Full Text Political Transcripts August 15, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Press Conference on Infrastructure & Chalottesville, Virginia

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

President Donald Trump’s Press Conference on Infrastructure & Chalottesville, Virginia

Source: Politico, 8-15-17

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Hello, everybody. Great to be back in New York with all of our friends, and some great friends outside the building, I must tell you.

I want to thank all of our distinguished guests who are with us today, including members of our cabinet, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, and of course our Transportation Secretary, who’s doing a fabulous job, Elaine Chao.
Thank you all for doing a — a really incredible and creative job on what we’re going to be discussing today, which is infrastructure.
We just had a great set of briefings upstairs on our infrastructure agenda. My administration is working every day to deliver the world-class infrastructure that our people deserve, and frankly, that our country deserves. That’s why I just signed a new executive order to dramatically reform the nation’s badly broken infrastructure permitting process.
TRUMP: Just blocks away is the Empire State Building. It took 11 months to build the Empire State Building. But today, it can take as long as a decade and much more than that. Many, many stories where it takes 20 and 25 years just to get approvals to start construction of a fairly routine highway. Highway builders must get up to 16 different approvals involving 9 different federal agencies governed by 29 different statutes. One agency alone can stall a project for many, many years and even decades.
Not only does this cost our economy billions of dollars but it also denies our citizens the safe and modern infrastructure they deserve. This overregulated permitting process is a massive, self- inflicted wound on our country. It’s disgraceful. Denying our people much-needed investments in their community and I just want to show you this because it was just shown me and I think I’m going to show it to the media.
Both real and fake media, by the way. This is what it takes to get something approved today.
Elaine, you see that?
So this is what it takes. Permitting process flow chart, that’s a flow chart. So that can go out to 20 years, this shows about 10. But that can go out to about 20 years to get something approved. This is for a highway. I’ve seen a highway recently in a certain state, I won’t mention its name, it’s 17 years.
I could have built it for $4 million or $5 million without the permitting process. It costs hundreds of millions of dollars but it took 17 years to get it approved and many, many — many, many pages of environmental impact studies. This is what we will bring it down to. This is less than two years. This is going to happen quickly, that’s what I’m signing today.
This will be less than two years for a highway. So it’s going to be quick, it’s going to be a very streamlined process. And by the way, if it doesn’t meet environmental safeguards, we’re not going to approve it. Very simple. We’re not going to approve it. So this is — maybe this one, we’ll say “let’s throw the other one away.” Would anybody like it from the media? Would anybody like that long, beautiful chart? You can have it.
So my executive order also requires agencies to work together efficiently by requiring one lead agency for each major infrastructure project. It also holds agencies accountable if they fail to streamline their review process. So each agency is accountable. We’re going to get infrastructure built quickly; inexpensively, relatively speaking; and the permitting process will go very, very quickly.
No longer will we tolerate one job-killing delay after another. No longer will we accept a broken system that benefits consultants and lobbyists at the expense of hardworking Americans. Now, I knew the process very well, probably better than anybody. I had to get permits for this building and many of the buildings I built — all of the buildings I built in Manhattan and many other places.
And I will tell you that the consultants are rich people. They go around making it very difficult, they lobby Congress, they lobby state governments, city governments to make it very difficult so that you have to hire consultants and that you have to take years and pay them a fortune. So we’re streamlining the process and we won’t be having so much of that any more.
No longer will we allow the infrastructure of our magnificent country to crumble and decay. While protecting the environment, we will build gleaming new roads, bridges, railways, waterways, tunnels and highways. We will rebuild our country with American workers, American iron, American aluminum, American steel. We will create millions of new jobs and make millions of American dreams come true.
Our infrastructure will again be the best in the world. We used to have the greatest infrastructure anywhere in the world. And today we’re like a third world country. We’re literally like a third world country. Our infrastructure will again be the best and we will restore the pride in our communities, our nation and all over the United States, we’ll be proud again.
So I want to thank everybody for being here. God bless you, God bless the United States. And if you have any questions, we have — Mick, you could come up here, please. Come on up. Mick Mulvaney. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.
QUESTION: Why do you think that CEOs are leaving your manufacturing council?
TRUMP: Because they’re not taking their job seriously as it pertains to this country. We want jobs, manufacturing in this country. If you look at some of those people that you’re talking about, they’re outside of the country. They’re having a lot of their product made outside. If you look at Merck, as an example, take a look where — excuse me — excuse me — take a look at where their product is made. It’s made outside of our country. We want products made in the country.
Now, I have to tell you, some of the folks that will leave, they’re leaving out of embarrassment because they make they’re products outside. And I’ve been lecturing them, including the gentleman that you’re referring to, about you have to bring it back to this country. You can’t do it necessarily in Ireland and all of these other places. You have to bring this work back to this country.
That’s what I want. I want manufacturing to be back into the United States so that American workers can benefit.
(CROSSTALK)
QUESTION: … wait so long (inaudible)?
TRUMP: I didn’t wait long. I didn’t wait long.
(CROSSTALK)
TRUMP: I didn’t wait long. I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct, not make a quick statement. The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement, was a fine statement. But you don’t make statements that direct unless you know the facts. It takes a little while to get the facts. You still don’t know the facts. And it’s a very, very important process to me. And it’s a very important statement.
So, I don’t want to go quickly and just make a statement for the sake of making a political statement. I want to know the facts. If you go back to my…
(CROSSTALK)
TRUMP: I brought it. I brought it. I brought it.
QUESTION: What did you (inaudible)?
TRUMP: As I said on — remember this — Saturday, we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence. It has no place in America. And when I went on from there.
Now, here’s the thing. As to — excuse me — excuse me — take it nice and easy.
Here’s the thing. When I make a statement, I like to be correct. I want the facts. This event just happened. In fact, a lot of the event didn’t even happen yet, as we were speaking. This event just happened. Before I make a statement, I need the facts.
So I don’t want to rush into a statement. So making the statement when I made it was excellent. In fact, the young woman who I hear is a fantastic young women, and it was on NBC, her mother wrote me and said through, I guess, Twitter, social media, the nicest things and I very much appreciate that.
I hear she was a fine, a really — actually, an incredible young woman. But her mother on Twitter thanked me for what I said. And honestly, if the press were not fake and if it was honest, the press would have said what I said was very nice. But unlike you and unlike — excuse me — unlike you and unlike the media, before I make a statement, I like to know the facts.
(CROSSTALK)
TRUMP: They don’t. They don’t.
(CROSSTALK)
TRUMP: How about a couple of…
(CROSSTALK)
TRUMP: How about a couple of infrastructure questions?
(CROSSTALK)
QUESTION: Mr. Trump, was it terrorism, that event? Was that terrorism?
TRUMP: Say, what?
QUESTION: The CEO of Walmart said you missed a (inaudible) opportunity to help bring the country together. Did you?
TRUMP: Not at all. I think the country — look, you take a look. I’ve created over a million jobs since I’m president. The country is booming. The stock market is setting records. We have the highest employment numbers we’ve ever had in the history of our country.
We’re doing record business. We have the highest levels of enthusiasm. So the head of Walmart, who I know is a very nice guy, was making a political statement. I mean…
(CROSSTALK)
TRUMP: … it the same way. And you know why? Because I want to make sure when I make a statement that the statement is correct. And there was no way — there was no way of making a correct statement that early.
I had to see the facts, unlike a lot of reporters — unlike a lot of reporters…
(CROSSTALK)
TRUMP: I didn’t know David Duke was there. I wanted to see the facts. And the facts as they started coming out were very well stated. In fact, everybody said his statement was beautiful; if he would have made it sooner, that would have been good. I couldn’t have made it sooner because I didn’t know all of the facts.
Frankly, people still don’t know all of the facts. It was very important that — excuse me, excuse me — it was very important to me to get the facts out and correctly. Because if I would have made a fast statement, and the first statement was made without knowing much other than what we were seeing.
The second statement was made after — with knowledge, with great knowledge. There are still things — excuse me — there are still things that people don’t know.
TRUMP: I want to make a statement with knowledge. I wanted to know the facts.
OK…
(CROSSTALK)
QUESTION: Was it — two questions. Was it terrorism? And can you tell us what you’re feeling about your…
(CROSSTALK)
TRUMP: Well, I think the driver of the car is a disgrace to himself, his family and his country. And that is — you can call it terrorism. You can call it murder. You can call it whatever you want. I would just call it as the fastest one to come up with a good verdict. That’s what I’d call it. Because there is a question. Is it murder? Is it terrorism? And then you get into legal semantics.
The driver of the car is a murderer. And what he did was a horrible, horrible, inexcusable thing.
QUESTION: Can you tell us how you’re feeling about your chief strategist, Mr. Bannon? Can you talk about that?
TRUMP: Go ahead.
QUESTION: I would echo Maggie’s (ph) question. Steve Bannon…
TRUMP: I never spoke to Mr. Bannon about it.
QUESTION: But can you tell us broadly what you’re — do you still have confidence in Steve (ph)?
TRUMP: Well, we see (ph) — and look, look. I like Mr. Bannon. He’s a friend of mine. But Mr. Bannon came on very late, you know that. I went through 17 senators, governors, and I won all the primaries. Mr. Bannon came on very much later than that, and I like him. He’s a good man. He is not a racist, I can tell you that. He’s a good person. He actually gets a very unfair press in that regard.
But we’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon, but he’s a good person, and I think the press treats him, frankly, very unfairly.
QUESTION: Do you have confidence in him? Because he has called on you to defend your national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, against…
(CROSSTALK)
TRUMP: I’ve already done it. I did it the last time.
QUESTION: And he called on it again (ph) linking this (ph)…
TRUMP: Senator McCain?
QUESTION: …the alt-right and…
TRUMP: Senator McCain, you mean the one who voted against Obamacare? Who is — you mean Senator McCain who voted against us getting good healthcare?
QUESTION: Senator McCain said that the alt-right is behind these attacks, and he linked that same group to those who perpetrated the attack in Charlottesville.
TRUMP: Well, I don’t know — I can’t tell you. I’m sure Senator McCain must know what he’s talking about. But when you say the “alt- right,” define “alt-right” to me. You define it, go ahead.
QUESTION: Well, I think that (ph)…
TRUMP: No, define it for me, come on. Let’s go. Define it for me.
QUESTION: Senator McCain defined them as the same group…
TRUMP: OK, what about the alt-left that came charging them (ph)? Excuse me. What about the alt-left that came charging at the — as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?
QUESTION: Mr. Trump…
(CROSSTALK)
TRUMP: Let me ask you this. What about the fact they came charging — that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do.
QUESTION: Sir…
TRUMP: As far as I’m concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day.
Wait a minute, I’m not finished.
(CROSSTALK)
I’m not finished, fake news. That was a horrible day…
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)
TRUMP: I will tell you something. I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it. And you have — you had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent, and nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now. You had a group — you had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit, and they were very, very violent.
(CROSSTALK)
TRUMP: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you think that the — what you call the alt-left is the same as neo-Nazis?
TRUMP: Those people — all of those people — excuse me. I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups. But not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were White Supremacists, by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue, Robert E. Lee.
So — excuse me. And you take a look at some of the groups and you see — and you’d know it if you were honest reporters, which in many cases you’re not, but many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee.
So this week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson’s coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?
You know, you all — you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop? But they were there to protest — excuse me. You take a look, the night before, they were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee.
Infrastructure question, go ahead.
QUESTION: Should the statue of Robert E. Lee stay up?
TRUMP: I would say that’s up to a local town, community, or the federal government, depending on where it is located.
QUESTION: Are you against the Confederacy?
QUESTION: How concerned are you about race relations in America? And do you think things have gotten worse or better since you took office?
TRUMP: I think they’ve gotten better or the same — look, they’ve been frayed for a long time. And you can ask President Obama about that, because he’d make speeches about it.
But I believe that the fact that I brought in — it will be soon, millions of jobs, you see where companies are moving back into our country, I think that’s going to have a tremendous positive impact on race relations. We have companies coming back into our country. We have two car companies that just announced. We have Foxconn in Wisconsin just announce. We have many companies I say pouring back into the country.
I think that’s going to have a huge, positive impact on race relations. You know why? It’s jobs. What people want now, they want jobs. They want great jobs with good pay. And when they have that, you watch how race relations will be.
And I’ll tell you, we’re spending a lot of money on the inner cities. We’re going to fix — we’re fixing the inner cities. We’re doing far more than anybody’s done with respect to the inner cities. It’s a priority for me. And it’s very important.
(CROSSTALK)
QUESTION: Mr. President, are you putting what you’re calling the alt-left and white supremacists on the same moral plane?
TRUMP: I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane. What I’m saying is this. You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other, and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and it was horrible. And it was a horrible thing to watch.
But there is another side. There was a group on this side, you can call them the left. You’ve just called them the left — that came violently attacking the other group. So you can say what you want, but that’s the way it is.
(CROSSTALK)
QUESTION: … on both sides, sir?
(CROSSTALK)
QUESTION: You said there was hatred, there was violence on both sides. Are…
(CROSSTALK)
TRUMP: Well, I do think there’s blame — yes, I think there’s blame on both sides. You look at — you look at both sides. I think there’s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it, and you don’t have any doubt about it either.
(CROSSTALK)
TRUMP: And — and — and if you reported it accurately, you would say (inaudible).
(CROSSTALK)
QUESTION: (inaudible) started this (inaudible) Charlottesville. They showed up in Charlottesville to protest…
(CROSSTALK) TRUMP: Excuse me, excuse me. (inaudible) themselves (inaudible) and you have some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. You had people in that group — excuse me, excuse me — I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.
(CROSSTALK)
QUESTION: George Washington and Robert E. Lee are not the same (inaudible)…
(CROSSTALK)
TRUMP: George Washington was a slave-owner. Was George Washington a slave-owner? So, will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down — excuse me — are we going to take down — are we going to take down statues to George Washington?
(CROSSTALK)
TRUMP: How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him?
(CROSSTALK)
TRUMP: OK. Good. Are we going to take down the statue? Because he was a major slave-owner. Now, are we going to take down his statue? So you know what? It’s fine. You’re changing history. You’re changing culture. And you had people, and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally. But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists.
OK? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly. Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people, but you also had troublemakers and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats. You’ve got — you had a lot of bad — you had a lot of bad people in the other group…
(CROSSTALK)
QUESTION: … treated unfairly (inaudible) you were saying. You were saying the press has treated white nationalists unfairly? (inaudible) understand what you’re saying.
TRUMP: No, no. There were people in that rally, and I looked the night before. If you look, they were people protesting very quietly the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. I’m sure in that group there were some bad ones. The following day, it looked like they had some rough, bad people — neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them.
But you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest and very legally protest, because you know — I don’t know if you know, they had a permit. The other group didn’t have a permit.
So, I only tell you this, there are two sides to a story. I thought what took place was a horrible moment for our country, a horrible moment. But there are two sides to the country (sic).
Does anybody have a final — doesn’t anybody have a — you have an infrastructure…
(CROSSTALK)
QUESTION: What makes you think you can get an infrastructure bill? You didn’t get health care. You…
(CROSSTALK)
TRUMP: Well, you know, I’ll tell you. We came very close with health care. Unfortunately, John McCain decided to vote against it at the last minute. You’ll have to ask John McCain why he did that. But we came very close to health care. We will end up getting health care, but we’ll get the infrastructure. And actually, infrastructure is something that I think we’ll have bipartisan support on. I actually think — I actually think Democrats will go along with the infrastructure.
(CROSSTALK)
QUESTION: Mr. President, have you spoken to the family — have you spoken to the family of the victim of the car…
(CROSSTALK)
TRUMP: … I’ll be reaching out. I’ll be reaching out.
QUESTION: When will you be reaching out?
TRUMP: I was very — I thought that the statement put out — the mother’s statement I thought was a beautiful statement. I must tell you, I was — it was something that I really appreciated. I thought it was terrific. And really, under the — under the kind of stress that she’s under and the heartache that she’s under, I thought putting out that statement to me was really something I won’t forget.
Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you.
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Full Text Obama Presidency July 1, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks Before Cabinet Meeting

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President Before Cabinet Meeting

Source: WH, 7-1-14

Cabinet Room

11:04 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  I thought I’d get the Cabinet together this morning because we all know that America will be busy this afternoon.  (Laughter.)  Go, Team USA.

About the halfway point through this year, we can look back and see some enormous progress that we’ve been able to make on the economy.  We continue to create jobs with over 9.4 million created over the last several years.  We’re continuing to see improvement in the housing market.  We’re continuing to see real progress in terms of the energy sectors.  But what we also know is, is that there’s so much more that’s possible.

And part of the reason that I wanted to bring the Cabinet together today is to underscore for them my belief I think shared by most Americans that we can’t wait for Congress to actually get going on issues that are vital to the middle class.

We’ve already seen the power of some of our executive actions in making a real difference for ordinary families — whether it’s on minimum wage for federal workers — or for workers who are with federal contractors; equal pay; and the terrific work that’s being done around climate change so we’re transitioning to a clean-energy economy.

But what I’m going to be urging all of you to do, and what I’m going to be continually pushing throughout this year and for the next couple of years is that if Congress can’t act on core issues that would actually make a difference in helping middle-class families get ahead, then we’re going to have to be creative about how we can make real progress.

Keep in mind that my preference is always going to be to work with Congress and to actually get legislation done.  That’s how we get some more of the permanent fixes.  And as I mentioned yesterday with respect to immigration, whatever we do administratively is not going to be sufficient to solve a broken immigration system.

The same is true when it comes to infrastructure.  We’ll be talking a little bit about how we need to renew the Highway Trust Fund.  But, more importantly, we could potentially put people to work all across the country, rebuilding roads and bridges, putting construction workers back to work.  That could boost our economy enormously.  And now is the time to do it, but that requires congressional action.

And so we’re always going to prefer working on a bipartisan basis to get things done.  That’s what folks expect out of Washington.  They’re not looking for excuses and they’re not looking for a lot of partisan sniping.  But if Congress is unable to do it, then all of our Cabinet members here — and the head of big agencies that touch people’s live in all sorts of ways — and I’m going to be continuing looking for ways in which we can show some real progress.

And the second topic that we’re going to be spending a lot of time talking about is how to do we continue to improve the functioning of government to make it more customer-friendly.  This is something that we’ve been working on since Sylvia was head of OMB.  This is something that Shaun will be prioritizing.  I expect every agency to look and see how can we get more bang for the buck in the agencies that we operate.  And I know that many of you can report some significant progress in reducing paperwork and bureaucracy and red tape for projects and initiatives around the country in education, in energy, in housing and in transportation.  But I think we can do even better.

So I’m looking forward to getting a report from you on the progress that has been made.  And hopefully we can share some ideas to see if we can make even more progress.

The bottom line is this:  I went to Minnesota — many of the press here accompanied me — and had a wonderful conversation with folks around the country who are doing their jobs every single day — raising families, working hard, contributing to their communities.  And their hopes and aspirations are my primary focus and should be the primary focus of this town.  They are extraordinarily cynical about Washington right now, and rightfully so.  They just don’t see any capacity by Congress to do anything.  We’ve seen a Congress that said no to increasing the minimum wage; said no to immigration reform; has said no to equal pay legislation.  The only thing they seem to say yes to, the Republican in the House at least, is more tax breaks for folks at the top.  And as a consequence, the people who sent us here, they just don’t feel as if anybody is fighting for them and working for them.

We’re not always going to be able to get things through Congress, at least this Congress, the way we want to.  But we sure as heck can make sure that the folks back home know that we’re pushing their agenda and that we’re working hard on their behalf and we’re doing every single thing we can do to make a difference in their lives.  So I want to make sure that we emphasize not what we can’t do, but what we can do in the coming months.
Thank you very much, everybody.

END
11:10 A.M. EDT

Political Musings May 18, 2014: Obama’s weekly address urges Congress to act on jobs, transportation bill

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama’s weekly address urges Congress to act on jobs, transportation bill

May 18, 2014
President Barack Obama dedicated most of this past to domestic policy specifically highlighting infrastructure and transportation, and he spent he weekly address released on Saturday morning, May 17, 2014 entitled “Working When Congress Won’t Act” primarily…Continue

Full Text Obama Presidency May 14, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Building a 21st Century Infrastructure at the Tappan Zee Bridge, Tarrytown, New York

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Building a 21st Century Infrastructure

Source: WH, 5-14-14

Watch the Video

Washington Irving Boat Club
Tarrytown, New York

3:37 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, New York!  (Applause.)  It turned out to be a beautiful day.  Well, it’s wonderful to be here with all of you.  Take a seat, take a seat.  Relax.

First of all, I want to thank Governor Cuomo for that great introduction and the great job he’s doing.  I want to thank Mayor Fixell for having me in Tarrytown.  (Applause.)  Where’s the Mayor?  Where’d he go?  There he is, right there.  This is a gorgeous part of the world and I am lucky to be here, and I’m going to be coming back soon; in two weeks, I’ve got the honor of delivering the commencement at West Point just a little bit further up.

But today, I’m here, along with our Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx — (applause) — to talk about one of the best ways to create new jobs and spur our economy, and that is to rebuild America’s infrastructure.

It’s been about five and a half years since the financial crisis that rocked Wall Street and then ultimately spread to Main Street.  Thanks to the grit, the determination of the American people, we’ve been steadily fighting our way back.  In just four years, our businesses have now created 9.2 million new jobs.  Auto industry that was flatlining is now booming.  A manufacturing sector that had lost a third of its jobs back in the ‘90s is adding jobs for the first time.  Troops that were fighting two wars, they’re either home or coming home.  Rather than creating jobs in other countries, more and more companies are recognizing it makes good business sense to locate right here in the United States of America with outstanding American workers.  (Applause.)

So we’ve made progress, but here’s the thing:  We could be doing a lot more.  We could make the decision easier for businesses to locate here in the United States, here in New York state, if we do a better job rebuilding our roads, rebuilding our bridges, upgrading our ports, unclogging commute times.  The alternative is to do nothing and watch businesses go to places that have outstanding infrastructure.

And behind me is the old Tappan Zee Bridge, the longest bridge in New York and one of the busiest bridges around.  As any commuter will tell you, it is crowded.  (Laughter.)  It carries a lot more traffic than when it was built back in 1955.  At times, you can see the river through the cracks in the pavement.  Now, I’m not an engineer, but I figure that’s not good.  (Laughter.)

But right now, thanks to the efforts of Governor Cuomo, thanks to your outstanding congressional delegation led by Nita Lowey and including Eliot Engel, and Sean Patrick Maloney, and Jerry Nadler, all of whom are here today — stand up, congressional delegation.  We’re proud of you.  (Applause.)  Thanks to their outstanding efforts, workers are building a replacement — the first new bridge in New York in 50 years.  It’s called The “New” New York Bridge — which is fine as a name, but for your next bridge you should come up with something a little more fresh.  (Laughter.)

Now, here’s the thing — this never happens — you are building this bridge ahead of schedule.  Three years ago, after Republicans in Congress refused to pass multiple bills that would have put construction workers back to work, I took action on my own to fast-track the permitting process for major projects like this one.  Normally, it would have taken three to five years to permit this bridge; we did it in a year and a half — in a year and a half.  (Applause.)  That meant we were creating thousands of jobs faster while doing right by workers and tending to the environment.  And the Vice President is in Cleveland today at another project that we fast-tracked — a rapid-transit station that will make life easier for a lot of residents there.

So today, we’re releasing a new plan to apply the same strategy to other major projects all across America.  We’re announcing 11 more projects to accelerate, to get moving faster — from Boston’s South Station, to Pensacola Bay Bridge, to new light-rail projects north and south of Seattle.  We’re cutting bureaucratic red tape that stalls good projects from breaking ground.  We’re launching a new national permitting center to implement these reforms.  We are aiming to put every major infrastructure project on a public dashboard so everybody can go online; track our progress; hold us accountable; make sure things are coming in on time, on budget; make sure your taxpayer money is being used well, but also make sure that we’re putting folks back to work rebuilding America.  That’s our goal.  (Applause.)

Now, all these steps we can do without Congress.  And all these steps mean more good jobs — because nobody was hurt worse than construction workers by the financial crisis.  The housing market plummeted, and a lot of guys in hard hats and a lot of gals in hard hats, suddenly they were off the job.  And that’s why the Recovery Act back in 2009, 2010 included the most important public works jobs program since the New Deal, jumpstarting more than 15,000 construction projects around the country.

Over the past five years, American workers have repaired or replaced more than 20,000 bridges, improved more than 350,000 miles of American roads.  Four years ago, when we were just starting to clear away the damage from the financial crisis, the unemployment rate for construction workers stood at 20 percent — in fact, it was over 20 percent.  Today, we’ve cut it by more than half.

But we can do better.  We can build better — and we have to.  We’ve got ports that aren’t ready for the next generation of cargo ships.  We’ve got more than 100,000 bridges that are old enough to qualify for Medicare.  (Laughter.)  We’ve got leaky pipes that lose billions of gallons of drinking water every single day, even as we’ve got a severe drought in much of the West.  Nearly half our people don’t have access to transit at all.  And I don’t have to tell you what some of our airports look like.

Building a world-class transportation system is one of the reasons America became an economic superpower in the first place.  But over the past 50 years, as a share of our economy, our investment in transportation has shrunk by 50 percent.  Think about that.  Our investment in transportation has been cut by half.

You know what other countries are doing?  European countries now invest twice as much as we do.  China invests four times as much as we do in transportation.  One study recently found that over time, we’ve fallen to 19th place when it comes to the quality of our infrastructure — 19th place.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t like America being 19th.  I don’t like America being second.  I want us to be first when it comes to infrastructure around the world, because businesses are going to come where there’s good infrastructure to move businesses, move people, move services.  (Applause.)

We shouldn’t watch the top-rated airports and seaports or the fastest rail lines or fastest Internet networks get built somewhere else — they need to be built right here in New York, right here in the United States.  First-class infrastructure attracts first-class jobs.  Business owners don’t want a crumbling road or a bridge because then they can’t move out their stuff, and their workers aren’t as productive because it’s harder for them to get to work.  They want to set up shop where there’s high-speed rail and high-speed broadband, high-tech schools, self-healing power grids, new ports, tunnels.  That allows them, when they make goods here in America, to move those goods out and sell them all around the world.

Now, unfortunately, helping states and cities fund infrastructure is one of Congress’s chief responsibilities.  And you’ve got some outstanding members here, but let me just talk a little bit about Congress right now.  If they don’t act by the end of the summer, federal funding for transportation projects will run out — will run out.  There will be no money.  The cupboard will be bare.  And all told, nearly 700,000 jobs would be at risk over the next year — that’s like the population of Tampa and St. Louis combined.

Right now, there are more than 100,000 active projects paving roads and rebuilding bridges, modernizing our transit systems.  States might have to choose which ones to put the brake on.  Some states are already starting to slow down work because they’re worried Congress won’t untangle the gridlock on time.  And that’s something you should remember every time you see a story about a construction project stopped, or machines idled, or workers laid off their jobs.

And that’s why, earlier this year, in addition to fast-tracking projects, working with Secretary Foxx, I put forward a plan to rebuild our transportation infrastructure in a more responsible way.  It would support millions of jobs across America.  It would give cities and states and private investors the certainty they need to plan ahead and invest.  And it wouldn’t add to our deficits because we’d pay for it in part by closing wasteful tax loopholes for companies that are shipping jobs overseas that are in the tax code right now and that we could clean out and help pay to put folks back to work rebuilding America.  (Applause.)

Now, so far, at least, Republicans who run this Congress seem to have a different priority.  Not only have they prevented so far efforts to make sure funding is still in place for what we’ve already got, but their proposal would actually cut job-creating grant programs that have funded high-priority transportation projects in all 50 states.  They’d cut them by about 80 percent.  And they can’t say it’s to save money, because at the very same time, they voted for trillions of dollars in new tax cuts, weighted towards folks at the very top.

So think about that for a second.  Instead of putting more workers back on the job, they’d put those workers’ jobs at risk.  Instead of breaking ground on new projects that would improve the quality of life for millions of people, they voted to give a massive tax cut to households making more than $1 million a year.  Instead of making investments that grow our economy by growing the middle class, they’re still convinced that prosperity trickles down from the very top.
If you want to tell them what you think about that, don’t worry, because usually they show up at ribbon-cuttings — (laughter) — for projects that they refused to fund.

And here is the sad part:  Rebuilding America, that shouldn’t be a partisan issue.  My favorite President happens to have been a Republican — a guy named Abraham Lincoln in my home state of Illinois.  And it was Lincoln who committed to a railroad connecting East to West, even while he was struggling mightily to hold together North and South.  It was a Republican, Dwight Eisenhower, who built the Interstate Highway System.  It was Ronald Reagan who said that rebuilding our infrastructure is “an investment in tomorrow that we must make today.”  Since when are the Republicans in Congress against Ronald Reagan?  (Laughter.)

But that’s part of the problem — we’ve gotten so partisan, everything is becoming political.  They’re more interested in saying no because they’re worried that maybe they’d have to be at a bill signing with me than they are at actually doing the job that they know would be good for America.  It’s time for folks to stop running around saying what’s wrong with America; roll up your sleeves and let’s get to work and help America rebuild.  That’s what we should be doing.  (Applause.)

We don’t need a “can’t do” spirit; we need a “can do” spirit.  That’s what Governor Cuomo has, and it sounds like the state legislature was willing to work with him on this.  Well, we need Congress to work with us on these issues.  It doesn’t mean they’re going to agree with us on everything.  I guarantee you they will have more than enough to disagree with me about, but let’s not fight on something we all know makes sense.  After all, we’re the people who, in the depths of the Depression, lifted a great bridge in California, and laid a great dam down in the Southwest, and lifted up rural America.  We shrank a sprawling continent when we pounded in that final railroad spike, connected up this amazing country of ours; stretched a network of highways all across America from coast to coast.  And then we connected the world with our imaginations and the Internet.

A great nation does these things.  A great nation doesn’t say “no, we can’t,” it says “yes, we can.”  (Applause.)

So the bottom line, Tarrytown, is America doesn’t stand still.  There is work to be done.  There are workers ready to do it, and some of them are here and they’re already on the job doing the work.  We’re proud of them.  (Applause.)  There are people all across this country that are ready and eager to move this country forward.

So I’m going to keep on fighting alongside all of you to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to rebuild America — not just rebuild one bridge, but I want us to rebuild every bridge.  I don’t want us to just rebuild one school, I want us to rebuild every school that needs help.  (Applause.)  I want us to most of all, most importantly, rebuild an economy where hard work is valued and responsibility is respected and rewarded, and where opportunity is available not just to some, but to every single hardworking American.  That’s what I’m fighting for, and I know that’s what you care about.

Thank you very much, everybody.  Good job, workers.  I look forward to seeing this bridge.  Thank you very much.  God bless you.  God bless America.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
3:54 P.M. EDT

Political Musings November 10, 2013: Obama tries to pivot the conversation to the economy by promoting infrastructure

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama tries to pivot the conversation to the economy by promoting infrastructure

By Bonnie K. Goodman

After a terrible week dealing with his embattled health care law, the Affordable Care Act’s roll out, President Barack Obama has decided to turn his attention and the conversation back to the economy. The President delivered an address…READ MORE
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