Here are seven common-sense ideas Congress could take up and pass this year to make our economy more competitive and help struggling families in Ohio and around the country.
First, with new regulations threatening to drive up energy costs, Washington should adopt a pro-growth national energy policy. Let’s attack our addiction to foreign oil with conviction: Last year, $252 billion left our shores to purchase imported oil, driving up our trade deficit and reducing U.S. investment. Depending on volatile parts of the world for energy has led to unpredictable pricing that has contributed to sluggish job growth and low consumer confidence. The plan must include using less energy through smart conservation and finding more energy by aggressively and responsibly developing our own resources: oil, natural gas, coal, biomass, hydro, solar, wind and nuclear energy all have a role to play in securing less expensive, more reliable and cleaner energy. Washington shouldn’t pick winners and losers, but should remove government barriers that raise costs and threaten jobs.
Second, let’s start the process immediately to reform the tax code, something economists across the spectrum agree will create economic growth and jobs. Americans spend nearly 8 billion hours each year complying with the archaic tax code. That is the equivalent of 4 million employees working full-time, year-round.
Even worse, the tax code discourages the working, saving, investing and entrepreneurship that are vital to growth and prosperity. Eliminating preferences and lowering tax rates will enhance our competitiveness, lead to a more efficient allocation of resources and ensure a tax code that’s fair for everyone, not just those who can manipulate it.
Third, let’s provide regulatory relief by cutting the unnecessary red tape to add certainty and create jobs. Job creators small and large are increasingly burdened by expanding layers of Washington regulations. Let’s go beyond the rhetoric and enact common-sense cost-benefit analysis that separates the necessary regulations from those that kill jobs without justification, and insist that agencies use the least burdensome alternative.
Fourth, let’s get serious about expanding exports and adding jobs. With 95 percent of the world’s consumers living outside the United States, giving our workers, farmers and service providers fair access to those markets should be an urgent national priority. Let’s start with a simple approval of the trade-opening agreements long negotiated with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, which would create an estimated 250,000 American jobs, and then get America back in the business of negotiating new export opportunities by giving President Obama the necessary trade promotion authority he inexplicably does not want.
Fifth, let’s give workers the tools they need to be successful in the 21st century. America’s workers have traditionally been the most productive in the world, but are falling behind. Part of the answer is an improved education system that prepares our children for the careers of tomorrow, but Congress can also act immediately to help retrain today’s workers by revamping the $18 billion spent annually on federal training programs.
Those already in the workforce deserve better than the bureaucratic complexities and red tape of 44 different federal employment and training programs administered by nine different agencies. Let’s reform and modernize our job training programs to connect directly to the private sector to make America more competitive.
Sixth, we deserve a healthcare system that provides access to quality, affordable healthcare. Many of us believe this requires repealing the new healthcare law, which will cost trillions of dollars and kill as many as 800,000 jobs. But in the meantime, let’s reduce the costs of healthcare and add jobs by expanding choices and putting consumers in charge, through expanding health savings accounts, allowing people to purchase health insurance across state lines and reining in frivolous lawsuits and other medical malpractice costs.
Finally, let’s reduce federal spending now and cap the growth of government. Obama was right when he said last week that dealing with our record debt and deficits would give businesses more certainty and lead to job expansion.
In fact, each of these seven ideas will lead to more certainty, more business confidence, more private investment and more jobs. Each is part of the GOP Senate Jobs Plan, but each has bipartisan support: Time to roll up our sleeves and go to work.
Rob Portman is a United States Senator from Ohio.