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President Obama: "Let's Build Some Bridges. Let's Build Some Roads."
06:25 PM EDT
This afternoon, President Obama traveled to the Port of Wilmington in Delaware to talk about creating jobs, rebuilding America, and making our middle class stronger.
Before delivering his remarks, however, the President took a moment to discuss the tragic crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17:
Right now, we’re working to determine whether there were American citizens onboard. That is our first priority. And I’ve directed my national security team to stay in close contact with the Ukrainian government. The United States will offer any assistance we can to help determine what happened and why. And as a country, our thoughts and prayers are with all the families of the passengers, wherever they call home.
After acknowledging some of the officials in attendance -- including Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, Sen. Chris Coons, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew -- President Obama talked a bit about the nearby Interstate 495 Bridge.
Noting that the bridge used to carry 90,000 cars a day, the President explained that it's been closed for repairs since last month -- repairs that will make it safer, and more reliable for commuters and commerce. And TIGER Grants are enabling the Port of Wilmington to rebuild a wharf, which will allow it to compete with other ports for the largest cargo ships.
Discussing how much the economy has rebounded over the past few years, the President explained that we've got a "huge opportunity to keep this momentum going...but also to make sure that growth is broadly shared." And one example is by creating those good jobs rebuilding America.
We know that in the 21st century economy, businesses are going to set up shop wherever they find the best roads, the best bridges, the fastest Internet connection, the fastest rail lines, the smartest airports, the best power grid. First-class infrastructure attracts investment and it creates first-class jobs. Unfortunately, right now, our investment in transportation lags behind a lot of other countries. China is doing more. Germany is doing more. They’re putting money back into building the infrastructure we need to grow over the long term.
And if Washington were working the way it was supposed to, Congress would be creating jobs right now ... jobs like these guys in the hard hats are doing right now rebuilding bridges and roads and airports and ports all across the country. It helps us now and it helps us create jobs tomorrow. That’s what we should be doing.
Earlier this year, President Obama put together a plan to rebuild America's transportation infrastructure over the long term. As he noted today, the plan would "support millions of jobs, [and] would give cities and states and private investors the certainty they need to hire more workers faster." And it wouldn't add to the deficit, as it would be paid for in part by closing tax loopholes for companies that are shipping their profits overseas.
We got $2 trillion worth of deferred maintenance in this country in roads and bridges and sewer systems and water mains. And we could put a lot of people back to work right now getting that done. And we're going to have to do it eventually anyway.
But so far, Congress has refused to act on the idea -- which is strange because infrastructure should not be a partisan issue. If you think about it, it was a Republican, Dwight Eisenhower, who built the Interstate Highway System. Lincoln built the Transcontinental Railroad. Both parties historically have understood that investing in this country for the long run pays off. When we invest in infrastructure we’re making sure that the economy is growing not just for the next five years, but for another century. That's what right now Republicans in Congress don't seem to be focused on. But until they do get focused on it, I’m going to do whatever I can to create jobs rebuilding America on my own.
The President also announced the launch of the Build America Investment Initiative, a government-wide initiative to increase infrastructure investment and economic growth:
As part of [the initiative], we’re creating a one-stop shop for cities and states looking to partner with the private sector to fund infrastructure projects. There are lots of investors who want to back infrastructure projects because, when it’s done right, they then get a steady, long-term investment. They get a steady return.
And lots of states and local governments would welcome more private investment, but they need a partner in the federal government to help do some matchmaking and work through some of the complexities of private financing of infrastructure. So my administration is going to help states and cities apply for federal loans, get more public-private partnerships up and running, get more investment flowing into communities like Wilmington.
And this builds on other actions we’ve taken to speed up the permitting process for big projects, and attract new manufacturing jobs to America, and raise more workers’ wages, help women fight for fair pay, ease loan burdens for millions of students. We’re taking steps on our own, still hoping that Congress at some point actually does something.
Read the President's full remarks, or watch them here: