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Posted at 1:02 PM ET, 01/26/2011

U.S. Chamber praises Obama's call for infrastructure spending

By Greg Sargent

UPDATE, 2:34 p.m: A source tells me that Chamber president Tom Donohue and AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka are set to put out a joint statement in support of Obama's pitch for more infrastructure investment, which could draw a lot of attention, given the media's love for "strange bedfellows" stories.

UPDATE, 2:44 p.m.: Here's the joint Donohue-Trumka statement:

"America's working families and business community stand united in applauding President Obama's call to create jobs and grow our economy through investment in our nation's infrastructure.

"Whether it is building roads, bridges, high-speed broadband, energy systems and schools, these projects not only create jobs and demand for businesses, they are an investment in building the modern infrastructure our country needs to compete in a global economy.

"With the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO standing together to support job creation, we hope that Democrats and Republicans in Congress will also join together to build America's infrastructure."

********************************************************************

ORIGINAL POST:

Some Republicans and conservative commentators have had a grand old time mocking Obama's call for infrastructure "investment" in last night's speech as just more government spending, but now Obama's proposal has picked up the support of a staunch pro-business GOP ally: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

I asked the Chamber for comment on this part of Obama's speech, and the organization emailed over this statement from Janet Kavinoky, the Chamber's Vice President of Transportation Infrastructure:

"Public and private investment in the economic foundation of the United States is critical for our long-term economic prosperity. The Chamber's focus is on jobs. Long-term jobs that grow where infrastructure is strong. Countries that aspire to compete with the United States know that. It's why they are building transportation, energy, telecommunications and water infrastructure systems to support their economies.

"We appreciate that the President recognizes the importance of infrastructure investment, but this Administration needs to focus in on the areas of greatest need. The Chamber looks forward to seeing if the President's budget contains more specifics with regard to reforming Federal transportation programs for transparency, accountability and focus; and boosting public and private investment to highways, public transportation, modernization of the air traffic control systems, and maintenance and expansion of ports and inland waterways.

"Let's get specific about the plans for roads, waterways and ports; keeping regulations from getting in the way of the investments that could be made by our freight railroads; modernizing the air traffic control system including providing assistance to the nation's airlines to equip their fleets for a 21st century ATC system; and addressing traffic congestion chokepoints that are dragging down our economy."

That's a qualified endorsement, pending the specifics of Obama's proposal, and a clear endorsement of some of the basic underlying ideas Obama expressed yesterday.

What's striking is how broad the consensus is across the ideological spectrum in favor of more infrastructure investment. The Chamber's support for the idea actually echoes the language employed by one of the business group's leading foes on the left, the AFL-CIO, suggesting the possibility of a potent alliance between the two powerful groups on this issue. The union's president, Richard Trumka, put out a statement last night supporting the president's call to "rebuild our nation's schools, bridges, and highways and invest in high speed rail, a smart electrical grid, universal broadband and the green jobs of the future."

"We will join the President as partners to help build bipartisan support for a sustained and strategic investment in America's future," Trumka said.

The Chamber, meanwhile, is casting such investment in similar terms, insisting it's critical not just in terms of job creation, but also for our global competitiveness and "for our long-term economic prosperity." Having the nation's most powerful business group endorse infrastructure investment in such terms should seriously undercut the case of those who want to tar all such spending as a drag on our economy.

By Greg Sargent  | January 26, 2011; 1:02 PM ET
 
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Comments

More Debt, right?

Obama will AGREE with anyone if the result is MORE SPENDING.


.

Posted by: RainForestRising | January 26, 2011 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Investment, not stimulus, we got it. But no way the foreclosure crisis ends until the job crisis ends and vice versa. So if we are going to add to the deficit and we are, retail spending is the way to go, not more quantitative easing.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 26, 2011 1:13 PM | Report abuse

It looks to me as if the Chamber's priorities differ quite a bit from Trumka's...

Posted by: sbj3 | January 26, 2011 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Did Obama MENTION the secret money which the Chamber is supposedly taking - while all this was going on???


.

Posted by: RainForestRising | January 26, 2011 1:17 PM | Report abuse

sbj, of course they do, but there's obviously a good deal of overlap

Posted by: Greg Sargent | January 26, 2011 1:17 PM | Report abuse


Why don't you do a piece on the MADNESS OF ABERCROMBIE

WHAT is this guy doing?

I suppose there are these possibilities:


1) Is he really an idiot? Trying to help Obama, but sinking him?

2) For some reason, Abercrombie is working without Obama - a snub or something -

3) This is a conspiracy - to stir up the birthers and Obama really wants this story to be in the news

4) Obama is a spy for another country


5) Why is Abercrombie so convinced that the child he say he knew is really Obama?

Also, Abercrombie NOW says he remembers Obama as a 5 year old, playing t-ball. (first, the way Obama throws, that is IMPOSSIBLE)

However, Obama's father divorced - so Abercrombie probably would have seen the young Obama AFTER the divorce.

But when did Obama move to Indonesia???


Obama's mother supposedly moved to Washington State soon after Obama was born - so Abercrombie must have met Obama during visits to Hawaii or some other time.


There is something wrong here.


At this point, the HOSPITAL-GENERATED FORM WITH A DOCTOR'S SIGNATURE HAS TO BE PRODUCED

Otherwise, the country has to come to the conclusion THAT THERE IS NO EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT WHAT THE LIBERALS HAVE BEEN SAYING.


This issue has to be addressed.


.

Posted by: RainForestRising | January 26, 2011 1:17 PM | Report abuse

@shrink2 "Investment, not stimulus, we got it. But no way the foreclosure crisis ends until the job crisis ends and vice versa. So if we are going to add to the deficit and we are, retail spending is the way to go, not more quantitative easing. "

Agreed on the foreclosure crisis. Maybe I missed it, but I didn't read anything in the State of the Union speech about the foreclosure crisis. Obama's programs to date such as HAMP have been a failure, and my assessment is that the administration isn't going to do anything more because they believe that maintaining the financial health of the banks is more important than helping individual homeowners. "Pretend and extend" is a critical part of that strategy by buying the banks enough time so that the free money they are making off the arbitrage between money they are given by the Federal Reserve at 0% interest and then lend to the Treasury restores their balance sheets enough to be able to handle the forthcoming losses.

However, the recent dip in housing prices may reveal the shortsightedness of this versus dealing with it all at once through judicial modification, aka bankruptcy cramdown.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/25/AR2011012502271.html

Posted by: jnc4p | January 26, 2011 1:27 PM | Report abuse

The GOP likes to talk about how "you'd never run your household that way." And that's where they miss the point on infrastructure investment.

How many homeowners move in and then never paint the walls? Never remodel the kitchen? Never replace the carpet or the flooring? Never add on a sun room or finish the basement? Never landscape? Do you just use up all the value and never refresh it? If you go that route of never making improvements, what do you end up with after 20 or 30 years besides a pile of crumbling junk that no one wants to buy.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | January 26, 2011 1:31 PM | Report abuse

@suekzoo1 "The GOP likes to talk about how "you'd never run your household that way." And that's where they miss the point on infrastructure investment.

How many homeowners move in and then never paint the walls? Never remodel the kitchen? Never replace the carpet or the flooring? Never add on a sun room or finish the basement? Never landscape? Do you just use up all the value and never refresh it? If you go that route of never making improvements, what do you end up with after 20 or 30 years besides a pile of crumbling junk that no one wants to buy"

The obvious counterpoint to this is that while that is true, unfortunately the government has maxed out it's credit doing the equivalent of dining out every night, going on vacations, getting new clothes, etc. and that before any investment takes place the spending on consumption (i.e. entitlements) that is being financed by deficits & more debt needs to be addressed before the interest rates go up and dramatically increase the cost of all the borrowing, past, present & future.

Of course, the government not being a household has another option which is to print money and inflate the debt away. Which is probably what the end result will be.

Posted by: jnc4p | January 26, 2011 1:37 PM | Report abuse

jnc4 I agree with everything you said. No mention in the speech was astonishing (even though I predicted that, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised) given the data...the overhang at F&F some estimate at over $1.5 trillion, dwarfing TARP...talk about too big to fail.

Speaking of cramdown, I believe shoving all moral hazard down to the retail level is one of if not the most important, fateful mistake of the Obama administration. While they obsessed over the health of the banks, over a million homes were repossessed in 2010 with more than that in the pipeline for this year - and we all know what repos do to housing prices.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 26, 2011 1:39 PM | Report abuse

The construction projects do not work like "stimulus" like decades ago, when those projects instantly meant that thousands of unskilled laborers would immediately be employed.

Now, most of these projects - they set up a sign saying it is stimulus money, and one rarely sees a worker.


Posted by: RainForestRising | January 26, 2011 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Shrink

Last year, one million houses were foreclosed on

there are 8 million people behind on their payments now -


so the potential is 8 times what happened last year.


.

Posted by: RainForestRising | January 26, 2011 1:42 PM | Report abuse

jnc4p: "The obvious counterpoint to this is that while that is true, unfortunately the government has maxed out it's credit doing the equivalent of dining out every night, going on vacations, getting new clothes, etc. and that before any investment takes place the spending on consumption (i.e. entitlements) that is being financed by deficits & more debt needs to be addressed before the interest rates go up and dramatically increase the cost of all the borrowing, past, present & future."

Some of the deficit will take care of itself if we can get back to full employment. And yes, I understand that is going to take time. But in the meantime, we can't do nothing. Nor can we just wholesale cut government spending because that just exacerbates the unemployment picture.

And, our under-investing in infrastructure goes back decades. We are way behind the 8 ball.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | January 26, 2011 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Considering the Chamber was in full support of the stimulus in 2008 I'm not surprised they would support this investment in infrastructure spending.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | January 26, 2011 1:48 PM | Report abuse

shrink: "Speaking of cramdown, I believe shoving all moral hazard down to the retail level is one of if not the most important, fateful mistake of the Obama administration."

Yeah, me, too.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | January 26, 2011 1:50 PM | Report abuse

I meant infrastructure investment. ;)

Posted by: mikefromArlington | January 26, 2011 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Look at this new article on who did it...

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/26/business/economy/26inquiry.html?hpw

...so as those people like Orzag head off to eight figure "salaries" at Citi...and we see the dow over 12,000 again...and as homebuying data continue to tank even as the rate of foreclosure is still rising...we consider who pays.

There is no difference between the Ds and the Rs in this regard (nor in foreign policy, they only differ on values/cultural stuff as manifested by DADT, judge choices, etc., which is still important, obviously).

Posted by: shrink2 | January 26, 2011 1:58 PM | Report abuse

@suekzoo1

"Some of the deficit will take care of itself if we can get back to full employment. And yes, I understand that is going to take time. But in the meantime, we can't do nothing. Nor can we just wholesale cut government spending because that just exacerbates the unemployment picture. "

But here's the rub, what is the actual "full employment level"? I'd argue that the unemployment rates we had in the late 90's and the 2000's were unsustainable due to the fact that the economies that fueled them were primarily based on two bubbles, first the Internet/tech one and then the housing one.

A sustainable "full employment" level may look a lot closer to what it was in the mid-90's than to recent history. I.e. closer to 6 - 7% than 4 - 5%

I'm also not arguing that we do nothing regarding investing, but that not addressing entitlements and just tacking on more "investment" on top of it isn't viable. Again, my acid test is farm subsidies. There should be no easier target in the budget to eliminate and redirect to better use.

Posted by: jnc4p | January 26, 2011 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Wow, the Chamber really had to do some linguistic twisting to avoid endorsing high speed rail. What's their official position on HSR?

Posted by: aml_lewis | January 26, 2011 2:10 PM | Report abuse

The housing situation is a disaster that the Federal Government is willfully ignoring. I can think of two reasons for this:
(1) They created it.
(2) They are in bed with the banks.

Notice that I used the word "they". Not Democrats and not Republicans. the simple fact is that the government, under a variety of admins and congresses, meddled with our lives and we got hammered for it.

this is why I have such a difficult time with dogmatically blinkered liberals (not all are such I admit). Inevitably, when the government intervenes disaster for the citizens results. I see it every day. but for a large number of Americans the dismal track record of the government is no deterent to demanding ever more intervention. It makes little sense to me.

As for Mr Sargent's thin gruel it is laughable. "infrastructure investment" is Obama code for "this time we promise, we won't build bike paths and bail out spend thrift states."

Where, exactly has our gas tax money gone? Where did all the other taxes we've paid gone? If critical parts of our infrastructure are crumbling, what were the thieves in DC doing with our money for all these years?

the blinkered dogmatist will answer my question by railing on and on about "wars" and "tax cuts for the rich" but the fact remains, DC spent massively for years and years and we, apparently have little to show for it.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 26, 2011 2:17 PM | Report abuse

All, a new poll finds more support for cutting defense than cutting Social Security and education:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2011/01/americans_dont_really_want_to.html

Posted by: Greg Sargent | January 26, 2011 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Obamateur Referred to *Himself* a Whopping Sixty Times (60X/hour!) @ SOTU Pep Rally
http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2011/01/25/text-of-obamas-state-of-the-union-address/

β€œI” 55X
β€œme” 5X

*Textbook Narcissism*

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | January 26, 2011 2:59 PM | Report abuse

I believe the key, and uniting concept here, is "global competitiveness."

To me, one of the most interesting points that the President tried to make last night was the idea that China is ahead of us because they are a single-party state. There is no argument, no debate, no looking for common ground between different points of view in China. If they decide they want to build clean energy factories, they just do it.

I think President Obama was trying to get the point across that we are at a moment in history where we have to step up and prove that a democracy, where all voices can be heard, can be just as strong and progressive in the world as a single-party state like China.

"We do big things" means literally that we better start working together to catch up in the global economy...not just for the benefit of our citizens, but to be able to prove that democracy isn't an antiquated system that can't compete in the 21st century.

It was interesting point. I know there are many nuances that could be discussed, and the point may be a bit sweeping and simplistic, but I think there's truth in it. The new equivalent for the 21st century of the "space race" of the 1960's is whether U.S. democracy can keep up with the Chinese totalitarian regime....or whether political posturing and inter-party bickering is going to leave us in the dust. And we all know we're already getting a bit dusty.

Our new Sputnik moment is with China. If we don't find a way to work together, we all lose....the Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO, the bankers, the unions, everybody.

Posted by: elscott | January 26, 2011 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Just a few points of contention with elscott.

I note this with amusement:
===========
If they decide they want to build clean energy factories, they just do it.
===================

and, of course, if they decide to build coal fired electrical plants at an alarming rate those carbon spewing behemoths get built. Interesting choice of words on your part. And if the chinese chose to abort fetuses based on gender, well that's that efficient one party rule for ya.

then there is this:
================
We do big things" means literally that we better start working together to catch up in the global economy...
=================

Lofty words full of sound and fury and signifying nothing. In my experience the working definition of "working together" most liberals apply is "agree with our agenda or risk personal attacks" Just ask Joe the Plumber.

Finally this:
===================
or whether political posturing and inter-party bickering is going to leave us in the dust. And we all know we're already getting a bit dusty.
==================

Just a couple of points:
(1) We heard this fear mongering before when the Soviets, the Japanese and the Germans surged. Where are they now?
(2) You've arrived at the wrong diagnosis. It isn't inter party bickering that is holding us back. It is the abject failure of government run institutions, such as the education system, couple with a leftist inspired assault on the social institutions that lead to our earlier prosperity that is the root cause of our decline.

For me, the situation is simple: We're trying liberalism and it is failing us. It took decades for this failure to become so widespread that it can no longer be ignored. But we're facing failure now and the arguments should be about our future course. And an argument is exactly what we need and what we'll have.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 26, 2011 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Only way out is to Earn our way out.

Step by Step

When the
US Chamber of Commerce
and
Employees Unions are in unison that
is real good.

RESULT:
The Republicans are looking more and more reclusive and small.

Posted by: pdq5 | January 26, 2011 3:57 PM | Report abuse

skip, you're missing the point.

That was exactly what the President was saying -- that democracy is messy and we need to argue both sides, but to survive we have to learn to come together as a nation to compete.

Like many conservatives, you seem to be suffering from a condition called "short-memory-itis."

I find it amusing that you demonize liberalism after 2 years and then choose to ignore the 8 years of abject failure by the Bush administration in every single area you mention.

No Child Left Behind? -- failure
Bush Doctrine? -- failure
Squandering of huge surplus, replaced by record deficits after just 8 years? -- failure

Oh, and Joe the Plumber? Ummm...really now, skip -- is that your go-to guy in political discussions? I don't think anybody is bothering to ask Joe the Plumber anything these days. Thankfully, his 15 minutes of fame were over a long time ago.

Oh, and one more thing -- you mention the Soviets, the Japanese and the Germans. As I recall, we had Democratic presidents.....and yes, liberalism......presiding during the periods when we defeated the physical threats from those nations.....although I will give due credit to both Nixon and Reagan for helping mitigate the later industrial and technological surges by those nations in the global arena.

Sad thing is that in today's GOP, neither Nixon or Reagan would pass your party's "smell test."

Posted by: elscott | January 26, 2011 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Let's try it this way:

Repeating lofty words brings us no closer to a working definition of them. I continue to believe that "come together" means "move to the left" and I want no part of it.

It seems to me that what Obama is really saying is this: no matter what the voters wanted, liberalism will still get something and we'll still continue to march toward a socialist state. That's what "come together" means to me.

What does it mean to you?

I'm not demonizing liberalism based on Obama's failures. I'm decrying it based on a lifetime of observation. I was politically aware when LBJ got his great society transfer payment programs. Now I look around me and I see the dismal failure that this approach created.

How about another great liberal agenda item: feminism. Are you old enough to remember "a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle"? I am. NOt content with addressing the issue of rigid gender based roles, the liberals sought to destroy the nuclear family. Nice work guys. Tiger moms anyone? Yeah, right.

that's what I'm pointing to. It took decades for the rot to set in, but here it is.

yes, Joe the Plumber is my go to guy. Why? Because the behavior of the liberals in the wake of his encounter with candidate Obama is a perfect illustration of how the left relies on personal attacks to quell any opposition to their agenda. you may not like it, but you must own it. Your side did it and does it to this day.

And I'm not ignoring the Bush years. Talk about short term memory loss. Let's focus on how the liberals view the election results of 06. To the left this was a triumph of liberalism. but the reality is very different. Conservatives, disgusted with the Republicans, unwisely withdrew their support. We taxpayers are between a rock and a hard place. Either we continue to support spendthrift Republicans, or we surrender ourselves to the true thieves in DC, the Democrats. Notice how spending skyrocketed after the Democrats gained majorities. Funny how you lefties never seem to remember that.

more in a moment

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 26, 2011 4:30 PM | Report abuse

It matters not who was in the white house when. My point is only that the reality of these other economies never lived up to their billing.

When Japan bought Rockefeller center America was aghast. The fact that they paid too much for it and the fact that they really had little to spend on domestically never entered the discussion. the soviets subcumbed. the Germans let socialism stall them. The japanese relied on misguided keynesianism to create a lost decade and we're still standing.

China looks formidable, but as the saying goes there is many a slip twixt the cup and the lip. We'll see. I wonder how china will fare when the gender abortion chickens come home to roost. The lack of women in the country should make for some interesting dynamics. Further, the current leaders are corrupt absolutists. It is my experience that such regimes don't always experience a smooth transfer of power as the old dogs die off.

so in sum, this is how I see it. Obama and the left are using fear mongering about global competition to maintain their seat at the table. If we don't buy the global threat, and in large measure I don't, then we can readily discount the lofty platitudes and ignore the liberal agenda going forward.

I note you said nothing about the failure of our socialized school system. It is a text book example of the failure of central planning.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 26, 2011 4:41 PM | Report abuse

skip, it's clear to me that you are an intelligent and thoughtful person.

But we aren't going to agree on much because I believe that you are not willing to accept certain facts. Let's just take a couple of examples.

If you carefully read the statement from the Chamber of Commerce, you will see that they are the ones stressing global competitiveness, so I don't see how that aligns with your accusations of the lefties using fear mongering.

And I think it's hard to dispute that President Obama has consistently moved to the center over the past 2 years. He's in hot water with much of the progressive wing of his party because of it. We are so far from moving toward socialism in this country that even the socialists recognize that fact.

As to the way people like Joe the Plumber were treated, I can't believe you can say that with a straight face....or maybe a straight keyboard. President Obama never made the kind of ugly and vicious accusations against the character of either John McCain or Sarah Palin that they made against him....especially, of course, Ms. Palin. That's simply a matter of public record.

No, I am probably not as old as you are, but I do know that the one friend of mine from high school who has the most stable and long-term relationship (besides me and my husband) is my gay friend who has been committed to, and is now married to, his partner of almost 20 years.

Now, if you will excuse me, I am one liberal who needs to go get dinner started for my very healthy and strong nuclear family.

Posted by: elscott | January 26, 2011 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Glad I am to hear that you have a stable family. We need more of that. One gay man does not a trend make.

I still contend that liberals rely on personal attack. Joe the plumber is my example and I'll continue to use it. Pointing to what you think are attacks by others is hardly a defense for the actions of the liberals. If they were wrong they were wrong. Are you saying that two wrongs make a right?

Yes, the chamber stresses global competitiveness, but they aren't demanding compromise with the liberal agenda as a response to it. That's my point. The play is clear, I'm just pointing it out.

Besides, what's wrong with global prosperity anyway? I should that liberals would be delighted that India's economy is surging. It is unfortunate for the liberal movement that the Indians are achieving these results by removing government imposed barriers to prosperity that were imposed when the country installed socialism. Milton Friedman's "Free to Chose" explains how this happened.

India is abandonning what used to be called "the paper work Raj" just as America is installing it.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 26, 2011 5:31 PM | Report abuse

The Chamber of Commerce supports job creation. Funny how you interpreted it as an endorsement for Obama's policies. You're predictable, Sargent.

Posted by: bethg1841 | January 26, 2011 7:12 PM | Report abuse


Mortgage rates are historically low you can easily refinance these days your mortgage to 3%. It is the best way to save money. Search online for "123 mortgage refinance" they did 3.54% refinance and free analysis of my current mortgage

Posted by: hintonlois | January 27, 2011 4:38 AM | Report abuse

The Engine of Economic Growth in this 21st century is 'Broadband.' We can start by Deployment of a pure Packet-based all Optical/IP, Multi-Service National TRANSPORT Network Infrastructure, using Optical Ethernet throughout this National 'Network of Networks.' This will Connect all Optical Islands, Nationwide.

THE INVESTMENT IN THIS NATIONAL 'NETWORK OF NETWORKS', IN ADDITION TO NEW JOBS CREATION AND ECONOMIC RECOVERY,and also Serve as a Business Driver for; Healthcare IT, Broadband, Smart Transportation Systems, and Smart Grids, LAW ENFORCEMENT NATIONAL NETWORK, e-GOVERNMENT, e-COMMERCE, e-EDUCATION
social networking, entertainment, bio-surveillance, etc.

please see;

www.21stcenturyinfrastructure.blogspot.com
www.globalhealthcarenetwork.blogspot.com
www.globalhealthcareservices.blogspot.com
www.gkquoquoi.blogspot.com

Gadema K. Quoquoi
President & CEO
COMPULINE INTERNATIONAL, INC.

Posted by: gadema | January 27, 2011 12:34 PM | Report abuse

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