Bloomberg News

Lew Says Infrastructure Spending Still Needed to Bolster Economy

February 16, 2012

Feb. 12 (Bloomberg) -- White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew said hundreds of billions of dollars in spending for roads and bridges, education and manufacturing are necessary to keep the U.S. economy growing.

“Most Americans understand that a crumbling infrastructure is not the way to build an economy that can last,” Lew, the former White House budget director, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “We need to make sure we have a manufacturing base in this country” and workers with the needed skills.

President Barack Obama submits the fourth budget of his presidency tomorrow, a multitrillion-dollar package that calls for $350 billion in short-term spending to create jobs and a $476 billion highway bill, while saying it will cut $4 trillion from the deficit over a decade, partly by raising taxes on the wealthy.

Much of the budget, which envisions a $1.3 trillion deficit this year, declining to $901 billion next year, represents a repackaging of proposals that Republicans in Congress have largely blocked or rejected as unworkable or unnecessary.

Obama faces a re-election campaign, and the budget amounts to a campaign platform reflecting his vision for the country, while Republican rivals question its direction and cost.

Lew said “there are a lot of tough cuts” in the budget, including more than $360 billion over a decade in Medicare, Medicaid and other health programs. He urged lawmakers to extend the payroll tax cut to the end of the year as a stimulus to the economy. If Congress fails to take action the tax cut for 160 million Americans expires Feb. 29, resulting in a tax increase.

Sustaining Growth

“We still need to pay attention to sustaining economic growth and creating jobs,” Lew said. He declined to predict what the economy would look like in September as the elections draw near but said job growth has been increasing, with employers adding 243,000 jobs in January.

“I can’t predict that each month will be as good as the last few but we’re certainly headed in the right direction,” he said. “The payroll tax needs to be extended, on time and without a lot of drama” so it doesn’t create uncertainty in the economy.

--Editors: Ann Hughey, Bob Drummond

To contact the reporters on this story: Roger Runningen in Washington at rrunningen@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net


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