Explaining Southern California's economy

Snap reaction to the Obama jobs speech: Infrastructure bank?

Nothing too deep dish here. That can wait. But just quickly, President Obama did dangle a big carrot in front of Southern California voters with his $447-billion jobs plan: infrastructure. The Big "I." That's roads, bridges, airport improvements — and also schools, which Obama emphasized in particular. I suppose I could include energy infrastructure with that, which matters a lot at this very moment to San Deigo, where reportedly a million people have lost power.

What was unclear from the President's speech is whether his bill will call for an infrastructure bank. It sounds to me like it will go beyond just transportation, exceeding a $6-billion-over-six-years outlay that the GOP transport bill already includes, getting closer to the $30-billion I-Bank Obama has talked up before and that I've both blogged and discussed.

What an I-Bank would do, in brief, is set up a government fund that could leverage private investment — potentially more than a trillion dollars. The government could select and pursue projects that will provide a long-term bang for the buck, funding far more than would be possible with grants and loans by themselves. Investors could get a nice return on their money, with the government taking some of the risk off the table. There's reportedly serious private money on the sidelines that wants to get into infrastructure. And obviously such projects would provide some relief for SoCal's army of unemployed construction workers. 

So we solve the crumbling-infrasructure problem and at least some of the regional unemployment problem at the same time. However, it will take a while to get projects off the ground. So not a quick fix.

Here's what I've got on the subject:

•Could I-bank create jobs? (No, not the new Apple product)

•Actually, the economy will self-correct, but we don't have time to wait. So should we start investing?

•Remind me again: Why are we fighting over transportation?

•Infrastructure bank: Good for Los Angeles – and the USA?

Photo: Jim Watson/Getty Images

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