Elkhart in February, Wakarusa in August, Always Infrastructure

President Obama’s February 9th trip to Elkhart, Indiana, was an early and high-profile part of the White House’s push for passage of the stimulus bill. Northeastern Indiana is the center of the recreational trailer industry, and the local economy had been rocked by high gas prices, the credit crisis, and collapsed consumer demand.

At the time, the stimulus bill was being promoted with an emphasis on infrastructure, and the phrase “shovel-ready projects” was in wide use. In the President’s February remarks to the Elkhart townhall-style meeting, this was the relevant passage:

Now, you may have heard some of the critics of our plan say it would create mostly government jobs.  That is not true.  Ninety percent — more than 90 percent of the jobs created under this recovery act will be in the private sector; more than 90 percent.  (Applause.)  But it’s not just the jobs that will benefit Indiana and the rest of America.  It’s the work people will be doing — rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our dams, our levees; roads like US 31 here in Indiana — (applause) — that Hoosiers can count on — that connects small towns and rural communities to opportunities for economic growth.  And I know that a new overpass downtown would make a big difference for businesses and families right here in Elkhart.  (Applause.)

President Obama spoke yesterday in Wakarusa, just south of Elkhart, at the Monaco Coach operations. It seems like transportation infrastructure has been demoted as a topic by the White House, but in fact, the President did mention it Wednesday. The comparable passage:

The last third of the Recovery Act — and that’s what we’re going to talk about here today — is for investments that are not only putting people back to work in the short term, but laying a new foundation for growth and prosperity in the long run.  These are the jobs of building the future of America:  upgrading our roads and our bridges; renovating schools and hospitals.  The Elkhart area has seen the benefits:  Dozens were employed to resurface the runway at Elkhart Airport; a four-mile stretch of highway is being upgraded on US-33; the Heart City Health Center has received recovery dollars to expand services and hire additional staff.

He used the word “infrastructure” twice: “This is about creating the infrastructure of innovation,” when referring to the battery grants, and, “[The] recovery plan began the process of reform by modernizing our health care infrastructure.”

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