Traveling around Wisconsin it's easy to hear the despair and anger of people who have lost their jobs and of graduates who can't find any. And they ask me, "What's the government doing about this?"
When President Obama came into office in January, 2009, the economy was already in serious trouble. Unemployment was at a painful 7.8 percent.
Fortunately for the President, both the House and Senate were controlled by his party - by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and their partisans. They got down to work and within a month the President had signed the largest-ever stimulus bill into law.
At $814 billion, the stimulus bill eclipsed the Pentagon's $758 billion estimate of the direct cost of eight years of war in Iraq. With the economy evidently taken care of, the President and his allies pivoted to health care, focusing the following year's attention on creating a vast new entitlement which, to this day, leaves employers queasy with the prospect of large, but as yet ill-defined, costs and regulations, all of which will become greater burdens with each new employee hired.
But the economy wasn't taken care of. In October, 2009, unemployment hit 10.1 percent. It is no coincidence that in the following year, control of the House switched to the Republicans.
Now, with unemployment stuck at 9.1 percent, President Obama is calling for additional stimulus spending with a price tag of $447 billion. Both the House and Senate are refusing to go along, fearing that further escalation of our already huge deficit spending will lead to runaway inflation and an utter loss of confidence by employers and investors in the nation's economic future.
Many people think the President planned for this gridlock to happen. With his bragging rights limited mostly to unpopular successes, he needs scapegoats - in this case a "do-nothing Congress."
But, is it a do-nothing Congress? Not quite. Not in the House, anyway. Since the beginning of the current Congress, the House has approved a number of bills designed to support economic growth and jobs. For example, we have approved legislation to cut $1.2 trillion from the deficit with automatic cuts if Congress fails to act by Dec. 23.
We have approved free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.
We approved a budget plan for 2012 which would have cut $6 trillion in government spending over 10 years, help put our budget on a path to balance, and prevent and eliminate trillions in tax hikes.
We have approved a bill to halt duplicative federal regulations on farmers and small business owners that are impeding job creation. Another bill the House passed would prevent the unelected National Labor Relations Board from dictating where employers and private businesses can set up their operations while yet another would require an analysis of the cumulative economic impacts of certain EPA environmental regulations.
We have approved the Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act, the EPA Regulatory Relief Act, and the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act, all of which would help curb costly, excessive and burdensome regulations imposed by the EPA and save thousands of jobs. The work of the EPA is vital, but its effect on jobs must be considered.
And we have approved four separate bills designed to bypass unnecessary bureaucratic delays in order to significantly increase our domestic energy supplies and create thousands of jobs.
Is it enough? Not by a long shot. But it's a start - except that only the first four bills have actually been passed into law. Ten of the other 11 bills sit stalled in Majority Leader Harry Reid's Senate, the exception being the 2012 budget plan which has been superseded by the first bill mentioned above.
We have been working hard and have accomplished a lot in the House, but to become law, a bill has to be approved by both the House and the Senate and, usually, be signed by the President. Right now, the governing philosophies of Democrats and Republicans are too different to encourage much coming together.
How can you compromise the right approach with the wrong one - especially when the other side feels the same way? That's a question we have yet to answer.