Vice President Joe Biden is telling AFL-CIO leaders that he understands the resentment of millions of unemployed Americans who begrudge the government bailouts of the banking and auto industries when they're hanging on "by their fingernails."
But Biden, in a speech Monday to the federation representing 11.5 million workers, added that the bailouts were necessary to prevent an even worse economic collapse.
Biden spoke at the winter meeting of the AFL-CIO's executive council at a hotel near Walt Disney World in Florida. Earlier in the day, the vice president told construction workers outside Orlando that federal stimulus spending is working.
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CLERMONT, Fla. (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden told construction workers he knows people are frustrated with the pace of economic recovery, but said Monday federal stimulus spending is working and even more jobs will be created as more transportation projects get started.
With piles of broken concrete slabs and asphalt chunks behind him, he told about two dozen road construction workers sitting on large concrete pipes that most economists agree the year-old recovery act has saved or created at least 2 million jobs.
"When you lose 8 million jobs in this Great Recession and you keep it from being 10 (million), that's no solace to the 8 million who don't have a job, man," Biden said. "We have to make this work. Too many people are in trouble in this country."
Biden, who appeared with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., predicted the stimulus will continue to create jobs as the year progresses.
"More shovels are going to be going into the ground this spring and this summer than any time last year," Biden said, adding that in Florida it "means 15,000 guys wearing hard hats and engineers and surveyors, people who are able to make a decent wage and raise a family on, are going to be put to work."
The workers are part of a $20 million project to expand a 3.8-mile stretch of U.S. Route 27 from four to six lanes. It will create between 20 and 50 jobs at different stages. Biden stopped there before making a speech to the AFL-CIO executive council in Orlando.
"We're making sure that when we do this work, it's part of a larger plan, a plan that sparks widespread economic activity, a plan that creates jobs throughout communities, a plan that ensures that we come out of this recession better prepared to lead in the 21st century than we did going in," said Biden, adding that there are 12,500 road projects across the country being paid through the stimulus.
But he also said he knows a lot of people are frustrated that unemployment remains high, especially when banks who were bailed out by the federal government are handing out big bonuses to their executives.
"These guys are kicking in bonuses with numbers bigger than we can pronounce. More money in a bonus than we'll make in our entire life. It's no wonder people are concerned. It's no wonder they wonder about the Recovery Act, but guess what? It's breaking through, guys," Biden said.
He said the Clermont road project will not just create jobs for the people working on it, but for people who make asphalt and the restaurants, barbershops and stores where the workers spend their paychecks.
"This has a ripple effect throughout the economy," he said. "You having a paycheck means you're employing other people."
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