Obama launches $50 billion infrastructure plan

By Arun Kumar,IANS,

Washington : US President Barack Obama kicked off his embattled Democratic party’s election campaign by announcing a $50 billion plan to create jobs and boost economic growth by modernising roads, railways and airport runways.

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“Today, I am announcing a new plan for rebuilding and modernising America’s roads, and rails and runways for the long term,” he said in a Labour Day speech Monday in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, two months ahead of November elections in which poll watchers suggest Democrats could lose their control of the Congress.

“We used to have the best infrastructure in the world. We can have it again,” he said to loud cheers from a crowd of union workers.

The proposal envisions, over a six year period, rebuilding 150,000 miles of roads, 4,000 miles of rail and 150 miles of airport runways. It also would include modernising America’s air traffic control system in an effort to reduce delays and travel time.

“This will not only create jobs immediately. It’s also going to make our economy hum over the long haul,” said Obama.

“Now, the plain truth is, there’s no silver bullet or quick fix to the problem,” he cautioned. But “I’m going to keep fighting, every single day, to turn this economy around; to put our people back to work; to renew the American dream for your families and for future generations.”

Obama is expected to announce Wednesday in hard-hit Cleveland, Ohio, another $100 billion plan to permanently extend the tax credit for research and development, hoping to spur companies to invest in their businesses by buying more equipment and hiring more workers.

The president stressed the need for Democrats and Republicans to work together on the transportation initiative, which would need to be approved by Congress.

Even before Obama’s speech, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized the plan and said Americans do not want to pay want higher taxes.

“A last-minute, cobbled-together stimulus bill with more than $50 billion in new tax hikes will not reverse the complete lack of confidence Americans have in Washington Democrats’ ability to help this economy,” he said in a statement.

But even if the two parties come together Congress is unlikely to pass either proposal in the narrow legislative window as lawmakers return from recess next week only to leave Washington for midterm elections in less than a month.