Monday, August 01, 2005

Team Obama fires back at Berkowitz

I have posted, below, a response that I received on Friday to some remarks I made about U. S. Senator Barack Obama’s comments about the federal Transportation Bill, which passed the Congress last week [See here]. I am pleased that Robert Gibbs, U. S. Senator Barack Obama’s Communications Director, has taken the time to read and respond to my remarks and I am happy to post his response, at his request. I will post my response within the next few days and I look forward to a continued dialogue here about this and other matters with Robert Gibbs and the junior Senator from the State of Illiniois.

U. S. Senator Barack Obama [D-IL] has been generous with his time to the “Public Affairs,” television show, appearing multiple times-- going back to his five, or so, appearances as a state senator from the south side of Chicago and then his two appearances, as a candidate for the U. S. Senate. I hope we are able to bring him back, now that he has been a U. S. Senator for about seven months, so that we can continue our dialogue on this and other matters for the benefit of our Chicago Metropolitan television audience and his constituents.


Jeff, you have a lot of information in your blog post on the newly passed transportation bill and I feel like I needed to make sure you got it all right.

You started by questioning whether Senator Obama was correct in saying that “for every $1 billion spent on transportation infrastructure, it is estimated that 24,000 new jobs are supported. By providing Illinois with $1.2 billion per year in transportation funding, this bill will support tens of thousands of new jobs for Illinois families.”

You then go on to say that Senator Obama was “espousing Keynesian economics, of the sort that is not too popular, these days, even at his alma mater, Harvard…”

You said (in bold no less) that “the impact on jobs is likely to be a wash.”

But a few hours before you posted your blog, another member of the Illinois Congressional delegation said something remarkably similar to Senator Obama.

"We talk about jobs, jobs, jobs," House Speaker Dennis Hastert said. "For every billion dollars that is spent in this highway bill over the next not even five years now, it will create 48,000 jobs in this country." (Associated Press, June 28, 2005)

If you won’t believe Senator Obama, that’s fine. But maybe you will believe Wheaton College and Northern Illinois University’s own Dennis Hastert, the true leader in helping Illinois receive more than $1.5 billion more over the life of this transportation bill than the previous legislation.

Next, you talk about how taxes and the federal deficit will grow as a result of the spending on this transportation bill. That’s not true - in fact it’s completely the opposite. Transportation funding is paid for by the Highway and Mass Transit trust funds which are funded as a result of money paid when you and I buy fuel for our cars. And the trust funds currently enjoy, according to the Library of Congress, a “substantial” unexpended balance. That “substantial” balance actually masks the larger federal deficit, much like the surplus in the Social Security Trust Fund, that has been run up by spending over the past 5 years since the government actually spent less than it took in from 1998 – 2000.

Jeff, the budget deficit is a huge problem. Were it not for these trust funds, the American people would actually know the true extent of the problem.

Let me end with another quote from Senator Obama. He said, “It’s a time to put people to work at improving our roads and our bridges and our public transportation so that Illinois can still be the crossroads of a 21st century America. This bill will provide much-needed and long overdue investments in transportation in Illinois.”

That’s something we should all agree with.

ROBERT GIBBS, Communications Director, Office of Senator Barack Obama

U.S.Senator Barack Obama (D-IL)
202-224-2854 Main Office

Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of Public Affairs and an Executive Recruiter doing Legal Search, can be reached at