Obama: ‘National bank, infrastructure vital’

Congress must act ‘right away’ on infrastructure spending, President Obama said, as he unveiled a $447bn job stimulus package yesterday.

President Obama Thursday outlined his vision for a long-discussed national infrastructure bank and sought to position infrastructure investment as an antidote for joblessness.

His speech, before a joint session of Congress, thinly betrayed a by-now well-established bipartisan contentiousness between the White House and Republican-controlled Congress.

“This isn’t about political grandstanding. This isn’t class warfare. This is simple math,” Obama said. “The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy”.

President Obama cited business, not the federal government, as the main ingredient for economic health, but said Capitol Hill “can help”.

“We can make a difference,” he said.

The proposed bank would be funded with $10 billion. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) a long-time proponent of creating a bank, applauded the speech.

“There is almost $200 billion in private capital sitting on the sidelines that could be invested in our infrastructure, but it will take this bank to unlock private investment,” a statement from Kerry read.

The Washington, D.C.-based Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure also praised Obama, but warned that evident bipartisan “red tape” would jeopardize creating a bank. Local government, the committee said, is better equipped to each run a bank on a state-by-state level.

In addition, the committee also pointed out that Obama, in proposing a bank, detailed just “one specific recommendation” for building infrastructure in the US.

Meanwhile, positive sentiment from the Republican Party for Obama, a Democrat, and his effort to strengthen the sagging US economy, has been lacking, while Congress, in turn, has been accused of obstructionism for its refusal to accept White House legislation. Yesterday, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), criticised Obama for his proposed infrastructure spending.

Inhofe, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, claimed that Obama has “talked more about infrastructure than any other President since Eisenhower proposed the interstate system, but he has done substantially less than any other President”.