Speaking Friday in Miami, President Obama called for $21 billion in new national infrastructure investment. This is a strong break from past years — when he called for the creation of an infrastructure bank in the autumn.
In 2009, the newly elected president had his only success in getting Congress to approve money for infrastructure. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — the stimulus bill — allocated tens of billions to highways, rail, and transit improvements. At the time, The New York Times hailed the deal, but with a caveat.
By one measure, the public- works spending in the stimulus package exceeds the promises President Obama made as a candidate. But by another, it falls short. …
[I]t does not create the national infrastructure bank he had called for to set national priorities and get big projects done.
That infrastructure bank is the key element of Obama's pitch for public investment. In short, it would create a new government entity to evaluate projects and issue bonds for their construction, leveraging an existing pool of money. But in 2009, Obama couldn't make the sale.
Nor could he in any year since. The infrastructure bank came up in September, 2010, as part of a request for $50 billion. He called for it in September 2011, as part of a Jobs Act proposal that would, again, put $50 billion into infrastructure. He called for it last February, when he revived the idea of the Jobs Act — and, of course, last fall on the campaign trail.