Arnold Schwarzenegger’s New Deal

I felt some major deja vu this morning as I read the news release Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sent out from the National Governors Association conference he’s attending in Philadelphia, where he’s hobnobbing with his peers as well as with President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden. He was urging Obama to make a big, immediate national investment in infrastructure both to kickstart economic growth through job creation and to lay groundwork for future decades of global competition.

“Since I took office I have been passionate about infrastructure, about rebuilding California and rebuilding America,” he said in this release. “Infrastructure investment is not only necessary for long-term economic growth and global competitiveness – but it will also create jobs when Americans, and Californians, need them the most.”

He went on to say that over the next 20 years, California will have more than $500 billion in infrastructure needs, and right now has more than $28 billion in projects that would be ready to break ground or place orders within four months of Obama taking office. Nationwide, more than $136 billion in projects could break ground and create jobs within two years. “This would quickly start to boost the economy with orders from U.S. factories for steel, cement, asphalt and other materials – creating jobs now and laying the foundation for future economic growth.”

Why the deja vu? Because just a little more than a month ago, I heard U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., say almost the exact same things at an event in San Francisco.

So Schwarzenegger’s plan and this part of the Democratic playbook for economic recovery are one and the same. That’s not to say he hasn’t been calling for infrastructure investment for a long time — for he certainly has — but it’s interesting to see how divergent roads have led to the same place.

Hey, there’s no shame in it. Remember, Republican Gov. Earl Warren helped lay the groundwork for California’s post-war infrastructure boom, leaving Democrat Pat Brown to run with the ball. Of course, it was Republican Ronald Reagan who started applying the brakes…

But this need not be a partisan smackdown. The long and short of it is that we need to repair, replace and expand roads, water projects, schools and so on in the decades to come if we’re going to remain a viable economic power. And we need jobs right now. So what’s the problem?

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.