Kate Hinds is an Associate Producer for WNYC News. She also reports for WNYC and Transportation Nation, a public radio reporting project that combines the work of multiple newsrooms to provide coverage of how we build, rebuild and get around the nation.
Shovel-Ready Projects? Obama Admits There's No Such Thing
Wednesday, October 13, 2010 - 05:12 PM
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) In the upcoming New York Times Sunday Magazine, journalist Peter Baker's profile of President Obama, "Education of a President," includes this quote:
"There’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects."
No real surprise, as the president has already been saying watered-down versions of this, like the 2009 comment: "The term 'shovel-ready' — let's be honest, it doesn't always live up to its billing." But it's a hard lesson to publicly learn a month before an election which might lose your party the majority.
His full quote, which the paper includes in an online transcript of the interview, reads: "Infrastructure has the benefit of for every dollar you spend on infrastructure, you get a dollar and a half in stimulus because there are ripple effects from building roads or bridges or sewer lines. But the problem is, is that spending it out takes a long time, because there’s really nothing — there’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects."
With this week's announcement of the president's hope for a six-year transportation plan (itself a more refined version of last month's $50 billion infrastructure announcement), it's clear that he's trying to take the long view and win bipartisan support. "I think we have to have infrastructure that keeps up with the demands of the 21st century," he says in the New York Times transcript. "We can’t have a China that has the best airports, the best railways, the best roads, and we are still relying on infrastructure that was built 200 years ago or 100 years ago or even 50 years ago when it comes to things like broadband lines." Not to mention frame it as financially sound and historically popular. "Investing in our infrastructure is something that members of both political parties have always supported," he pointed out on Monday.
It's clear he's trying to implement one of the lessons learned in the first two years of his presidency, at least according to Baker's article: "You can't be neglecting of marketing and P.R. and public opinion."