Obama kicks off mid-term election strategy with infrastructure plan

16:44, September 08, 2010      

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US President Barack Obama announced on Monday, September 6,the multibillion-dollar infrastructure spending program at an event in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, marking the Labor Day holiday in the United States, with the mid-term election in November for control of Congress approaching and pressure from recession-wary voters mounting.

The proposal calls for investment over the next six years, including rebuilding and modernizing 150,000 miles (241,350 kilometers) of roads, 4,000 miles (6,430 kilometers) of railways and 150 miles (241 kilometers) of airport runways. Meanwhile, the Federal Government will also set up the government-managed "infrastructure bank" and provide direct loans or loan guarantees to the state and local governments in the form of low-interest loans or in the form of grants for infrastructure.

This proposal is among an array of targeted initiatives that Obama will outline on Wednesday in an effort to buoy the U.S. economic recovery and long-term growth. The plan builds upon the infrastructure investments that the Obama administration has already made through in the Recovery Act.

U.S. unemployment rate has risen to 9.6 percent from 9.5 percent, reflecting or giving expression to the business reluctance to hire amid uncertain economic prospects, according to relevant statistics released by the Labor Department recently, and the growing unemployment rate will land the Democrats in a passive, unfavorable position in the incoming mid-term election and Obama is facing an increasing pressure.

The first Monday in September (Sept. 6 in 2010) is Labor Day, a federal holiday in the United States, which also marks the beginning of the election campaign season. President Obama took a public stance for infrastructure plan to help create the momentum for the Democratic Party.

The new plan represents part of a suspending or unsettled U.S. transportation act in Congress. As the Transportation Act expired in 2009, construction funds of transportation items now have to rely on Congress's temporary allocations. President Obama appealed to Congress to pass a six-year Transportation Act, but he did not elaborate the total sum for this act. Analysts acknowledge that the Transportation Act, which expired in 2009, is merely to be re-examined, and its "price tag" for the next six years could reach as high as 350 billion US dollars, provided the factor for inflation is taken into account

President Obama has come out this time with an initiate cost of 50 billion US dollars for the infrastructure construction to be listed separately, in a hope that Congress will approve it as soon as possible, so as to produce the effect of stimulating the murky economy and creating more job opportunities.

The core of Obama's new plan is to set up the "infrastructure bank". This idea, which has in existence in the U.S. for years, is arousing interest within the strata of American policy-makers. State and local officials, including California Governor Arnold A. Schwarzenegger and New York Mayor Michael Bulongboge, all insist that setting up this kind of bank is to make priority choices and attract the private capital, and will be decided by experts on the investment in projects of vital importance to local and state economy, and this is more effective than what members of Congress working to raise the money providing services to constituencies.

But the notion of a government-run bank – indeed, a government-run anything –is bound to prove contentious during an election year in which voters are furious over the bank bailouts and over what many perceive as President Obama pursuing a big government agenda, says a "New York Times" article. Even before the announcement Monday, Republicans were expressing caution.

An incessant increasing financial deficit poses a major concern to American voters at present. Obama indicated that the new plan will not add financial burdens, and that the source of funds derives from the sum of tax preference items for oil and natural gas companies that would be canceled. This tentative idea of his has met with immediate opposition from the Republican Party.

At the same time, economists in the United States have also taken a skeptical attitude to the effect of President Obama's plan. No matter whatever measures they resort to nowadays, they could not bring changes to the immense American economy, predict the U.S. economists, whereas the investment in infrastructure development is all the more unlikely to bring an immediate effect.

By People's Daily Online and its author is PD resident reporter in the U.S. Ma Xiaoning


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