Unleashing the American Economy
By Congressman Joe Pitts
The beginning of the 21st century has put the resilience of our national economy to the test.
Not long after we breathed our collective sigh of relief over avoiding the "Y2K" computer bug meltdown, we came face to face with a far more real economic threat: the bursting of the tech bubble.
Then, in the late summer of 2001, with the economy still on uncertain ground following a rash of major corporate scandals, our nation's very foundations were shaken by the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
The war on terror that followed those attacks continues to this day on a global scale, including major combat fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Upon taking office in January, 2001, President George W. Bush recognized these economic challenges and quickly called on Congress to make large-scale tax relief a top priority. The President's philosophy follows an old saying - you can't have capitalism without capital. His tax cut plan was aimed at letting Americans keep more of their hard-earned money, thereby infusing our sputtering economy with the capital needed to sustain a comeback.
Over the course of his first term, the Republican-led Congress responded to the President's call for easing Americans' tax burden by enacting a series of pro-growth tax cuts.
The subsequent rebound of our economy has been remarkable. Heading into the summer, the leading economic indicators show a strong, vibrant economy with sufficient momentum to continue growing.
Consider some of the numbers.
In April alone, 138,000 new jobs were added to the economy. That marks 32 months of uninterrupted job growth in America.
Since the summer of 2003, we've added more than 5 million jobs to U.S. payrolls.
Unemployment rates are hitting historic lows. In April, unemployment was at 4.7 percent - lower than the average of the last three decades.
Overall growth of the economy, measured by Gross Domestic Product, is strong. GDP grew at 4.8 percent in the first quarter of 2006, marking 18 consecutive quarters of GDP growth.
Worker productivity has risen at an average annual rate of 3.2 percent since 2001, faster than any five-year period in the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s.
The stock market is performing with record strength. Personal income and consumer spending are up. Construction and manufacturing sectors are growing, and homeownership rates are at record highs.
Clearly, America has rebounded from the economic sluggishness of just a few short years ago. However, the tax cuts that helped to spur this turnaround are set to expire in the near future.
The sizable and sudden tax increase that would result from allowing these tax cuts to expire would deal a heavy blow to the growth and expansion that we are currently experiencing.
That is why Congress should make the permanent extension of these pro-growth tax cuts a top priority this year. Democrats' opposition to doing so is only preventing our ability to help ensure that our vibrant free-market system will have the resources needed to continue growing and providing economic opportunity for future generations of Americans.
As we learned last summer, when an enormous section of our Gulf Coast was devastated by large-scale natural disaster, our economy will always face unpredictable challenges.
That is why we must heed the lessons learned from the tremendous economic rebound of the past three years.
The best economic policy Congress can undertake is to get out of the way and allow our vibrant economy the freedom and resources needed to excel.