WASHINGTON — Despite the state's high unemployment rate, California's economy is making a slow comeback and "the worst is over," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Sunday.
"We've seen that the foreclosure rate has slowed down," the Republican governor said in an appearance on national television. "We've seen that the house sales have picked up. We've seen people are getting back to work, especially in the green sector. So there's signs all over."
Schwarzenegger, who will meet privately with President Barack Obama on Monday, is in Washington for the winter meetings of the National Governors Association (NGA). He made his remarks in an interview broadcast on ABC-TV's "This Week."
The governor said that people should be optimistic, but "not overly optimistic" as the economy gets back on track. And he said the state has limited power but should do everything it can "to create jobs, jobs, jobs ... because that is the important thing."
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To boost the economy, Schwarzenegger said the federal government should spend $2.2 trillion on a massive effort to rebuild the nation's infrastructure. He said the nation's economy will suffer without such a rebuilding effort and that it would be a good job-producer as well.
"We've got to rebuild our state, and the whole country has to rebuild itself," the governor said. "Because if you think in ... history, I mean, all the great civilizations all became great because they had great infrastructure. If you think about the Persians, of building the waterways and the paved roads. The Romans, they had the aqueduct system of delivering water and the sewage systems."
Later in the day, Schwarzenegger was scheduled to attend the annual governors ball at the White House. He planned to return to California Monday afternoon after his private meeting with Obama.
In the television interview, Schwarzenegger said the U.S. became the world's most powerful nation because it had built a great infrastructure system over the last century.
"But in the last few decades, we have stopped maintaining that infrastructure and we have stopped building and expanding that infrastructure, even though there's tremendous demand for that infrastructure," Schwarzenegger said.
As he has in the past, the governor defended Obama's stimulus spending plan of a year ago, saying it had put many people back to work.
"I find it interesting that you have a lot of the Republicans running around and pushing back on the stimulus money and saying this doesn't create any new jobs, and then they go out and they do the photo ops and they are posing with the big check and they say, isn't this great? ... It doesn't match up," the governor said.
He added: "Anyone that says that it hasn't created the jobs, they should talk to the 150,000 people that have been getting jobs in California ... This is 150,000 people that are going home today with a check that are providing for the family, that can buy the textbooks for their kids, that are feeling wanted and needed and feeling productive."
He said Republicans have become "the party of no" because they have to take the opposite position of the president in an attempt to win in November's elections.
"I think the Tea Party is all about just an expression of anger and dissatisfaction and I see it in California when people come up to me and say, 'you know I'm angry that you guys don't get along in Sacramento. I'm angry that they're not getting along in Washington. I'm angry that nothing gets done. I'm angry that I'm unemployed. I'm angry that people are losing homes. I'm angry that businesses are losing their businesses and all of those kind of things. And the economy is down.'"
He said the Obama administration should "keep staying on track," even though it won't be easy and there might be failure involved.
"In politics, when you fail, it's like the end of the world because the press keeps piling on you and beating you up and all of those kind of things," Schwarzenegger said.
"I am never afraid of failing. I've failed several things that I tried to do in California, but we have won with many things that we have tried in California and we have done in California."