President Obama was in Cincinnati last month to call for replacement of the aging Brent Spence Bridge, which carries Interstate 75 traffic over the Ohio River to and from Kentucky. The bridge was the backdrop as the president touted his American Jobs Act, which he claims would help people get back to work.
Unfortunately, at the same time he was talking about creating jobs, federal regulators were quietly working to damage the private sector's ability to compete with the rest of the world.
"We used to have the best infrastructure in the world here in America," the president said while standing on riverfront property next to the bridge.
The site he chose for his speech was Hilltop Basic Resources, which makes concrete from cement. Ironically, many in the cement business have serious concerns about federal regulations that could cost the industry a lot of money -- and cost thousands of people their jobs.
As the House debated a bill to delay these job-stifling regulations, I couldn't help but reflect on what the president had said when in Cincinnati.
"We're the country that built the Intercontinental Railroad, the Interstate Highway System," the president said. "We built the Hoover Dam. We built the Grand Central Station. So how can we now sit back and let China build the best railroads? And let Europe build the best highways? And have Singapore build a nicer airport? At a time when we've got millions of unemployed construction workers out there."
The president should ask his own Environmental Protection Agency, which has been trying to deliver a kick in the pants to the U.S. cement industry. Regulations have already been imposed that require cement companies to reduce emissions from manufacturing plants, but the EPA wants more rigorous ones.
The cement industry estimates that could cost billions of dollars.
The EPA estimates that it also could cost about 1,500 jobs, while the cement industry figures as many as 4,000 people could end up out of work as plants that can't comply are forced to close.
This comes as the cement industry is struggling to emerge from the devastating effects the recession has had on construction.
The president's timing is breath-taking, but he forgot to pack his sense of irony before he traveled to Ohio.
The effect of these regulations will be to drive business to foreign manufacturers, whose governments don't handcuff them with expensive environmental rules that force cement prices up and force cement manufacturing workers onto the unemployment line.
The House has voted to add some common sense to the EPA's proposed regulations, which will allow manufacturers time to make the necessary changes and pull together the money needed to pay for them.
I hope the Senate will agree with the legislation the House has just passed on this matter.
If it doesn't, our cement manufacturers will find themselves in a foot race wearing concrete shoes.
And if the $2.4 billion is ever found to replace the Brent Spence Bridge, the work might have to be done using cement made in some country other than America.
Thank you for taking the time to visit, Mr. President -- but taking away jobs isn't the way to solve the economic problems facing our nation.