Dems Win On Highway Trust Fund, Preserve Jobs

Democrats on the Hill have won a significant victory, as the White House and congressional Republicans baulked at voting to lose hundreds of thousand

Construction Democrats on the Hill have won a significant victory, as the White House and congressional Republicans baulked at voting to lose hundreds of thousands of construction jobs at the same time as they were shoring up financial insitutions.

Two months after the White House called a highway trust fund rescue plan a "gimmick" and threatened a presidential veto, President Bush is expected to sign legislation infusing $8 billion into the financially teetering fund that supports road and bridge projects around the country.

That change of heart came after the administration acknowledged last week that the trust fund, which derives its revenues from the federal gas tax, was going broke much faster than anticipated and that Washington would have to begin delaying payments to states for construction work as early as this month.

That could have meant the loss of thousands of high-paying construction jobs just weeks before the election.

"I'm glad the Republicans came to their senses — you can't play politics with 300,000 jobs when we're in a recession," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

The House on Thursday voted 376-29 on the measure to transfer $8 billion from the Treasury's general fund to shore up the 52-year-old highway trust fund. The Senate approved the measure by a voice vote on Wednesday after several Republicans who had held up the legislation for months agreed to let it go forward.

... The American Road and Transportation Builders Association, using Transportation Department figures, said that without the fix federal highway aid to the states would drop from $35 billion in the fiscal year ending on Sept. 30 to $24 billion in the next fiscal year 2009. It estimated that 379,000 jobs would be lost without congressional action.

Yes, this will be deficit spending. At this point of the Bush administration's dying days, pretty much everything is deficit spending. But the situation, I feel, is analogous to the "kitchen table" problem of being $1,000 in the hole on your credit card. At that point, spending a couple of bucks to take the bus to work and earn a paycheck is vastly preferable to just throwing those bucks at the massive debt. A small amount of deficit spending to keep people in jobs, especially blue-collar workers, and so stimulate the economy from the bottom up is far better than not doing so.

That the White House and Republican legislators didn't see it that way and were quite prepared to shaft those workers until Democrats started connecting that to the massive financial bailout currently underway speaks volumes about where their true loyalties lie.


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