WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama unveiled plans Monday
to spend at least 50 billion dollars to expand and renew US roads,
railways and airports, in a fresh bid to fire up sluggish economic
Obama, under intense pressure over November's mid-term congressional
elections, in which his Democrats fear heavy losses, was set to
formally make the announcement in a speech in Wisconsin, an official
The event, marking Labor Day, the traditional kick-off for US
election campaigns, heralds a week in which Obama also travels to
another struggling state, Ohio, and holds a press conference in a bid to
ease his political woes.
A White House official said that the "bold" infrastructure plan will
be front-loaded, target six years of investments and make significant
progress in the first year, in a bid to stimulate the sagging economy
and create jobs.
It appeared unlikely however that Obama could get the plan passed
through Congress before the mid-term elections, which are effectively a
referendum on Democratic economic management and a 9.6 percent
Opposition Republicans who slammed Obama's 800-billion-dollar
stimulus plan as a failure are also likely to hammer the proposed new
investment as another example of the government doling out taxpayer
dollars to little effect.
On Wednesday, in Cleveland, Ohio, Obama is expected to unveil
another plank of his revised economic strategy, a series of tax breaks
for small businesses worth 100 billion dollars.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Obama
plan unveiled Monday would front-load 50 billion dollars of investment
to jumpstart job creation.
The administration would work with Congress to offset the spending
in other areas, to ensure it does not further inflate the budget
deficit, the official said.
The plan, to be announced at the Milwaukee Laborfest, a union
gathering, also targets improvements to the US air traffic control
system, an acceleration of high-speed rail projects, and establishes an
"Infrastructure Bank" to coordinate federal funding and planning for
Critics have long complained that the US highway system is crumbling
and suffers from underinvestment, so Obama will target modernizations
which could quickly employ jobless workers while improving the US
The White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also
said Obama would propose making a major new investment in the rail and
transit system, including an overhaul of creaking Amtrak rolling stock.
The plan also envisages an overhaul of technology used in the
crowded US air traffic control system, including the use of satellite
surveillance, which it said could reduce travel delays and airport
On Saturday, Obama vowed to expand a prosperous middle class and help his compatriots achieve the American Dream.
"This Labor Day, we should recommit ourselves to our time-honored
values and to this fundamental truth: to heal our economy, we need more
than a healthy stock market; we need bustling main streets and a
growing, thriving middle class," he said in his weekly radio address.
The comments came after a new Labor Department report released
Friday showed the economy lost 54,000 jobs last month and the
unemployment rate edged up to 9.6 percent.
Although the job losses were much less than the 120,000 slump
expected by Wall Street economists, hiring was not substantial enough to
help millions of crisis-hit Americans to return to work.