In the Arena

Bank on Infrastructure

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This is one of the happier economic weeks the President has had this year. The unemployment numbers weren’t as bad as expected. The big banks are paying back their TARP loans ahead of schedule and with interest. But Obama has wisely decided to keep pushing jobs creation in a speech today (and may also start pushing deficit reduction by redirecting as much as $200 billion in TARP returns to close the budget hole a bit).

The President’s ideas for job creation are sound: tax breaks for small businesses, infrastructure projects and cash for caulkers (that is, people who weatherize their homes–a program that, I must confess, is in my enlightened self-interest as the Klein family transfers its many boxes of books, crap and memorabilia to an ancient dwelling that Madame Design-Fascist has decreed suitably charming for restoration and habitation).

Actually, I wish Obama would revisit an infrastructure idea that he floated during the campaign–a National Infrastructure Bank, described here by the estimable William Galston. The Bank would have two good-government effects: it would subject each new project to review by experts who will evaluate its efficacy and fund only those most worthy–and it would get at least some infrastructure funds out of the greasy hands of Congressional Appropriators. This last makes it politically untenable, it is said. But, given his rather supine attitude toward the Congress so far–and given the public’s appetite for budgetary efficiency and cleanliness–this might be a fight the President should take on.