ's Nicole Gelinas offers caution on giving too much responsibility to private contractors.

HuffPost's Harry Shearer is waiting for Obama to include "work on flood protection and coastal wetlands restoration" for the Gulf Coast.

Conservatives flail to find anti-building attacks

Redstate picks up libertarian economist Tyler Cowen's skepticism on Obama's priorities. Cowen: "upgrading school buildings [is a] total waste and an outright mistake ... isn't human capital the real constraint [to expanding broadband]?

But Sara Robinson at Group News Blog picks up the Institute for America's Future infrastructure report: "The Investment Deficit In America," which finds:

According to a recent report from EDUCAUSE, the United States needs to invest $100 billion over the next four years for a fiber-to-the-home broadband infrastructure that would connect every household and business in the country, which, according to the report, would “provide adequate broadband connectivity for several decades.

...

An investment on rebuilding America’s school can begin with $20 billion for deferred maintenance. The Economic Policy Institute estimates this would generate close to 250,000 skilled maintenance jobs with nearly $6 billion for materials and supplies.

NYT's Bill Kristol (via Tbogg) goes for the false choice: "If you think some government action is inevitable, you might instead point out that the most unambiguous public good is national defense. You might then suggest spending a good chunk of the stimulus on national security — directing dollars to much-needed and underfunded defense procurement rather than to fanciful green technologies, making sure funds are available for the needed expansion of the Army and Marines before rushing to create make-work civilian jobs. Obama wants to spend much of the stimulus on transportation infrastructure and schools. Fine, but lots of schools and airports seem to me to have been refurbished more recently and more generously than military bases I’ve visited."

 
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