Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
"One of the interesting things about the Recovery Act was most of the projects came in under budget, faster than expected, because there's just not a lot of work there."
"Obama makes a valid point about this being a good time to get deals on infrastructure projects. The recession has created desperate workers willing to work cheaper, and the cost of materials is still relatively low. Obama's point that this was borne out by the stimulus projects is on target. But he stretched the facts -- at least what is actually known -- when he claimed most projects have come in under budget and faster than expected. And so we rate his claim Half True."
But whether the work is done faster and cheaper than expected, that may not address the concerns of many Americans: did it create enough jobs? For Obama's thoughts on that, continue reading.
Here's more of President Obama's interview with Steve Kroft:
"We've got a couple of trillion dollars worth of infrastructure improvements that need to be made around the country. And we are falling behind other countries. And we spend a much lower percentage of our GDP than China's doing or even Europe is doing. So, for us to figure out in a bipartisan way how to start rebuilding our roads. How to make sure we got the best airports in the world. How do we make sure that we've got a rail system that works in this country? I mean, all those things could put people back to work right now. Doing the work that America needs done.
KROFT: All of them?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think that, you know, for us to come up with creative ways, again, to frontload investments now -- at a time when interest rates are real low, and people are desperate for work -- is actually a pretty good investment for America. I mean, one of the interesting things about the Recovery Act was most of the projects came in under budget, faster than expected, because there's just not a lot of work there.
I mean, there are construction crews all across the country that are dying for work. And companies that are willing to take a very small profit in order to get work done. And so for us to say now's the time for us to rebuild this country and equip ourselves for the 21st Century. That's something that could make a real difference. But --
Look, the Republicans aren't interested in spending a trillion dollars on infrastructure right now. They don't want stimulus programs.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, you know, again, historically, rebuilding our infrastructure is something that has garnered Democratic and Republican support. I want to have a conversation with them and see if that's still the case. What I just mentioned in terms of providing tax breaks for companies that are investing here in the United States. That's not a traditional liberal position. That's a traditional Republican position. That's a Chamber of Commerce position.
KROFT: It is a Chamber of Commerce position. Why haven't they been able to persuade the Republicans that it's a good idea?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, you know my hope is that now that the election's over. That there's gonna be more openness to taking those kinds of steps. The fact is that in the six months leading up to the election, I think whatever proposals we put forward were not gonna get a serious hearing. Because it didn't serve short term political purposes.
One thing that I'm absolutely convinced of is the message the American people were not sending in this election was, "We want to continue two years of bickering. We want to re-litigate the past two years." I think what they want to do is start acting like adults. Come together responsibly. And let's move the country forward.
KROFT: You talked about jobs. Where are these jobs gonna come from? What kind of jobs? There are people out there that haven't worked in two years that are worried that they're never gonna be able to get a job.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, let's take the example of infrastructure. One of the hardest hit sectors is the construction industry. Because there are a lot of folks, particularly men, who are skilled tradesman. Who have been laid off from manufacturing plants that had closed. Went into the construction industry and the housing industry. Now, that is collapsed. And these guys are sitting around with skills, eager to work. Don't have a chance to work.
It would be natural for them to go back to work in constructing roads, bridges, airports. That's an example of us being able to absorb a workforce that needs help, is highly skilled, and ready to go. You know, we know that in the health care sector, there's gonna need to be a lot of a growing workforce. Because the population's gettin' older. And they're gonna need more health care.