The effects of the economic downturn have been severe and affected all Americans in some way. Some people have lost jobs or suffered reductions in pay that now make it difficult to pay their bills. Some bought homes they could afford a few years ago, but now find themselves upside down in their mortgages.
Congress has approved a number of measures, which I supported, aimed at helping Americans. It recently extended unemployment benefits for Americans who do not have a job. It also expanded the eligibility requirements and duration for COBRA health benefits for those between jobs, and provided a subsidy for those premiums.
Yet, while important, these measures only treat the symptoms of an ailing economy rather than addressing the underlying problem. They provide short-term benefits to those who need them. A good job, however, provides far more security than any temporary government benefit; and one of the problems facing our economy is that there are simply not enough good jobs available.
The United States has lost about eight million jobs since the economic downturn began, and the unemployment rate continues to hover around 10 percent. Creating jobs, therefore, should be the number one priority of Congress. Here are a number of steps it can take to help put people back to work.
First, Congress should end its spending spree. When the government borrows money to pay its bills – it borrowed $1.4 trillion last year – it is more difficult for the private sector to borrow and invest. When businesses can't grow their operations, they can't afford to hire employees.
Congress can also remove the uncertainty that is preventing many business owners from hiring by not raising taxes and costs on employers.
For example, the Democrats' health-care reform bill would increase taxes and burden employers with new costs. Their cap-and-trade energy plan could impose anywhere from $600 billion to $2 trillion in new taxes over the next decade. Additionally, unless they are extended, the lower tax rates that have been in place since 2001 are set to expire at the end of this year, triggering a $2 trillion tax increase over the next decade. Taxes set to increase include levies on income, capital, gains, and dividends. At a time when we need to create jobs, we shouldn't discourage investment in our economy and leave business owners and employers uncertain about the future. They won't start hiring again if they think new taxes will only add to the cost of their business and consume the capital that could be used to pay new employees.
There are other steps Congress can take – promoting our nation's exports and increasing production of domestic energy resources, for example. If Congress puts aside the health-care bill, shelves the cap-and-trade plan, and commits to preventing tax increases, it would go a long way toward getting businesses hiring again.
Raising taxes and passing bills that would increase our nation's deficit and debt are the wrong ways to encourage investment in the economy. If we want business owners and entrepreneurs to start creating jobs, Congress should act so that it does not become harder and more expensive to do business.
Sen. Jon Kyl is the Senate Republican Whip and serves on the Senate Finance and Judiciary committees. Visit his website at http://www.kyl.senate.gov">www.kyl.senate.gov or his YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/senjonkyl">www.youtube.com/senjonkyl.