WASHINGTON - While some of the proposals outlined in President Barack Obama's new jobs plan merit further consideration, I and many of my colleagues in the House of Representatives, fear this plan is little more than an additional $476 billion in failed federal stimulus spending. I believe spending hundreds of billions more the government does not have and increasing taxes is the wrong recipe for getting Americans back to work.
Despite spending $1.1 trillion on federal stimulus since 2009, America's economy remains mired in recession. Though the Administration claimed after the stimulus unemployment would be 6.5 percent today, instead the rate is stagnated at 9.1 percent nationally and approximately 13.2 percent in the First District. According to the Department of Labor, the rate nationally has been over 8 percent for 31 consecutive months. More than 8 million Americans are working only part-time because they cannot find full time employment. Equally alarming, nearly 46 million Americans are receiving food stamps - the highest number of recipients in history.
With economic growth anemic, citizens in Northern Michigan and America are thirsting for solutions. Rather than simply throwing more taxpayer money at the problem, I would prefer to see Congress focus on three important ingredients of the stalled economy: regulations, spending, and taxes.
Rep. Dan Benishek
America's elected leaders need to significantly loosen the noose of federal regulations that continue to choke this nation's job providers. The U.S. Small Business Administration has indicated that burdensome federal regulations cost this country's businesses $1.75 trillion annually. In Northern Michigan decreased federal regulations could result in economic expansion of key industries like mining and logging.
It is also critical that we reduce the ballooning federal deficits which continue to fuel the fire of economic uncertainty. While both parties have been bad stewards of America's finances, this Administration has shown a commitment to increased deficits. In 2007, the federal deficit stood at $160.7 billion or 1.2 percent of this country's GDP. According to President Obama's FY 2012 budget, the deficit for 2011 will be $1.64 trillion or 10.9 percent of GDP. Instead of crafting new stimulus style spending programs that continue to add to the debt, Congress should focus on reauthorizing long pending legislation like Free Trade Agreements and the Highway Transportation Bill to foster economic expansion for manufacturing and construction industries.
Additionally, America's bloated and unfair federal tax code is in desperate need of reform. The code is pitted with special tax breaks and giveaways that favor some businesses over others. Congress needs to work with the White House to make the code flatter, fairer and simpler so that individuals and businesses can keep more of their own money to invest in the economy. Unfortunately, 85 percent of the president's new plan is paid for by job-killing tax increases. While the president argues these increases would only impact the rich, he fails to mention that 75 percent of America's small businesses - many in Northern Michigan - file taxes as individuals and would thus be burdened by these proposed tax hikes.
Despite the criticisms I have explained, there are pieces of the president's jobs plan that I hope Congress and the Administration can work together on. I believe neither party has a monopoly on good ideas. I am hopeful there will be bipartisan support for adding a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, the passage of trade agreements to open new global markets, and increased focus on improving this country's infrastructure.
Ultimately, jobs in this country are created by entrepreneurs taking risks in the free market, not by the government spending more borrowed money. Instead of trying to spend our way to prosperity, this country would be better served by shrinking the size of government and empowering the private sector.
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Rep. Dan Benishek is a general surgeon and is serving in his first term in the U.S. House of Representatives.