There's no question that the United States is facing significant economic challenges.
Hardworking moms and dads are losing their jobs at a mind-numbing pace. Businesses large and small are shutting their doors. Wall Street is in turmoil. Foreclosures continue to rise.
In the midst of this recession, the people of Southwest Florida and the nation want to see our economic challenges disappear. They're searching for new opportunities and the hope that we will soon shed these troubled times.
But there are right ways to stabilize the economy and create prosperity, and there are wrong ways.
Unfortunately, the so-called economic "stimulus" plan being touted by President Obama and the Democratic-led Congress as the solution to our troubles is the wrong way. It offers little more than false promises, smoke and mirrors, and a future of unprecedented growth of the federal government and its control of our lives.
When I ran for Congress, I pledged to fight for a smaller federal government with limited powers, and for policies that would allow free markets to flourish.
That's why I have adamantly opposed the massive, socialist-style policies and government interference that Washington has heaped upon the American people and the marketplace, and why I will continue to oppose any policies and programs that diminish freedom and free markets.
This week, the House of Representatives is set to vote on President Obama's "stimulus" plan. With a staggering price tag of $825 billion, the president and his allies are fighting hard to convince Congress and the American people that this plan is the only way to boost our ailing economy. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Consider for a moment that this $825 billion plan follows immediately on the heels of the recent, irresponsible $700 billion bailout of the financial sector, in addition to the $14 billion bailout of the Big Three automakers, and the $300 billion bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that Congress passed last year.
After all of those massive bailouts, our national debt now tops $10.6 trillion. Our budget deficit now stands at $1.2 trillion. Both continue to grow at alarming rates, and the Obama plan will spike the deficit to more than $2 trillion.
For months, Americans have heard President Obama and the Democrats in Congress talk about the need for Washington to assume the responsibility for job creation and economic growth.
While I share their desire to get our economy moving again, no nation has ever spent its way to prosperity.
What's more, under President Obama's plan, the vast majority of the $825 billion that is supposed to "stimulate" the economy won't. For example, the plan includes:
$726 million for after-school snack programs;
$50 million for the National Endowment of the Arts;
Nearly $20 billion for food stamps;
More than $7 billion low-income heating assistance and weatherization programs;
$2 billion for Head Start;
More than $15 billion for Pell grants;
$13 billion for special education state grants;
$3 billion for a new prevention and wellness fund;
$600 million to take the first steps toward universal health care;
And the list goes on (it is available on my web site, http://mack.house.gov).
In fact, the Obama plan expands 60 existing government programs and it creates another 32 brand-new programs totaling $137 billion.
While a mere 13 percent of the funds included in this bill ($48 billion) would be appropriated for transportation and other infrastructure projects, a study by the Congressional Budget Office estimates that only 7 percent of the infrastructure funds would be spent immediately in fiscal year 2009 - and less than half of those funds will be spent by October 2010.
What's more, Davis-Bacon wage requirements would be applied to all of the infrastructure funds, meaning fewer workers will be hired for these projects because the prevailing wage will have to be paid.
Sadly, this bill represents everything that is wrong with Washington: colossal wasteful spending, a vastly larger government that does more and controls more, excessive and burdensome regulations on taxpayers and businesses, and mind-boggling fiscal irresponsibility.
We simply cannot pour hundreds of billions of dollars into government programs, saddling future generations with loads of debt, under the guise of immediate economic recovery and job creation.
Instead, we need to enact fiscally responsible measures to help families and businesses in these difficult times, and in a way that does not expand the role of Washington in our lives or further erode free markets.
Long-term economic growth depends on job creation by the American people and private businesses, not the federal government. The quickest way to grow our economy and get our country moving again is to slash taxes on the American people and businesses and save our children and grandchildren from inheriting a crushing debt burden.
For example, we should immediately cut income taxes and the payroll tax. This would instantly put more money in the pockets of American families.
We should slash the corporate income tax rate. The corporate tax rate in the United States is one of the highest in the world and discourages foreign investment in America.
We also need to make the capital gains and dividend tax cuts permanent, and pursue other pro-growth solutions, such as common-sense regulatory reforms that will help unleash our full economic potential. Leaving the American people with more money to spend and invest is the best way to grow the economy. Rather than more government spending and meddling in the economy, we need to leave the New Deal ideas where they belong: in the history books!
As Congress prepares to vote on President Obama's unprecedented and unwise $825 billion plan, I urge my colleagues in Washington, and everyone in Southwest Florida and beyond, to heed former President Gerald Ford's caution to the nation in his 1974 address to Congress:
"Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have."
Wise words indeed.