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Obama announces $50 billion plan to boost job growth

US President Barack Obama on Monday announced $50 billion in investment into rebuilding US infrastructure and transport facilities in a bid to jump-start job growth and earn support for the Democratic Party ahead of Nov. 2 legislative elections.


AFP - US President Barack Obama Monday promised more than 50 billion dollars to create jobs rebuilding roads, railways and airports, targeting huge unemployment and ripping resurgent Republicans.

Obama, under intense pressure due to the sputtering economy ahead of November's mid-term congressional elections, announced the new funding spree at a Labor Day rally with union workers in Wisconsin where the crisis has hit hard.

"This will not only create jobs immediately, but will make our economy run better over the long haul," Obama said on a public holiday two months before congressional polls which Democrats fear could bring heavy losses.

"It's a plan that says even in the aftermath of the worst recession in our lifetimes, America can still shape our own destiny."

The White House called on Republicans to support quick passage of the measure, which would "front-load" 50 billion dollars of money as the first part of a broader effort to reauthorize transportation funding over six years.

"We'd like to pass this as quickly as possible," a senior administration official said. The size of the total package, over and above the initial 50 billion dollar infusion of funding, was unclear.

It also appeared highly uncertain whether legislation of such size and cost could pass in the month or so before lawmakers leave Washington to campaign for the November 2 election, as polls predict big Republican gains.

Even if a bill is passed, a big assumption in the current febrile election season when conservative Democrats have also turned against extra spending, it was unclear how quickly funds could begin putting people to work.

Administration officials earlier said that the program would create new jobs in 2011, though the president said its impact would be felt "immediately."

Opposition Republicans, seeking to wrest control of both chambers in Congress from Democrats, immediately condemned Obama's plan, signaling no let up to obstruction tactics which have slowed his presidency.

"A last-minute, cobbled-together stimulus bill with more than 50 billion dollars in new tax hikes will not reverse the complete lack of confidence Americans have in Washington Democrats' ability to help this economy," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

John Boehner, the top Republican in the House of Representatives, sought to link the new plan to Obama's previous stimulus package worth around 800 billion dollars, which critics say has failed to revive the economy.

"If we've learned anything from the past 18 months, it's that we can't spend our way to prosperity," said Boehner.  

Obama however, sought to convince voters that if they captured Congress, Republicans would return to the age of a reckless Wall Street, tax cuts for the rich and lax regulation that provoked the crisis.

"They're betting that between now and November, you'll come down with amnesia," Obama said in Milwaukee, the largest city in the midwestern state.

"They think you're going to forget what their agenda did to this country. They think you'll just believe that they've changed."

The administration official said the new projects would be funded, without increasing the deficit, by ending various tax breaks for oil and gas companies.

This would close "some of the tax loopholes for oil and gas companies that get subsidies from taxpayers that they don't need," the official said, while noting that the president was open to other funding proposals.

The 50 billion-dollar plan also targets improvements to the US air traffic control system, an acceleration of high-speed rail projects, and establishes an "Infrastructure Bank" to coordinate federal funding and planning for projects.

It calls for the rebuilding or restoring of 150,000 miles (240,000 kilometers) of roads; adding 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers) of rail and renewing 150 miles (240 kilometers) of runway.

On Wednesday, Obama heads to another struggling state, Ohio, where he is expected to unveil another plank of his revised economic strategy: a series of tax breaks for small businesses worth 100 billion dollars.

He will then keep up the pace of his counter-attack with a press conference on Friday.

Obama's new job push comes after a Labor Department report released Friday showed the economy lost 54,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate edged up to 9.6 percent.


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