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What Obama can do to create jobs

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Kai Ryssdal: About that stimulus package, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said today it’s her first priority. And as John told us, Obama’s already on board with the idea that some kind of package is needed. And Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall Genzer explains it’ll probably be structured to fit right in with the president-elect’s philosophy.

Nancy Marshall Genzer: Obama wants to create a new infrastructure bank to finance projects. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says any stimulus package would include infrastructure spending. Pete Ruane is president of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.

Pete Ruane: Over 3,000 projects are ready to go to market. They could let the contracts immediately.

Those projects range from re-surfacing roads to bridge repair. But can patching potholes put us on the road to recovery? David Resler says no. He’s chief economist at Nomura Securities, says no. He says the big projects, with the most jobs, take too long to have an immediate impact. Think of the last time you remodeled your kitchen. Resler just re-did his.

David Resler: It took six months of planning to do that — that’s a kitchen in a single family house. It’s not a bridge to anywhere that public works projects might be.

Obama also wants to spend $150 billion on clean energy, creating five million new jobs. But economist Roberton Williams of the Tax Policy Center says we don’t have time to train people for those jobs.

Roberton Williams: If the people losing their jobs today are the folks in the financial markets who’ve been doing all the credit default swaps, it’s unlikely they have the capability of designing solar panels or other energy saving devices.

Obama also backs tax credits for companies creating new jobs. But Williams says that’s not enough. What Obama really needs to do, he says, is ease the credit crunch and housing crisis. Then the economy could create jobs all by itself.

In Washington, I’m Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

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