Today, President-elect Barack Obama announced a huge public works infrastructure program in order to start his economic recovery plan, just one day after the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the economy shed 533,000 jobs in November.
Obama’s plan is focused on transportation projects, school buildings, and “green” jobs, and will create millions of new opportunities to put Americans back to work. The federal government could make the single largest investment in public works projects, as the interstate highway system was developed in the 1950’s.
Obama declared the plan to be “the most sweeping effort to modernize and upgrade school buildings that this country has ever seen.” He also called for the connecting of schools and libraries to the Internet and the modernization of the nation’s health care system through technology.
At present, the unemployment rate in the United States is 6.5%. The President-elect is attempting to slow down the economy’s seeming free fall, and although his project does not include a price tag, it would easily require hundreds of billions of dollars of investment, making it another huge bill on top of the first $700 billion aid package, the bailout of Bear Stearns and AIG, and the billions of dollars that Congress is expected to eventually provide to the auto industry. All of these investments may not be enough to kick start the economy, as whole industries are slumping, including the retail sector, which may see its holiday sales season fall flat despite deep discounts offered by merchandisers. The country could see depression-like anxiety set in among consumers
“We need to act with the urgency this moment demands to save or create at least two and a half million jobs so that the nearly two million Americans who’ve lost them know that they have a future. And that’s exactly what I intend to do as President of the United States,” Obama said.
The report by analysts indicated half a million jobs were lost and it significantly raised the stakes for the Obama team. The U.S. is facing a recipe for disaster that the incoming administration is hoping to head off by pushing a large scale works program. While the members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National Governors have shown that there are already projects queued up that are only in need of funding, even those projects will require some time to get up and running. Hiring staff, while made easier by the downturn, will be a challenge to ramp up quickly.