The history books will likely remember the 111th Congress with distinction. That distinction, however, has not been for the long-term benefit of our country or the American people. Statistics support that sentiment: unemployment remains near 10 percent; the deficit for the fiscal year ending September 30th was $1.413 trillion, or 9.9 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP); total federal spending during that same period increased by $535 billion; and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the national debt totals $13.260 trillion. Yes, the 111th Congress will surely be remembered for its misguided spending priorities and further damage to our fragile economy.
The excessive spending started immediately in 2009 with the $862 billion so-called "stimulus" bill that was meant to get our sluggish economy growing and spur job creation. Rather than targeted, proven job-creating projects such as shovel-ready construction jobs and business tax credits, taxpayers funded turtle highways in Florida and STD clinics in California. In South Jersey, projects that were already fully funded -- such as the Route 52 Causeway - were involved in a shell game switch to refocus state funding elsewhere. And, as the year wore on, unemployment continued to rise as the bulk of the "stimulus" spending was spread out across the nation.
The pattern continued into 2010 with selective taxpayer bailouts of the auto industry, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The ultimate misguided spending priority, however, resulted in the trillion dollar healthcare reform law, which promised new mandates and hefty tax increases on American families and small businesses for years to come. And least not we forget the inability of the House of Representatives to pass a budget -- the first time since 1974 -- and its decision to punt on all 12 of the annual appropriations bills needed to keep the federal government operating.
To fund all of this new and unnecessary spending, this Congress has sought to increase taxes during the economic recession. That is exactly the opposite way to be create jobs and promote economic growth. By allowing many popular tax cuts that benefit families and small businesses - from the marriage penalty tax and the child tax credit to reductions of the tax rate on dividends and long-term capital gains -- to expire at the end of the year, this Congress would effectively raise taxes in an economic recession. It is the wrong approach at the wrong time by Washington when the goal must be to create and sustain jobs.
Increased spending and taxation, however, have never been my governing philosophy. I believe the best economic policies are those which support a smaller government while allowing taxpayers to keep more of their hard-earned money. In fact, that is how I run my office, which is one of the most fiscally responsible in the Congress. Since 1995, I have returned a total of $4.3 million in unspent office funds to the U.S. Treasury. Furthermore, I've never allowed for South Jersey taxpayers to pay for a car lease, a cell phone, or health insurance and never will.
Despite indicators of an economic recovery that some may point to, the real recovery won't be felt by South Jersey families until they have well-paying jobs and less strain on their personal finances. It is for this reason that I support significant reductions in wasteful spending, making the expiring tax cuts permanent, and ensuring pro-growth economic policies are put in place. Our economy cannot grow if our country's out-of-control spending continues. Our families cannot move forward if proposed tax increases keep holding them back. Looking forward to the 112th Congress, we need to get our priorities in order, focused on growing our economy and getting our citizens back to work.