Let’s stay on the road: President Obama’s infrastructure plan (Rep. John Garamendi)

While we’ve made progress in job creation – approximately three million people have jobs today because of the policies of this Administration and this Congress – more needs to be done. That’s why I was pleased to hear President Obama introduce his new proposal to invest $50 billion in our nation’s infrastructure, and that’s why I’ve proposed legislation to bring transportation manufacturing jobs back to America.

To understand why the President proposes 150,000 miles of new or improved roads, 4,000 miles of railways, and 150 miles of runway, we must first look back at the paths we traveled to get to this point.

We lost more than 8,000,000 jobs during the Great Recession that began in 2007. When President Obama entered office in January 2009, our economy was in a freefall, hemorrhaging 800,000 jobs that month. The President and Democrats in Congress got to work immediately, most notably by enacting the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and demonstrably improved a dreadful situation. Because of these efforts, we saw a steady decline in job loss throughout 2009 leading this year to eight consecutive months of private sector job growth.

Relying on the lessons of history and the expert advice of mainstream economists, varying recovery policies were enacted, including the largest middle class tax cut in history, assistance for people struggling to find jobs, and relief for our schools. One of the most effective stimulus strategies was investments in infrastructure. As Mark Zandi, Chief Economist at Moody’s Economy and Senator John McCain’s former economics advisor explains every dollar invested in transportation infrastructure returns $1.57 to the economy. Whether we invest in trains and tracks or buses and roads, when we make it in America, the resulting job creation and economic activity stays in America.

A renewed investment in transportation infrastructure and manufacturing would also create jobs where we’ve seen the greatest job loss. One out of every four American jobs lost during the housing sector collapse and the Great Recession were in the construction industry. For these hard-working Americans, we can restore the dignity that comes with gainful employment, putting their skills to work now while increasing our productivity and growth in the decades to come. The President proposes front-loading his plan in the first year, making sure that we create these jobs when and where they’re most needed.

It’s especially exciting to see the President continue to prioritize public transportation and livable communities. A major Amtrak artery runs through my district, and speaking as a Californian, it’s great to see the federal government follow our leadership in developing high speed rails. With rising population growth, the threat of climate change, and the national security consequences of relying on foreign oil, improving commuter rail service must be a national priority.

This expansion of rail service provides another opportunity to reinvest in American manufacturing. As part of a package of Make it in America bills, I’ve proposed legislation, the Buses, Rail Cars, Ferryboats: Make it in America Act of 2010, H.R. 5791, that would help end taxpayer subsidies for foreign-produced transportation goods and equipment. If the goal is economic growth, it just makes sense to create the jobs here, keeping our tax dollars circulating in America to produce lasting infrastructure.

The President likes to say that America is a lot like a car. D moves us forward, and R moves us backwards. As they did with the Recovery Act, Wall Street reform, and improved small business credit access, I anticipate Republicans will stand in lockstep against investing in our infrastructure. I hope I’m wrong. Job growth under President Bush was slower than it had been in any economic expansion since World War II. Only one million jobs were created in eight years, compared to 23 million under President Clinton. From 2001-2007, 66 percent of income growth went to the wealthiest one percent. The wealthiest Americans were rewarded handsomely, while everyone else struggled to stay afloat. That’s their vision for America.

After so many years of minimal growth, stagnant wages, and dangerously lax regulation, our economic car swerved into a ditch beginning in 2007. President Obama and this Congress managed to get that car back on the road. We’re now sputtering along, but our work is incomplete. If we stop now, if we just say no, we’ll run into another ditch and fall short of our destiny. To my fellow members of Congress, I present this plea: let’s stay on the road and make sure the buses on that road and the nearby trains are made here.