Rendell: Create jobs with infrastructure spending

Two days after the US unemployment rate hit double-digits for the first time since the early 1980s, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell said the president should create jobs through increased infrastructure spending rather than a second stimulus package. He also gave the president ‘a solid B’ on his handling of the economy.

As the US unemployment rate reached 10.2 percent, the highest level since the early 1980s, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell urged President Obama to stimulate the economy by creating construction and manufacturing jobs related to infrastructure.

Rendell: create jobs through
infrastructure spending

Speaking on Meet the Press, a Sunday morning public affairs program, Rendell said “we should focus on the economy” when asked whether President Obama has “taken on too much” in his public policy agenda. This includes a healthcare overhaul, deciding whether to send more troops to Afghanistan, reforming the financial system and other pressing issues that have overshadowed the debate over the reauthorisation of the US’ transportation spending bill.

“But if you say focus on the economy,” asked Meet the Press moderator David Gregory, “does that mean you think he should avoid taking on some other issues?”

“I think we should emphasise infrastructure through a speeded-up transportation bill.  Infrastructure produces construction jobs, manufacturing jobs.  That's exactly what this country needs,” Rendell responded.

Infrastructure produces construction jobs, manufacturing jobs. That's exactly what this country needs

Ed Rendell

As the US’ old transportation spending bill expired on 30 September, US Congress moved to pass a one-month extension for its authority and in October again extended it through 18 December. The new transportation bill's progress through legislative chambers has been slowed by the ongoing healthcare debate in the US, as well as disagrement between the two side of Congress – the House of Representatives and the Senate – on some technical aspects of the bill.

Rendell urged passage of the bill and added that it should be “front-loaded”, or given hefty spending power in the near term. Doing so could serve as a second stimulus for the economy, he added: “Should there be a second stimulus?  I don't think we need a second stimulus.  I would like to see our transportation infrastructure spending, which is the best job producer, I would like to see that front-loaded and start in January or February of [next] year,” Rendell said.

Rendell maintained, though, that the $787 billion stimulus package signed into law by President Obama in February is beginning to work. And when asked to grade President Obama’s record on the economy, Rendell said, “I’d give him a solid B because of the stimulus”.

I don't think we need a second stimulus

Ed Rendell

Rendell made the comments while reflecting on the results on last Tuesday’s election, in which Democrats lost gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia to Republican opponents. Looking toward the Congressional elections in 2010, Rendell, himself a Democrat, said jobs would be the key indicator of how his party will fare.

“Before you make any conclusions about 2010, tell me what the job picture is going to be.  If the job picture turns over the last spring or summer, I think 2010's going to be a wholly different result,” Rendell said.

Rendell is the co-chair and founding member of Building America’s Future – an infrastructure policy advocacy organisation based in Washington DC. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger co-founded the organisation with Rendell.