The $50 Billion Dollar Question in Obama’s New Jobs Proposal

It's unclear exactly how jobs will be created, what kind of jobs they'll be and for who will get them.

By Seth Freed Wessler Sep 07, 2010

Obama announced his plans to push for a major jobs stimulus this year during an impassioned Labor Day speech to union members in Milwaukee yesterday. The President called Republicans and corporations "the folks whose policies helped devastate the middle class" and then implored Congress to immediately pass a $50 billion infrastructure jobs package. But who exactly will get those jobs?

It’s just one of a series of economic recovery plans the President plans to announce this week as Democrats wage an aggressive midterm elections campaign. It’s an ambitious plan, and one that Republicans will likely do their best to attack as part of the administration’s lawless government spending — including what they deem the "failed" Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

If, somehow, the plan does get through Congress, it’s also unclear exactly how jobs will be created and what kind of jobs they’ll be.

The proposal would invest in roads, trains and airports in the next year and would be part of broader and longer-term infrastructure spending over the next six years. Obama says the plan will be paid for through offsets drawn from the elimination of oil company tax breaks and subsidies. Predictably, conservatives have already tagged the idea as more unnecessary and bankrupting stimulus program.

 As the White House struggles to get past Republican blockades of any investments in jobs or the safety net, concerns about the quality or work and the equitable targeting of job creation programs to those who need them most have taken a back seat.

But as Yvonne Liu wrote about the allocation and implementation of Recovery Act funds intended to create green jobs, "since equity is not a criterion either for who gets the money or for how recipients report their usage of the funds, we don’t know whether the stimulus has benefited those hardest hit by the Great Recession: people of color and single mothers."

The same could pass with the president’s proposed infrastructure funding unless racial and gender disparities are taken into account on the front end of the legislative process. If that does not happen, we may see unemployment start to fall while leaving vast racial and gender disparities strongly in place.