Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama says this spring’s severe flooding highlights the need for more investment in the nation’s infrastructure.
While many levees held back flooding rivers, others across Iowa and the Midwest have been breached. Hundreds of miles of highway pavement has buckled. Dozens of bridges have been washed away. During a weekend telephone conversation with Radio Iowa, Obama outlined his call for a 10-year, $60 billion reinvestment fund.
"Not only will it help our long-term competitiveness, but it also puts people back to work right away," Obama said, "particularly in construction where the economy’s, you know, hit them hard."
Obama cited an American Society of Engineers report which gave the United States a "D" on the condition of its infrastructure. "Our roads, our bridges, our dams, our locks, our levees — we’re falling behind and when you compare the kind of infrastructure investment that we made in the past as a percentage of GDP (gross domestic product), there’s been a drastic decline," Obama said. "When you compare our infrastructure investment to what the Chinese are doing right now on everything from high speed rail to state-of-the-art port systems, it’s making us less competitive."
Obama canceled a trip to Cedar Rapids in early June and visited Quincy, Illinois mid-month, doing a bit of sand shoveling for that city’s sandbagging effort. "Obviously, you know, our hearts break for residents in Cedar Rapids and all across Iowa and parts of my home state of Illinois who’ve been affected by flooding," Obama said. "In a 500-year flood perhaps much of this damage could not have been prevented even if our infrastructure was top-notch, but some of it could have been and recovery could have proceeded more quickly."
Obama suggested he’ll come up with the money for his "reinvestment fund" for infrastructure projects as he’ll bring American troops home from Iraq and redirect resources that’re now spent funding the broadbased war there.
On June 21, Obama accused Republican presidential candidate John McCain of failing to support federal funding of flood prevention programs when they came up for a vote in the U.S. Senate. McCain said Obama was "confusing the facts" and McCain noted he had supported an amendment which would have prioritized federal funding for those projects.