Job Creation Driving Highway Bills In Congress

job creation highway billsBy Joan Lowy

WASHINGTON -- The lure of roads, bridges, buses and trains isn't enough anymore to drive an expensive transportation bill through Congress. So to round up votes, congressional leaders are pitching the bills as the hottest thing around these days: job generators.

But do they really create more jobs? The answer from a lot of economists is: not really. The bills would simply shift spending that was creating jobs elsewhere in the economy to transportation industries. That means different jobs, but not necessarily additional ones.

"Investments in transportation infrastructure, if well designed, should be viewed as investments in future productivity growth," said Alice Rivlin, a former director of the White House Office of Management and Budget under President Bill Clinton.

"If they speed the delivery of goods and people, they will certainly do that," she said. "They will also create jobs, but not necessarily more jobs than the same money spent in other ways."

But that hasn't diminished the jobs claims being made on Capitol Hill.

"This legislation would put 2 million middle-class Americans back to work right away," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Thursday, as he fumed about nearly 100 amendments that have delayed action on the Senate's version of the transportation bill.

"Although our economy has gained momentum, there are still millions of Americans out of work. So it should be obvious why we can't afford to delay efforts to rebuild our roadways, railways and bridges," he explained.

In the House, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, made a transportation bill the election-year centerpiece of the GOP's jobs agenda last fall when he unveiled its broad outlines. To make sure nobody missed the point, the bill was dubbed the "American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012."

Support for the five-year, $260 billion House bill has since fallen apart because conservatives think it spends too much money, and because Democrats and some Republicans balk at policy changes they say would undermine mass-transit funding, weaken environmental protections and penalize union workers.

Urgency is growing because the government's spending authority for highway and transit programs expires at the end of this month and the trust fund that finances them is expected to go broke sometime next winter. Boehner is struggling to find some mix of policy and spending that can win the votes needed for passage.

President Barack Obama has pitched his own six-year, $476 billion transportation bill as a jobs plan as well, but it is obvious lawmakers are unwilling to consider such a large proposal. They've had to scour the federal budget to find money to pay for a Senate bill a quarter of that size. While paying lip service to their own bill, administration officials are also backing the more modest Senate bill, which would cost $109 billion over two years.

"A transportation bill will be the biggest jobs bill Congress could ever pass, bigger than anything else they've done in the three and a half years I've been in this job," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, praising the Senate bill.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the chief sponsor of the Senate bill, estimates it will preserve 1.8 million jobs that would be lost if authority to spend trust fund monies expires, and create another 1 million new jobs through a $1 billion loan-guarantee program. The loan program has been shown to generate as much $30 in private sector investment for every $1 in federal aid. To reach her job estimate, Boxer used that formula, plus Federal Highway Administration estimates that every $1 billion in highway spending creates about 35,000 jobs if it is matched by state and local aid.

Nearly 3 million jobs "are hanging in the balance" as the Senate debates the bill, Boxer said.

But that analysis "assumes that if this bill doesn't pass, all funding ceases, which really isn't a fair assumption," said Joshua Schanks, president of the Eno Transportation Foundation, a transportation think tank.

It's unlikely that Congress would allow highway and transit aid to lapse even if lawmakers can't agree on a longer-term bill, he said. Rather, he said, they are likely to pass a short-term extension of current programs, as they have done eight times since the last long-term transportation plan expired in 2009.

Also, jobs created by the loan-guarantee program may be a long time coming since the program is aimed at financing major projects, economists said.

"In many cases this is not spending that occurs very rapidly," said Alan Viard, an economist with the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "Anything that involves construction has notoriously long lead times."

The question of job creation is relatively unimportant when compared to the other significant economic benefits associated with maintaining and improving the nation's aging transportation system, like enabling people to get to work and businesses to speedily move goods, economists and transportation experts said.

Schanks pointed to the construction of the federal interstate highway system, which began in 1956 and was completed 35 years later.

"How many jobs did we create by building the interstate system? Nobody knows. And who cares? We built the interstate system, that's what matters," he said.

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The REAL facts:

Correct! NOTHING -- No Money -- from the White House: California turned down federal funds so that they could outsource the jobs.
Read the facts in:
The ABC program does not mention any Oregon bridge.

There is NO 1% tax on bank transactions.
ONE congressman suggested the tax; no one else supported the idea so the bill obviously did not pass.
Read the facts in:

Why are Social Security checks required to be put into Direct Deposit? Direct Deposit is safer for the recipient than checks. Also, the government will save $120 MILLION dollars every year by not sending checks.
Read the facts in:

March 05 2012 at 10:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

We need to invest in population control instead. Less vehicles clogging up the roads. Less waiting time in the grocery line. More jobs available since the market wouldn't be as saturated with redundancies. Less tax money wasted on welfare, food stamps, and other government programs. The environment would be cleaner with less people polluting.

March 05 2012 at 6:40 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

It's amazing how this bum in the White House gets a free pass. If he is elected into office again we deserve what get.

March 05 2012 at 5:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to gbnexus1's comment

If you vote for do nothing repukes, you will get the same.

March 05 2012 at 6:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


March 05 2012 at 5:54 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Wher are the jobs wealthy people have created? Obama killed them. Amen.

March 05 2012 at 5:50 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to caminante4's comment

They did create jobs.......overseas

March 05 2012 at 6:44 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Obama has spent more money than any other president in the world. So far he has not created jobs. He has created a monumental debt that we taxpayers have to painfully pay.

March 05 2012 at 5:48 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to caminante4's comment

We taxpayers have had a national debt for around 100 years now. What's new that obama has done?

March 05 2012 at 6:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

was this not the stimulus deal

March 05 2012 at 5:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

the government makes .75 cents from every gallon of gas. 6 times more PROFIT than oil companies make every year but the government does not tell you this. so where does this money for roads go? up their rears of course. way to go obammy

March 05 2012 at 5:09 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Ed Avolio

Stimulus programs have not and will not fix the US Economy this time because the cause of the economic decline is not like any others. The US decline is due to unprecedented amounts of imports (mainly from China, Indonesia, Taiwan etc.) that have driven US made products out of US retail stores. Stimulant money, after the worker pays for rent, utilities and food, will spend the extra for consumer goods that are 90% from offshore producers. Stimulant money will stimulate offshore economies, not the US Economy. This is why all contemporary stimulant programs have and will continue to fail to stimulate the US Economy.
The only solution is to have Congress require products SOLD in the US to be made with the same laws that apply to MADE in the US. All else is huff and puff to keep the status quo that only benefits Multinationals and the Congressmen they pay.

March 05 2012 at 5:03 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Due to traffic density, it takes almost 2 hours to get from a house in Charles County, Maryland to Washington D.C. during rush hour - which happens twice a day for most commuters within this region. That means commuters spend almost 4 hours of every workday on the road.

During non-rush hour times, it takes 30 minutes to make that drive from Charles County into D.C.

We keep asking for money to put in a light rail so that we can eradicate the amount of traffic on the main roads. It would be really great, if for once, the federal government would actually spend money to expand the public transportation infrastructure in our region. And, yes, they do run buses, and those buses get stuck in the same traffic as those driving POVs during rush hours. Rush hours in the D.C. region run from 6 AM - 8 AM and 2:30 PM - 7PM, Monday through Friday.

It's not like Congress would have to spend a lot of money to put it in, because a freight line already exists that could have its corridor expanded to also hold another set of tracks. Setting down a new set of tracks and building accompanying stations for passengers to access this kind of commuter train would create construction jobs, more train operator jobs, and METRO police jobs, along with the businesses that would hire workers to support commuters like restaurants and shops.

It would also free up more gasoline at reduced prices for those who actually need it in regions throughout our nation were the density of traffic and commute times don't require an extensive public transportation system.

Heaven help this region if the entire Washington D.C. region had to be evacuated all at once for whatever reason. No one would get anywhere - including tourists.

March 05 2012 at 4:39 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mesager42's comment

If it is not being done, Congress must be cashing in somehow or not suffering from your neglect. I noticed that on the Virginia side, traffic is a lot more bearable, probably because a lot of lobbyists commute from there. This is true also to and from Potomac and Bethesda with the Clara Barton Pkwy and the G. Wash Mem Pkwy. Slower than unrush hour, but not stalled. Ain't it strange how roads seem to be there to suit our aristocracy? Or did they pick the neighbourhoods because of traffic ease in the first place, thereby making their real estate premium?

March 05 2012 at 6:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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