This morning, President Obama held a meeting at the White House to press, again, for infrastructure investment. The time is right for massive infrastructure spending, the president said, because of the high rates of unemployment in construction and overwhelming need for the country to update its roads, railways, highways and airports.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood flanked the president — as did a bevy of mayors; Norman Mineta, a Democrat and George W. Bush’s transportation secretary; and Samuel Skinner, a Republican and George H.W. Bush’s transportation secretary.
“By making these investments across the country, we won’t just make our economy run better over the long haul,” the president argued, repeating a push he first made on Labor Day. “We’ll create good, middle-class jobs right now.” To back him up, the Council of Economic Advisers released (PDF) a new analysis of the White House’s $50 billion proposal, tied to a re-authorization of the surface transportation program and the creation of a new National Infrastructure Bank.
The public broadly supports such infrastructure spending. From the CEA report:
As a result of years of under-investment in our transportation system, Americans’ satisfaction with our public transit system, when compared to public satisfaction with public transit systems around the world, ranks 25th out of 32 OECD nations. While our nation has historically favored road building over public transit, we rank only 17th out of 32 — in the middle of the pack — with respect to our satisfaction with our roads and highways. The relatively higher satisfaction with roads and highways is consistent with the observation that our nation’s historic investment pattern favored highways and roads over public transit.
One study found that almost 19 out of 20 Americans are concerned about America’s infrastructure and 84 percent support greater investment to address infrastructure problems.
But Congress has proved intransigent. Republicans have repeatedly blocked any additional stimulus spending, no matter how many jobs it might create, citing concerns over the deficit. And Obama cannot create new investment — no matter how economically rational — without Congress.