“Mr. Boehner, Mr. McConnell, help us rebuild this bridge,” President Barack Obama declared today in front of the Brent Spence Bridge, which connects Cincinnati with the state of Kentucky. Obama’s challenge to Republican leaders Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to support legislation that would pay for the rebuilding of the outdated bridge echoed Reagan’s famous exhortation to Mikhail Gorbachev (“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”).
In his fiery speech, Obama also challenged Republicans to choose their priorities:
Would you rather keep tax loopholes for oil companies? Or do you want construction workers to have a job rebuilding our bridges?
The Brent Space Bridge is both in deteriorating condition and incapable of handling the volume of traffic in the area. United Parcel Service trucks “avoid the bridge as much as possible,” going far out of their way to avoid the bridge’s gridlock. American infrastructure is in rapid decline, falling to 16th in the world behind other industrialized countries and emerging economies. The Urban Land Institute and Ernst and Young estimate that the United States has $2 trillion in needed infrastructure repairs.
Obama’s challenge referred to the fact that his $447 billion jobs bill is partly funded by closing $40 billion in oil company subsidies.
The president is offering an alternative to the debate that conservatives want Americans to have, such as the false choice between a healthy economy and a healthy environment.