Almost exactly a year after seeing 787 billion of their tax dollars evaporate courtesy of a so-called "stimulus bill," Americans are justifiably running out of patience and asking "Where are the jobs?" President Obama and congressional Democrats rushed the stimulus bill through Congress last February amid dire predictions that failure to pass the bill would result in double-digit unemployment, while passage would keep the jobless rate below 8 percent. In the months after President Obama signed the stimulus bill into law, the unemployment rate topped 10 percent and remains close to that today. Nationwide, 3.3 million jobs have been lost. Oklahoma saw its unemployment rate jump from 4.2 percent to 7.1 percent in a year's time. Our state's jobless rate has ticked back down slightly to 6.6 percent, but that's little comfort to those who are still out of work.
I voted against the stimulus bill because I believed it was a pork-laden giveaway to liberal special interest groups that would serve only to grow the government and add to the deficit while doing too little to create jobs and invest in our infrastructure. One year later, it's clear that the stimulus bill has failed even more spectacularly than I had feared.
Remarkably, the Obama administration's response to this failed economic experiment is more of the same. Rather than embracing policies that would reduce the size of government and provide tax incentives for small businesses to create jobs, they remain sidetracked by other objectives, like a record-breaking spending plan and a government takeover of our health care system. Along with the misguided cap-and-trade bill, these policies actually discourage employers from hiring by creating uncertainty in the markets and guaranteeing punishing tax hikes for businesses and manufacturers. It's no wonder businesses are hesitant to make new hires when they know the liberals who control Washington, D.C., are poised to pass bill after bill that will dramatically raise costs and impose new regulations.
There is one indication that President Obama and his allies learned something over the past year. While they prepare to shove another multi-billion dollar spending bill through Congress, they no longer refer to it as a "stimulus" bill; now they call it a "jobs" bill. But make no mistake: They may have changed the name, but the substance of the legislation remains the same -- more spending, more government and more debt. By contrast, conservatives have proposed an economic recovery plan that promotes job creation through a variety of fiscally responsible policies, including targeted tax cuts for businesses.
The president has been talking a lot lately about bipartisanship. Unfortunately, his idea of bipartisan cooperation begins and ends with his proposal to invite Republicans to a televised summit about Democrat-authored health care legislation. Not only does this symbolic gesture fail to give fair consideration to Republican proposals, it ignores the more pressing issues of job creation, spending restraint and deficit reduction. The American people are most certainly focused on these issues even if the Obama administration is not. By truly considering Republican plans, the president can show both bipartisanship and seriousness about making the tough choices necessary for economic recovery. It is my hope he will do so in the months ahead.