Posted on September 9, 2011
An Agenda to Get the Economy Moving Again
Weekly Column by Senator Lamar Alexander
The President’s address to a joint session of Congress on September 8th came at a time of persistent unemployment at a higher rate than at any time since the Great Depression. No one should blame the President for problems with an economy that he inherited, but he should take responsibility for making the economy worse. His policies have thrown a big, wet blanket over job creation in this country and, unfortunately, I didn’t hear much in his speech that will change that.
Unemployment is up. The debt is up. Housing values are down. The number of unemployed Americans is up about 2 million since the President took office. The amount of Federal debt is up about $4 trillion.
The President's policies have made it more expensive and more difficult for the private sector to create jobs for Americans. Two and a half years ago when he inherited a struggling economy he chose instead'to focus on health care rather than exclusively on jobs. His proposal was to expand a health care delivery system that already cost too much. So we have new health care taxes and mandates that make the economy worse.
Why do I say that? A chief executive of one of the nation's largest restaurant companies told me that because of the mandates of the health care law it would take all of his profits from last year to pay the costs, when it is fully implemented, so he will not be investing in any new restaurants in the United States.
And let’s look at trade: In his address to Congress, President Obama said “it’s time to clear the way for a series of trade agreements that would make it easier for American companies to sell their products in Panama and Colombia and South Korea.”
I welcome the President’s sense of urgency, but let's be clear about this. Those three trade agreements have literally been sitting on the President’s desk since the day he took office. They simply need approval by Congress, so all he needs to do is send them to Congress and we’ll pass them.
These trade agreements mean a lot to Tennessee. We make a lot of auto parts. Under these agreements, would could sell more of them to South Korea. Right now, Europeans sell them to South Korea at a lower price than we can -- all because the President has not sent the three trade agreements to Congress. We grow and make a lot in Tennessee that we could sell more of around the world, bringing thousands of jobs and millions of dollars to Tennessee.
Now let's take the debt. It’s true that the President inherited a big national debt, but it’s also true that he has made it worse. Economists who look at the national debt say we are heading toward a level that will cost 1 million American jobs every year.
And what about right-to-work laws? The President's appointees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) have told Boeing, the nation's largest manufacturer of large airplanes, that they cannot build a plant in South Carolina, the first new plant to build large airplanes in 40 years in this country. Boeing sells those airplanes everywhere in the world – and could build them anywhere, but we want Boeing to build them in the United States, and this NLRB action puts that at risk.
So what can we do about this? What are the kinds of things the President should have talked about that we could work on together to make it easier and cheaper to create private-sector jobs? Well, first, we could change the tax structure in a permanent way, lowering of tax rates for everyone, closing loopholes, all of which creates an environment of certainty where individuals and businesses can be more competitive in the world marketplace.
We could stop the avalanche of regulations that is throwing a big wet blanket over job growth.
We need to fix No Child Left Behind. Better schools mean better jobs. We need a long-term highway bill. We need roads and bridges in order to have the kind of country we want. We need to find more American energy and use less.
We should be able to agree on all that. This is an agenda, not of more spending, not of more taxes, not of more regulation, but an agenda that would make it easier and cheaper to create private-sector jobs and get the economy moving again.