From the collapse in the housing market to failed financial institutions and bankrupt automobile manufacturers, the economic downturn has impacted all segments of our country, resulting in massive layoffs and high unemployment. Reversing this trend will require less government intervention, not more.
Unfortunately, the response from Washington so far has been to stubbornly increase the role of government. We need the government to get out of the way and let the private sector create jobs.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, since the recession began in December 2007, the national unemployment rate has more than doubled to 10 percent, with more than 15 million people out of work.
While Alaska is somewhat insulated from the worst of the recession, the number of payroll jobs in the state is down by 3,300 from a year ago and, at 8.8 percent, the state is facing its highest unemployment rate since 1992.
Without trampling on the free market, there are some things Congress can do to improve the current job situation.
First, extend the income tax relief enacted in 2001. Allowing income tax rates to return to their pre-2001 levels, as they're set to do at the end of this year, will harm small-business owners who account for 99 percent of all employers, more than 50 percent of the national GDP and 75 percent of new job creation.
Driving down operating costs for our business owners, both small and large, will allow them to create badly needed jobs. Jobs that will be here years after the 2010 Census is done, that we can build a future on.
The other thing government can do is invest in our domestic energy sector. Increased domestic production would both lower the cost of energy by reducing our dependency on foreign oil and create high-paying jobs here at home -- a win-win for America.
Here in Alaska, we must also look beyond our traditional fossil fuel industry and work to create a more diverse economy. One way to escape Alaska's boom-and-bust cycle is to seize on the strategic importance of our geographic location at the crossroads between North America and Asia.
There are opportunities to expand our shipping services as the Arctic Ocean emerges as a potential trading route between Asia and Europe. Alaska is already a national leader in air cargo services with both FedEx and UPS located here. Our tough climate makes us the perfect location for developing cold weather technology that can be exported around the world.
The United States is an Arctic nation because of Alaska. We should not only be the center of U.S. research on the Arctic, we should also be world leaders in the area. As your senior representative in Washington, I will continue to work to bring more federal research opportunities on the Arctic and maritime policy to Alaska.
As we look for ways to grow our economy, we must also guard against Washington's natural tendency to increase taxes and impose excessive regulations that drive jobs away. We cannot spend our way out of the current recession. The only long-term solution is to spur job creation by creating an atmosphere that encourages private-sector investment.