WASHINGTON, Sept. 6 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama Monday proposed a massive new public works program to create jobs.
Speaking to an audience at Laborfest in Milwaukee, Obama said, "I am announcing a new plan for rebuilding and modernizing America's roads, rails and runways for the long-term."
Though the president did not mention a price tag, published reports have placed it at $50 billion.
"Over the next six years, we are going to rebuild 150,000 miles of our roads -- enough to circle the world six times," Obama said. "We're going to lay and maintain 4,000 miles of our railways -- enough to stretch coast-to-coast. We're going to restore 150 miles of runways and advance a next generation air-traffic control system to reduce travel time and delays for American travelers -- something I think folks across the political spectrum could agree on."
Obama said the plan would "be fully paid for and will not add to the deficit over time -- we're going to work with Congress to see to that. It sets up an Infrastructure Bank to leverage federal dollars and focus on the smartest investments. It will continue our strategy to build a national high-speed rail network that reduces congestion, travel times and harmful emissions. It will cut waste and bureaucracy by consolidating and collapsing more than 100 different, often (duplicate) programs. And it will change the way Washington spends your tax dollars; reforming the haphazard and patchwork way we fund and maintain our infrastructure to focus less on wasteful earmarks and outdated formulas, and more on competition and innovation that gives us the best bang for the buck."
In a transcript provided by the White House, the president said, "All of this will not only create jobs now, but will make our economy run better over the long haul. It's a plan that history tells us can and should attract bipartisan support. It's a plan that says even in the still-smoldering aftermath of the worst recession in our lifetimes, America can act to shape our own destiny, to move this country forward, to leave our children something better -- something lasting."
Obama said two years ago during the presidential campaign, "we talked about how, for years, the values of hard work and responsibility that built this country had been given short shrift, and how that was slowly hollowing out our middle class. About how some on Wall Street took reckless risks and cut corners to turn huge profits while working Americans were fighting harder and harder just to stay afloat. And about how the decks were too often stacked in favor of the special interests and against working Americans.
"What we knew, even then, was that these years would be some of the most difficult in our history. And then, two weeks later, the bottom fell out of the economy. Middle-class families suddenly found themselves swept up in the worst recession in our lifetimes. ... The problems facing working families are nothing new. But they are more serious than ever. And that makes our cause more urgent than ever. For generations, it was the great American middle class that made our economy the envy of the world. It's got to be that way again."
The president said congressional Republicans had fought every effort to help strengthen the middle class -- "To steal a line from our old friend, Ted Kennedy: What is it about working men and women that they find so offensive?"
Obama faces a troubling economic report and the toll the recession has taken on U.S. workers, both local and national.
Obama's address in Milwaukee is the first of two speeches this week in which he will present his administration's response to the recession. On Wednesday, he will deliver an economic speech in Cleveland.