At a General Motors plant in Janesville, Wisc., on Feb. 13, Barack Obama “turned it down a notch” and gave a major policy address that laid out a broad agenda for reinforcement of the American economy. The plan  would restore a measure of economic balance and stability, create infrastructure and renewable-energy jobs, and many other necessary and ambitious undertakings. The speech is substantive and shows Senator Obama’s seriousness and grasp of economic reality and possibility. Optimism and realism together. We’re delighted to see at least one of the three major candidates offering serious solutions to infrastructure and environmental degradation (as John Edwards also did). See excerpts from Obama’s speech below the fold .
Hillary Clinton and John McCain pick  at Obama for being all rhetorical ‘airy nothings’ and no substance. Well, what new proposals do they have to show? If they’re all about experience, let them experience some new ideas. Let us experience their proposals. (Watching them, in contrast to Obama’s energy, it’s like watching machines, dead candidates walking.)
The Republican National Committee has rolled out an “Obama Spend-o-Meter ” (seriously) to calculate the cost of the programs the Illinois senator is proposing. It’s too cute. It’s also instructive, in a dimly lit way, to see how the RNC views Obama’s plans. RNC spokesman Alex Conant  says Barack Obama’s policy initiatives are “the same old tax-and-spend liberal dogma.” Well, sure. Politicians of both parties tax and spend. The question is, what do they buy? Some invest in new bridges and new classrooms and fiber-optic cables, others deficit-spend on new wars, surveillance systems, missiles, and tax cuts.
But the Republicans don’t just tax and spend—they borrow and spend. If they want to talk about spending, we would point them to the $12 billion the Iraq War is costing every month. We would point to 2008’s $677 billion in defense spending ($196b for Iraq and Afghanistan + the Pentagon’s $481b). We would point them to a good War Spend-o-Meter through our friends at the National Priorities Project.
The budget Bush has proposed for 2009, the first ever to exceed $3 trillion, asks for $514.4 billion for the Pentagon, along with deep cuts from Medicare and Medicaid. The 2009 defense budget  does not include the supplemental $70 billion spending the Pentagon will request to carry the Iraq and Afghanistan wars into the early months of 2009. This is all deficit spending  for the next president (and each one of us) to inherit, and every year the costs keep going up.
Obama has some great ideas for the economy, the nation’s infrastructure, and environmental protection. But if he is elected we the people will have to keep after him, as we would with any other president, to deliver on the promises.
Excerpts from Barack Obama’s Economic Policy Address
Weds. February 13, 2008
“Today, I’m laying out a comprehensive agenda to reclaim our dream and restore our prosperity. It’s an agenda that focuses on three broad economic challenges that the next President must address—the current housing crisis; the cost crisis facing the middle-class and those struggling to join it; and the need to create millions of good jobs right here in America—jobs that can’t be outsourced and won’t disappear.
“For years, we have stood by while our national infrastructure has crumbled and decayed. In 2005, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave it a D, citing problems with our airports, dams, schools, highways, and waterways. One out of three urban bridges were classified as structurally deficient, and we all saw the tragic results of what that could mean in Minnesota last year. Right here in Wisconsin, we know that $500 million of freight will come through this state by 2020, and if we do not have the infrastructure to handle it, we will not get the business.
. . . .
“For our economy, our safety, and our workers, we have to rebuild America. I’m proposing a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank that will invest $60 billion over ten years. This investment will multiply into almost half a trillion dollars of additional infrastructure spending and generate nearly two million new jobs—many of them in the construction industry that’s been hard hit by this housing crisis. The repairs will be determined not by politics, but by what will maximize our safety and homeland security; what will keep our environment clean and our economy strong. And we’ll fund this bank by ending this war in Iraq. It’s time to stop spending billions of dollars a week trying to put Iraq back together and start spending the money on putting America back together instead.
. . . .
“My energy plan will invest $150 billion over ten years to establish a green energy sector that will create up to 5 million new jobs over the next two decades—jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced. We’ll also provide funding to help manufacturers convert to green technology and help workers learn the skills they need for these jobs.”