President-elect Barack Obama talked in his Saturday radio/web address about the bold national-infrastructure initiative he will send to the new Congress as soon as it convenes next month. It's a plan that the new president believes will boost the economy, provide millions of new jobs during the current recession, while also making tangible repairs and improvements to the country's roads, bridges and schools.
Obama's plan will be the biggest public-works effort since the Interstate highway system was built in the 1950s and it's the kind of ambitious leadership he promised when running for president.
Here's a reminder of what the president-elect said on Saturday:
And Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) took to the Senate floor on Monday to immediately support Obama's initiative.
Today, I am announcing a few key parts of my plan. First, we will launch a massive effort to make public buildings more energy-efficient. Our government now pays the highest energy bill in the world. We need to change that. We need to upgrade our federal buildings by replacing old heating systems and installing efficient light bulbs. That won't just save you, the American taxpayer, billions of dollars each year. It will put people back to work.
Second, we will create millions of jobs by making the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s. We'll invest your precious tax dollars in new and smarter ways, and we'll set a simple rule -- use it or lose it. If a state doesn't act quickly to invest in roads and bridges in their communities, they'll lose the money.
Third, my economic recovery plan will launch the most sweeping effort to modernize and upgrade school buildings that this country has ever seen. We will repair broken schools, make them energy-efficient, and put new computers in our classrooms. Because to help our children compete in a 21st century economy, we need to send them to 21st century schools.
"I believe it's very important to do as President-elect Obama has suggested... You need to invest to try to get the economy moving again," said Dorgan. "And it makes a lot of sense to me to invest in the kinds of things that can produce an asset for the future. We should build roads and bridges and repair infrastructure and schools and libraries and water projects -- the kinds of things that invest in this country's future."
"Because all of that puts American people back to work."
Of course, Obama will get support from Congressional Democrats -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling for up to $500 billion for the package -- and the nation's Governors have expressed rabid enthusiasm at the thought of billions in federal dollars finding its way into their cash-strapped states.
And we also know that after years of supporting hundreds of billions of dollars on George W. Bush's war for nothing in Iraq, the Republican party will balk at anything that will actually help the American people and fall back on their old stand-by of tax cuts for the wealthy trickling down to the little people.
"Anyone who has talked to the American people knows that while they are hurting, they don't believe that more Washington spending is the answer," said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner.
But Obama is talking about big stuff here -- calling it "unacceptable" that the U.S. ranks 15th in the world in high-speed-Internet adoption -- and saying that to be competitive he wants every school and library in every state equally wired and connected.
"Every child should have the chance to get online and they'll get that chance when I'm President," said Obama. "Because that's how we'll strengthen America's competitiveness in the world."
The new Congress starts on January 6th and, while you could argue that Democrats still need some degree of across-the-aisle cooperation to get Obama's plan enacted, a whole bunch of these Republicans need to get reelected in just two short years -- and is this really the kind of Roosevelt-like plan they want to oppose and explain to voters in 2010?
I bet not.
You can read more from Bob at BobGeiger.com.