Only a week removed from the five-year anniversary of the $830 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) stimulus package, President Barack Obama — evidently heedless of that plan’s failure to spur economic growth — is changing up the acronym and pitching the whole idea all over again.
If approved by Congress, the new stimulus, which focuses primarily on redeveloping infrastructure, will amount to ARRA-lite. Introducing the plan Wednesday during a visit to St. Paul, Minn., Obama proposed a total of $302 billion in infrastructural projects over a four-year span. He also pitched a reload of a competitive grant program created during the ARRA era — code named TIGER — to further award development funds to State and municipal applicants.
TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) doled out $3.5 billion to handout-drunk States, cities and counties during ARRA’s original run.
Here’s a White House summary of what Obama’s proposing this time around:
$206 billion to invest in our nation’s highway system and road safety. The proposal will increase the amount of highway funds by 22 percent annually, for a total of about $199 billion over the four years. The proposal would also provide more than $7 billion to improve safety for all users of our highways and roads.
$72 billion to invest in transit systems and expand transportation options. The proposal increases average transit spending by nearly 70 percent annually, for a total program of $72 billion over four years, which will enable the expansion of new projects (e.g., light rail, street cars, bus rapid transit, etc.) in suburbs, fast-growing cities, small towns, and aging rural communities, while still maintaining existing transit systems.
$19 billion in dedicated funding for rail programs. The proposal also includes nearly $5 of billion annually for high performance and passenger rail programs with a focus on improving the connections between key regional city pairs and high traffic corridors throughout the country.
$9 billion in competitive funding to spur innovation. The proposal will make permanent and provide $5 billion over four years, an increase of more than 100 percent, for the highly successfully TIGER competitive grant program and propose $4 billion of competitively awarded funding over four years to incentivize innovation and local policy reforms to encourage better performance, productivity, and cost-effectiveness in our transportation systems.
How does this get paid for? Well, Obama says he can get us $150 billion closer to the total. But then, Congress, he’s all ears.
“The President is proposing one way to pay for this investment, by using $150 billion in one-time transition revenue from pro-growth business tax reform, but will work closely with Congress and listen to their ideas for how to achieve this important objective,” the White House release states.
Five years ago, the Obama Administration hyped the passage of ARRA by predicting it would lower unemployment to 5 percent — and virtually guaranteeing it would at least fall below 8 percent — by January 2013. But unemployment pretty much hovered between 8 percent and 9 percent throughout his first term in office. And only through a creatively deployed calculus that celebrates lower unemployment rates — even though they’re achieved by a mass exodus of laborers from the U.S. workforce — did unemployment hit the mid-6 percent range at the end of 2013.