WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama Monday proposed a quick $50 billion boost in federal spending to rebuild roads, railways and runways — a move he said will create jobs and which Democrats hope will improve their election prospects in November.
Obama rolled out the Labor Day proposal at a speech to a friendly union audience in Milwaukee, the launch of a week-long push on the economy and jobs that will include an Ohio speech pushing tax breaks for business and a White House news conference on Friday.
It all comes as the country pivots to a fall campaign for control of Congress in which Democrats are expected to take a pounding. Independent analysts predict the Democrats could lose control of the House of Representatives, and perhaps the Senate, thanks largely to anger and anxiety about the economy. The unemployment this week ticked up to 9.6 percent.
Obama vowed that his new proposal would create jobs immediately.
“This will not only create jobs immediately, it’s also going to make our economy hum over the long haul,” he said.
His administration also vowed an immediate jolt of new hiring. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told NBC’s Today program the proposal "will put people back to work immediately.” She told CBS’s Early Show that the proposal would “put construction workers, welders, electricians back to work ... folks that have been unemployed for a long time."
White House aides conceded, however, that the proposal, which still would have to be approved by Congress and then implemented, is not likely to start creating jobs until next year.
“We’re not like trying to put out an idea today that, in October 2010, this is going to create a lot of jobs,” said a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the White House insisted on it. “This is not what this is.”
Obama also used the speech to frame his fall campaign argument against the Republicans — that they’re for the rich and against working people.
“The bottom line is this: These guys, they just don’t want to give up on that economic philosophy that they have been peddling for most of the last decade,” Obama said. “You know that philosophy: you cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires; you cut all the rules and regulations for special interests; and then you just cut working folks loose.
“Well, you know what, that philosophy didn’t work out so well for middle-class families all 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.”
Republicans called Obama’s proposal more of the same.
“Americans are rightly skeptical about Washington Democrats asking for more of their money and their patience,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., his party’s leader in the Senate.
“After all, they’re still looking for the ‘shovel-ready’ jobs they were promised more than a year ago. A last-minute, cobbled-together stimulus bill with more than $50 billion in new tax hikes will not reverse the complete lack of confidence Americans have in Washington Democrats' ability to help this economy.”
And Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, the Republican leader in the House, said: “We don't need more government stimulus spending. We need to end Washington Democrats' out-of-control spending spree, stop their tax hikes, and create jobs by eliminating the job-killing uncertainty that is hampering our small businesses."
Obama’s proposal would rebuild 150,000 miles of roads and highways, construct and maintain 4,000 miles of railway, rebuild or repair 150 miles of airport runways and upgrade the nation’s air traffic control system.
It also would boost spending for buses and to modernize the Amtrak fleet of railroad cars.
The plan would authorize spending and transportation policies for six years.
Aides did not say how much the overall plan would cost. They said only that the $50 billion spent at the outset would be a “significant share” of the total price.
They said the spending would be offset over 10 years, in part by raising taxes on the oil and gas industry.
On Wednesday, Obama plans to recycle an old proposal to make permanent a research tax break for business.
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