Obama to call for infrastructure investment
President Obama is expected to announce $100 billion for transportation and other infrastructure investments as part of a $400 billion emergency plan to try and spur job growth when he addresses a joint session of Congress tonight, according to CNN White House correspondent Jessica Yellin, citing Democrat sources.
The spending for roads, bridges, high-speed rail and other transportation platforms would be on top of what the regular surface transportation and aviation bills normally provide.
Details about the White House plan to stimulate the economy are still vague, but most reports suggest it includes an extension of last year's 2 percent payroll tax cut that expires in a few months, tax cuts for businesses that hire workers, an extension of unemployment benefits and aid for local governments.
Other news outlets have estimated the cost of the package at $300 billion, with the White House paying for it with cuts in other programs.
In his weekly radio address on Saturday and a Rose Garden speech to press Congress for quick passage of a temporary bill to reauthorize highway and transit programs, Obama said he would propose changes to the way federal money on transportation is spent to make sure it doesn't go to local districts as favors to lawmakers.
He is likely to raise the idea of an infrastructure bank as a vehicle for identifying worthy projects and pooling federal funding with local government and private sector investment.
'We've got roads and bridges across this country that need rebuilding. We've got private companies with the equipment and the manpower to do the building. We've got more than 1 million unemployed construction workers ready to get dirty right now. There is work to be done and there are workers ready to do it. Labor is on board. Business is on board. We just need Congress to get on board. Let's put America back to work,' Obama said at a Labor Day picnic outside a General Motors plant in Detroit.
Obama's chances of getting his plan passed through a Republican-controlled house and deadlocked Senate is slim, according to most political observers, but he intends to use that opposition against Republicans during the upcoming presidential campaign in an effort to show the other as uncaring about helping 14 million people that are out of work.
The president, in his speech to autoworkers, also decried Republican attempts to weaken unions by reducing collective bargaining rights or passing 'right-to-work' laws that allow new hires to opt out of union membership if joining a unionized workplace.
'They really mean the right to work for less and less and less — when I hear some of this talk I know this is not about economics. This is about politics,' Obama said.
He said legislation promoted by his administration has led to fair pay for women and better regulation of on-the-job safety.
Obama also supports the card-check idea to make it easier for unions to organize, but hasn't pushed for legislation to do so since coming to office.
'And we're going to keep at it. Because having a voice on the job and a chance to organize and a chance to negotiate for a fair day's pay after a hard day's work, that is the right of every man and woman in America — not just the CEO in the corner office, but also the janitor who cleans that office after the CEO goes home,' Obama said.
Unions are key to middle-class prosperity, but they also know that they have to adjust their expectations and work habits so that the companies they work for become more competitive in a global economy, the President added. ' Eric Kulisch