A year ago this month President Obama declared that we were in the midst of a "recovery summer." This would be the time when companies would hire again and people would feel the comfort and security of a stable job and a rising economy. Unfortunately, the "recovery summer" rhetoric did not reflect reality.
The hole we're in is even deeper now. Around 1.5 million jobs have been lost since February 2009, when the stimulus bill was enacted. Unemployment is now 9.1 percent, economic growth for the first quarter of this year rose a paltry 1.8 percent, and 45 million people are on food stamps -- the highest number in the program's history. All of this despite tossing $1 trillion into a "stimulus" package intended to jump start the economy. If prosperity is here, it's certainly hard to see.
What's easy to see, though, is that we have very different ideas about how to grow this economy. The White House and its supporters on Capitol Hill think the nation's financial engine can get going if we just fill its tank with borrowed money. In fact, it has been reported that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made clear that he wants even more stimulus spending. We tried that - it didn't work.
At the same time, the government is continuing to churn out new regulations. These regulations are often called "hidden taxes" because of the money and effort companies have to spend in complying with added requirements. The Small Business Administration estimates the total annual cost of complying with federal regulations is $1.75 trillion, and the Heritage Foundation says new regulations last year alone cost businesses an additional $26.5 billion over the prior year.
None of this does anything to put people back to work. Neither does throwing money at the problem.
What will help is to give our small business owners -- the backbone of the American economy -- the environment they need to be competitive and profitable. To do this we must reform our tax code, eliminate unnecessary regulations, increase domestic energy production, rein in federal spending and pass the free trade agreements that are now on the table with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. Those agreements alone could help create a quarter of a million new jobs by opening new markets to products made in America.
Millions of Americans are looking for work. Millions more are looking for a better job. More federal spending and Washington rhetoric is not going to make that happen. The President's stimulus and "recovery summer" proved that.