Article first published as Obama Takes a $50 Billion Infrastructure Punch at the GOP on Technorati.
Speaking at a Labor Day rally in Wisconsin yesterday, President Obama announced a new $50 billion infrastructure spending plan. Of the new initiative, the President told the crowd of union workers that, “This will not only create jobs immediately, but will make our economy run better over the long haul.” He also warned that, “If we are going to get anything done, Republican cooperation, which has been all but non-existent recently, will be necessary.” Can it be that the President actually believes he can get Republican support? The pragmatic answer would have to be, not unless he’s lost his mind. So, assuming that President Obama is still in control of his mental faculties, why present this new initiative?
The obvious answer is “politics.” The President’s speech was not confined to the new infrastructure spending plan. He also used the opportunity to fire a salvo at the Republicans in Congress and set the stage for the Democratic argument for the final two months of campaign 2010. Not only did the President contrast the need for Republican support against their consistent record of obstructionism, but he also made the case that should the Republicans be returned to power, they will attempt to revive the very same agenda that created the crisis in the first place.
“They’re betting that between now and November, you’ll come down with amnesia,” said the President. “They think you’re going to forget what their agenda did to this country,” he continued. He’s right, of course, but then the odds appear to be firmly in the Republican’s favor, and their bet anything but a long shot. The people have already forgotten — haven’t they? Why else would they support the Republicans?
It’s good that President Obama is finally taking some initiative to help frame the debate, but he’s come to the party so late that most people have already made up their minds. Where was the President while the Republicans thoroughly polluted the well with their fact-free propaganda? The best that can be hoped for at this juncture is that a newly invigorated debate that contrasts Democratic substance with nauseating Republican hypocrisy will motivate Democrats to get out and vote. But with little else left in their bag of tactics, this is likely a good choice, although as stark as the contrast may be, one must question whether or not anyone’s still listening.
Democrats have been too silent for too long, allowing Republicans to spin some whoppers into commonly accepted truisms. Distorted perceptions are so keenly ingrained at this point that the Obama administration doesn’t even want to associate their infrastructure initiative with the word “stimulus” — this in spite of the fact that, according to all objective measures, the Stimulus has been extremely effective. It’s created as many as 3.3 million jobs and added as much as 4.5% to the GDP, yet President Obama continues to avoid singing its praise, thereby opening his flank to further GOP sniping. But regardless, the non-stimulus infrastructure initiative should provide an excellent opportunity for Democrats to bring core party differences to the forefront.
No sooner had the President announced the infrastructure plan when congressional Republicans started their predictable rhetoric. Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell was quick to color the proposed bill as having “more than $50 billion in new tax hikes.” Of course, he was referring to the fact that the infrastructure spending that would rebuild or restore 150,000 miles of roads, add 4,000 miles of railway, target improvements to the U.S. air traffic control system and create an “Infrastructure Bank” to coordinate funding and planning of projects would all be fully funded, without impact on the deficit, by ending various tax breaks for oil and gas companies. Like the Democrat’s plan to fund aid for teachers and firefighters by ending tax loopholes that encouraged corporations to ship jobs overseas, McConnell and his cronies are against anything that might reduce corporate profits.
Never wanting to be left out, the man who wants to be Speaker of the House, John Boehner, was also quick in his criticism of the plan. “As the American people, facing near double-digit unemployment, mark Labor Day by asking, where are the jobs, the White House has chosen to double-down on more of the same failed ‘stimulus’ spending,” said Boehner in a prepared statement. Long a champion of the wealthy, Boehner failed to mention how his ongoing commitment to self-interest has consistently driven his obstruction of anything and everything that could help jobs. Yet, the man who called the healthcare legislation “Armageddon,” who feigns concern over the deficit yet supports tax cuts for the rich, who supports small business but fights against small business aid, who ignores every statistic on the Stimulus and paints public employees as “special interests,” wants everyone to believe that he has a plan to, “create jobs by eliminating the job-killing uncertainty that is hampering our small businesses.”
The fact of the matter is that Congressman Boehner is the creator-in-chief of the “job-killing uncertainty” he so often calls to mind. He and his Senate counterpart, Mitch McConnell are stuffed so deep into the pockets of Big-Business that they’ve lost sight of their moral compasses. Together, they are the wingmen of a Republican party whose plan to create jobs consists of a “Roadmap for America’s Future” that promises to cut into Social Security and Medicare in order to fund more tax cuts for the rich. Just how a tax cut that would provide 117% of its relief to the top 1%, while increasing taxes on the bottom 95%, will help create jobs has yet to be explained. But this is just SOP for the GOP — the fiction and friction party.
Obama started a new conversation yesterday. He took off the kid gloves and put on the boxing gloves. He fired a few combinations, mixed it up with some body blows, and showed the Republicans for whom they truly are. The Republicans responded with some blind flailing and cover up. Round 1 goes to Obama, but the fight has just begun. Fortunately for Democrats, if called on the facts, the Republican’s defense is wafer thin. If the President continues to press, he will easily reveal their complete lack of substance. Let’s hope that President Obama fights to the finish. America needs a champion for all Americans.