Interviews

President Obama renews push for more infrastructure spending

Critics ask what happened to billions already spent on bridges, roads

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," March 29, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, if you keep talking about building it, the money will come.

The president in Florida today doing just that, arguing for more spending on roads and bridges. But haven't we spent hundreds of billions of dollars on roads and bridges thus far?

Between highway tolls and fees, state excise taxes, federal highway transportation taxes, the issue isn't more money going to infrastructure. The issue could be what the heck happened to all the money we have already spent and committed to infrastructure.

The Daily Caller's Jamie Weinstein and former Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich here to sort this out.

Congressman, to you first.

If I had a dime for every time I heard politicians talk about the infrastructure, I would have a lot of dimes. We could have built a bridge to Oz, right? But -- but what happened to all the money that we already committed?

DENNIS KUCINICH, D - FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Well, keep in mind that America has $2 trillion and more of infrastructure needs that haven't been met. We have to keep rebuilding infrastructure. It's essential to commerce.

CAVUTO: I understand that. But we have always had tolls. We have always had taxes. We have always had gas taxes.

(CROSSTALK)

KUCINICH: And I -- listen, I agree with you when you went down the whole list, OK?

But just imagine if on top of that, people started to have to pay tolls to private operators, which, frankly, is what the Obama administration is advancing in their plan for an infrastructure?

CAVUTO: No. I understand that. And you're not a fan of that. You're apart from your Democratic brethren there.

But I guess what I'm asking is, what the hell happened to all the money we committed to this already? So, that's what worries me about committing good money after bad money.

KUCINICH: Well, the essence of public works, if you're talking about infrastructure, you build a bridge, rebuild water systems and sewer systems. Sometimes, you have to fill a hole, too.

And sometimes that money goes in there. However, we need it for commerce. The problem is, suppose that we're providing tax breaks to foreign interests to buy U.S. infrastructure up? Because that's frankly what this latest proposal out of the administration sets the stage for. That's a problem for U.S. sovereignty.

CAVUTO: So, that wouldn't be a cure? That would compound the disease?

KUCINICH: Well, look, you remember the proposal to privatize some ports through Dubai interests about six, seven years ago?

CAVUTO: Right. Right.

KUCINICH: And, what, you're going to have foreign interests operating our ports? I don't think so.

CAVUTO: OK.

KUCINICH: We have to protect our sovereignty and we have got to be careful that in this race to try to get more money from the private sector that we don't throw America's sovereignty out the window, number one.

Number two, people already paid for the infrastructure once. Why should they have to pay for it a second time?

CAVUTO: Well, that's a valid point.

Jamie, that's the point I want to focus on with you. Whatever may be the nefarious means by which this money could be blown away in the future, maybe to all sorts of bad folks, I just wonder like this whole lockbox issue comes up again. If you're committing money to helping build roads and bridges and repair potholes and the like, and that lockbox apparently isn't locked, and I suspect there isn't a box, then it behooves you to make sure you find one before you commit more money to do just that, doesn't it?

JAMIE WEINSTEIN, THE DAILY CALLER: Right.

And I think the other important point is to remember, Neil, the president who when he gave his speech today in Miami, he was talking as if this was going to have instant job creation by committing these funds.

But if you remember back in 2009 with all the shovel-ready projects, they -- they didn't materialize so quickly, because worthy projects, infrastructure projects, don't -- aren't there overnight. It takes time once a government says they're going to commit funds to create them. This idea that this -- these funds that he's committing are going to be a huge stimulus and create many jobs from the beginning seems to be a stretch, just like it was in 2009.

CAVUTO: So, with the money that we have committed, Congressman, I guess that's just gone. Whatever happened, it's gone.

KUCINICH: It's just a fraction of what the needs are, number one.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Well, those are trillions we have raised over the years.

WEINSTEIN: Well, no, not trillions. We have not invested appropriately...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: That's my point, but that we have raised that money, we have raised that money. Now, it's been blown away. But we have raised that money.

KUCINICH: We raised the money. Chairman Oberstar's proposal put hundreds of billions of dollars to rebuilding the infrastructure. The Obama administration shelved it.

This is when the Democrats were in control. We have a problem here, where we have to be serious about America's commerce, about recognizing that if everyone benefits from this, then everyone ought to pay, that we're already paying taxes. You said people are paying gas taxes and other users' fees.

I don't want to see people have to pay for it again. Do we need to rebuild the infrastructure? Yes. I have talked about mechanisms by which we can do it. We shouldn't have to borrow money from China, from Japan or South Korea to do it. We need to invest in our own country here. This is about America.

CAVUTO: Well, I understand where you're coming from. And I think the two of you are more linked than you know.

Before we can invest, Jamie, we have got to make sure that there is a way to keep track of what we're investing. I think the congressman is worried that we could be pouring good money after bad if we go the route the president is suggesting. Others are just saying, when you talk about infrastructure, roads and bridges, everybody says, yes, mine has to be repaired, it has to be fixed.

But, invariably, that money doesn't go to your road, to your bridge, to your whatever. It just doesn't go there. And I think that's what we have got to get to the bottom of, don't we?

WEINSTEIN: Or it goes to the bridge to nowhere, which is not a worthy infrastructure project.

It's also interesting that the president didn't say how he was going to pay for these projects today. I think what he proposed was something in $21 billion in new funding to go with another $40 billion in other infrastructure funding that will come out in his budget.

And they keep saying, well, look -- wait until the April budget comes out and we will show you how it's funded. So it would be nice to see where the president is getting the money for the new infrastructure projects.

CAVUTO: Congressman, I don't want to switch gears too quickly, but we just got this in. This Alaska congressman, Don Young, has issued an apology for the "wetback" comment. You probably heard that. John Boehner told him to apologize and he did. And I'm quoting here: "I apologize for the insensitive term I used during an interview in Ketchikan, Alaska. There was no malice in my heart or intent to offend. It was a poor choice of words."

Move on?

KUCINICH: Yeah.

I think Congressman Young has done the right thing and -- in apologizing, and that it just teaches all of us a lesson about respecting each other. And I know Congressman Young. He's -- he's got a good heart, and I think that he realizes he misspoke, and he very wisely corrected the record.

CAVUTO: All right, guys. I want to thank you both.

We will keep on top of all of those developments.

Content and Programming Copyright 2013 Fox News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2013 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.