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Obama Calls For $50 Bln. In Infrastructure Projects

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President Barack Obama on Monday called for a new $50 billion investment in the nation's infrastructure. The program, which would include roads, railways and airports, represents another effort to stimulate the economy and build on the country's economic recovery.

Obama, speaking at a labor gathering in Wisconsin, said the programs would represent long overdue work in a national infrastructure that has grown outdated and inefficient.

"We're talking roads. We're talking bridges. We're talking dams, levees," he said. "But we're also talking a smart electric grid that can bring clean energy to new areas."

He added, "We're talking about broadband Internet so that everybody is plugged in. We're talking about high-speed rail lines required to compete in a 21st century economy."

Obama said the new projects were designed to build upon the infrastructure programs already underway across the country as part of the $787 billion economic stimulus and recovery act, passed in the first months of his presidency.

"We're talking investments in tomorrow that are creating hundreds of thousands of private sector jobs right now," he said. "Because of these investments, and the tens of thousands of projects they spurred all across the country, the battered construction sector actually grew last month for the first time in a very long time."

He added, "It doesn't do anybody any good when so many hardworking Americans have been idled for months, even years, at a time when there is so much of America that needs rebuilding."

Obama said the goal of the bill was to, over the next six years, rebuild 150,000 miles of road, lay and maintain 4,000 miles of railways and restore 150 miles of runways while also upgrading the national air-traffic control system to reduce traveler delays.

Obama also pledged that the projects would be fully paid for and not add to the nation's long term deficits and reduce waste in procurements and project allocation to make sure taxpayers were getting the most for their dollars.

"This will not only create jobs immediately, it's also going to make our economy hum over the long haul," he said. "It's a plan that says even in the aftermath of the worst recession in our lifetimes, America can still shape our own destiny."

He added, "We can still move this country forward. We can still leave our children something better. We can still leave them something that lasts."

But with the November elections around the corner, Obama acknowledged that he might face opposition to ideas that in the past would have attracted broad support.

"When it comes to just about everything we've done to strengthen our middle class, to rebuild our economy, almost every Republican in Congress says no," Obama said. "Even on things we usually agree on, they say no. If I said the sky was blue, they say no. If I said fish live in the sea, they'd say no."

He added, "They just think it's better to score political points before an election than to solve problems."

Obama cited GOP opposition to the small business bill presently stalled in the Senate, Republican opposition to middle-class tax cuts, clean energy jobs, Wall Street reform and other Obama initiatives as evidence of Republican obstructionism.

"These guys, they just don't want to give up on that economic philosophy that they have been peddling for most of the last decade," he said. "They called it the ownership society, but what it really boiled down to was, if you couldn't find a job, you couldn't afford college, you were born poor, your insurance company dropped you even though your kid was sick, that you were on your own."

He added, "I'm bringing this up not because I'm trying to re-litigate the past. I'm bringing it up because I don't want to re-live the past."

Before a cheering audience, Obama cast the November elections as a stark contrast between Democrats who would move the country forward and Republicans who he said were stuck in reverse.

"Whenever times have seemed at their worst, Americans have been at their best. That's when we roll up our sleeves," he said. "That's when we remember we rise or fall together, as one nation and as one people."

He added, "I'm going to make this case across the country between now and November. And I am asking for your help. . . . We can strengthen our middle class and make this economy work for all Americans again and restore the American Dream and give it to our children and our grandchildren."

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