Obama Plans Largest Building Program Since 1950s

December 8, 2008

As reported in Bloomberg

By Hans Nichols

Dec. 6 (Bloomberg) — President-elect Barack Obama said he’ll make the “single largest new investment” in roads, bridges and public buildings since the Eisenhower Administration to lift the sagging economy and create jobs.

Obama, in his weekly radio speech today, said his plan to create or preserve 2.5 million jobs will also include making public buildings more energy efficient, repairing schools and modernizing health care with electronic medical records.

“We won’t just throw money at the problem,” he said. “We’ll measure progress by the reforms we make and the results we achieve — by the jobs we create, by the energy we save, by whether America is more competitive in the world.”

Obama spoke a day after a government report showed employers in the U.S. slashed 533,000 jobs last month, the biggest decline in 34 years. The losses are “another painful reminder of the serious economic challenge our country is facing,” Obama said.

The speech offered the first details of Obama’s job- creation program. He said the investment in infrastructure will be the largest since President Dwight D. Eisenhower created the interstate highway system a half-century ago.

“When Congress reconvenes in January, I look forward to working with them to pass a plan immediately,” he said. Obama takes office as the 44th president on Jan. 20.

Congressional Democrats

With the economy heading toward the longest and deepest recession since World War II, pressure is rising for a spending program that will create new jobs. Congressional Democrats have said they will send Obama an economic stimulus package as soon as he takes office. New York Senator Charles Schumer late last month put the size of such a program at between $500 billion and $700 billion.

In addition to investing in infrastructure, requiring energy standards on public buildings and updating health-care practices, Obama said that he will start a “sweeping effort to modernize and upgrade school buildings” and will boost broadband access across America.

To the states that will be the conduits for the funding, he had a simple message: “use it or lose it.”

“If a state doesn’t act quickly to invest in roads and bridges in their communities, they’ll lose the money,” he said.

Obama’s plan to make public buildings more energy efficient should reduce the government’s energy bill, which he called the highest in the world. He plans to replace heating systems and install energy-efficient light bulbs.

Internet Upgrade

Obama also plans to upgrade Internet infrastructure, calling it “unacceptable that the United States ranks 15th in the world in broadband adoption.”

Upgrading health care is the final component of the plan. By introducing new technology and electronic medical records, he said health-care workers could “prevent medical mistakes, and help save billions of dollars each year.”

Obama, in Chicago for the weekend, has no public events scheduled for today. Tomorrow, he will mark the anniversary of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor with a news conference in Chicago, according to a statement from his transition team.

Obama will announce his choice to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs at the news conference, according to a Democratic aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Our Perspective:

President elect Obama is taking huge strides in turning the economy around. Instead of just throwing money at the problem he is investing in our future. This can be the start of something very special.

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