Tag: laborfest

Infrastructure Plan and Manufacturing: Details, Please

In his speech to organized labor Monday in Milwaukee, President Obama provided a brief outline of a proposal to increase federal investment in transportation infrastructure.

The National Association of Manufacturers’ policy guide and call to action, the “Manufacturing Strategy for Jobs and a Competitive America,” placed federal investment in infrastructure high on the NAM’s list of policy priorities (see the extended entry below), so we were anxious to find out more about the President’s plan.

A frustrating search…

WhiteHouse.gov posted “Renewing and Expanding America’s Roads, Railways, and Runways,” a 2-1/2 page “fact sheet” that served as talking points.

The document raised many questions, answered few. For example, in the proleptic bullet points about “tangible accomplishments,” there was this: “ROADS: Rebuild 150,000 miles of roads – renewing our commitment to the backbone of our transportation system…”

“Rebuild” is often used as a code word, telling environmental groups that no dollars will spent on new construction or additional capacity.  New roads to ease congestion and improve the efficiency of freight transportation by trucks? Not in the plans. Maybe that wasn’t the intention, but given the paucity of information, it’s a reasonable conclusion to draw.

Then, following the bullet point about the $50 billion in “upfront investment” came this paragraph:

A vision for the future. The President proposes to pair this with a long-term framework to reform and expand our nation’s investment in transportation infrastructure. Since the end of last year, when the last long-term surface transportation legislation expired, these investments have been continued on a temporary basis, even as the trust fund to finance them has fallen into insolvency. If we are to enjoy the benefits that come from a worldclass transportation system, Congress must enact a long-term reauthorization that expands and reforms our infrastructure investments and returns the transportation trust fund to solvency.

This is a good idea, a definite priority, finally getting to Congressional reauthorization of federal surface transportation programs. The last  “highway bill” — SAFETEA-LU — expired on Sept. 30, 2009, and Congress has only managed to enact temporary extensions since. A six-year reauthorization as the President mentioned would provide certainty for planning and funding purposes.

So we look for details. The Department of Transportation or the Federal Highway Administration (FHwA) would surely have more details about the Administration proposed re-authorization, one might think.

Not that we can find. The FHwA site prominently promotes infrastructure projects paid for by last year’s stimulus bill, but there’s no reference to the President’s plan.

As for www.dot.gov, there’s nothing on the home page. The only mention we find of the President’s “historic announcement”  comes in Transportation Secretary LaHood’s Fast Lane blog, a post from Tuesday, “President proposes new jobs, renewed infrastructure.” But the post is just a reaffirmation of the President’s basic argument, providing no additional detail. Secretary LaHood concludes, “New jobs, renewed infrastructure, and a new model for transportation investments–it sounds like a lot of work to me. And I, for one, am ready.”

No doubt. But without a substantive proposal — at the very least, a document that lays out a more detailed plan for a six-year reauthorization — Congress and backers of robust infrastructure investment have nothing to rally to. What are we being asked to support?

It’s as if the proposal were designed not for policy, but for politics.

(continue reading…)

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More Details, Such as They Are, on President’s Infrastructure Plan

We looked for background material this morning to accompany the President’s speech at the AFL-CIO’s Laborfest in Milwaukee, where he announced and briefly discussed a proposal to spend $50 billion on infrastructure. There’s a little, here and there.

A transcript of the President’s speech is here.

There’s a two-and-a-half page summary sheet, available via a blog post by the vice president’s economic adviser, Jared Bernstein, entitled, “Let’s Stop Torturing Facts and Start Working Together.” (How’s that for extending hand of cooperation?)

Excerpt from fact sheet:

This plan would build on the investments we have already made under the Recovery Act, create jobs for American workers to strengthen our economy now, and increase our nation’s growth and productivity in the future. At the same time, the plan would reform the way America currently invests in transportation, changing our focus to enhancing competition, innovation, performance, and real analysis that gets taxpayers the best bang for the buck, while moving away from the earmarks and formula debates of the past. In prior years, transportation infrastructure was an issue that both parties worked on together, and the Administration hopes the same can be true now.

Some of the tangible accomplishments of the President’s plan over the next six years include:

  • ROADS: Rebuild 150,000 miles of roads – renewing our commitment to the backbone of our transportation system;
  • RAILWAYS: Construct and maintain 4,000 miles of rail – enough to go coast-to-coast;
  • RUNWAYS: Rehabilitate or reconstruct 150 miles of runway – while putting in place a NextGen system that will reduce travel time and delays.

Note to White House writers: Prolepsis notwithstanding, it’s not a “tangible accomplishment” until it actually happens.

At the Department of Transportation’s website, we don’t find any additional information on the President’s proposal. (Searched at 7:37 a.m., Tuesday.) There’s a Distracted Driving Summit coming up, through.

Senior White House advisers on Monday briefed reporters on the proposal. From Politico, “President Obama unveils $50 billion road, rail plan“:

Senior administration officials, in a conference call with reporters Monday morning, would not say whether they would push Congress to pass a bill before the end of 2010.

“These types of reauthorizations have always been a substantial undertaking,” one official said. “This one is particularly ambitious because of the front loading and the set of reforms.”

Under the best-case scenario, however, jobs would be created in 2011, the official said. “This is not an … immediate jobs plan. This is a six-year reauthorization that’s front-loaded,” according to the senior administration official. “We’re not trying to put out an idea today that in October 2010 will be creating jobs.”

Oh. But the surface transportation authorization expired on Sept. 30, 2009. As the National Governors Association summarized:

Comprehensive federal laws and regulations that guide national surface transportation policies and programs expired in September 2009. While the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (P.L. 111-5) provided one-time funding for highway and transit infrastructure spending, Congress has not passed a long-term authorization.

The National Association of Manufacturers regards investment in infrastructure as a central responsibility of the federal government and a competitive imperative, as covered in our NAM ManuFact. The economic value of investing  in infrastructure was a central thrust of the Milken Institute study the NAM released in January, 2010, “Jobs for America: Investments and policies for economic growth and competitiveness,” and the NAM prominently cites the need for infrastructure investment in our policy guide and call to action, “Manufacturing Strategy for Jobs and a Competitive America.”

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Today, It’s an Infrastructure Proposal from the President

President Obama will promote infrastructure spending in his speech today at the annual Laborfest in Milwaukee. It’s taxes on Wednesday in Cleveland. But today …

New York Times, “Obama to Call for $50 Billion Spending on Public Works“:

WASHINGTON – President Obama on Monday is to call for as much as $50 billion in government spending to start up a long-term public works plan emphasizing transportation projects – roads, rail and airport runways – over the next six years. …

While Mr. Obama’s plan would call for investment over six years, the White House says it would be front-loaded with an initial investment of $50 billion in taxpayer money, to help create jobs in the shorter term. The administration says it would work with Congress to find ways to pay for the plan, so that it would not add to the nation’s rising deficit. One possibility would be to cut existing subsidies for oil and gas exploration and production.

Perhaps anticipating the announcement, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers released a statement from its president, Dennis Slater, this morning. From “America’s Manufacturers Need More to Celebrate This Labor Day“:

Jobs and the economy are popular topics in Washington right now, and many are talking about investing in America’s infrastructure as an important first step.  But almost nobody is addressing the elephant in the room:  America needs a fully-funded, multi-year transportation bill, and we need it now.  There are few, if any, better drivers of economic growth and job creation than infrastructure investment, and it can’t be done piecemeal.  We need a strategic vision for modernizing our country’s infrastructure, and leaders with the courage to make it happen.  That’s what will build America’s manufacturing sector and our economy, and bring lasting benefits to America for generations to come.

Verily. The surface transportation bill expired on Sept. 30, 2009, and since then the federal highway spending has been reauthorized several times on a short-term basis. The President’s renewed focus on infrastructure is welcome: Perhaps he will include  a demand that Congress reauthorize the highway bill before it leaves to campaign. (We’d love to hear something like: “Jobs are the priority, and so I urge Congress to drop extraneous, partisan and divisive legislative proposals from its agenda. This is no time for such destructive distractions as the DISCLOSE Act.”)

The National Association of Manufacturers has long identified transportation infrastructure as a competitive imperative, well summarized in our NAM ManuFact. The economic value of investing  in infrastructure was a central thrust of the Milken Institute study the NAM released in January, 2010, “Jobs for America: Investments and policies for economic growth and competitiveness,” and the NAM prominently cites the need for infrastructure investment in our policy guide and call to action, “Manufacturing Strategy for Jobs and a Competitive America.”

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Patriotism, AFL-CIO’s Trumka and Samuel Johnson

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, “Making Patriotic Choices To Save The Economy“:

It’s time for all Americans to remember that patriotism is about more than fighting abroad. It’s also about fighting for ourselves, our neighbors and our communities here in the United States. It’s time for economic patriotism.

Trumka came out with his “economic patriotism” rhetoric in time for Labor Day and the fall elections. Judging by his column, it’s just another, more invidious slogan to accompany the rest of the usual slogans.

Samuel Johnson had smart observations on the topic in “The Patriot,” his 1774 essay directed to the electors of England.

A man sometimes starts up a patriot, only by disseminating discontent, and propagating reports of secret influence, of dangerous counsels, of violated rights, and encroaching usurpation.

This practice is no certain note of patriotism. To instigate the populace with rage beyond the provocation, is to suspend publick happiness, if not to destroy it. He is no lover of his country, that unnecessarily disturbs its peace. Few errours and few faults of government, can justify an appeal to the rabble; who ought not to judge of what they cannot understand, and whose opinions are not propagated by reason, but caught by contagion.

Just saying …

President Obama appears with Trumka next Monday at the annual Laborfest in Milwaukee. Will the President, too, embrace this rhetoric of “economic patriotism?”

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