This past week President Obama delivered his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. Traditionally this speech has been a chance for the President to outline his agenda for the coming year. After more than three years of economic hardship, this was the time to chart a new path forward to put our nation back on a sounder fiscal and economic footing.
Nebraskans aren't looking for more of the same policies of the last three years -- more government, more taxes, more stimulus spending. These policies have not only failed to boost the economy, but also made our financial situation even more perilous. Unemployment has remained above 8 percent for a post-World War II record 35 months while our national debt has increased to more than $15 trillion. This pattern is unsustainable.
The President has said in the past he wants to make the tax code simpler, but his call for a new tax on American companies with growth overseas and more tax preferences for certain industries belies any notion of pro-growth tax reform. What President Obama proposed in his speech would actually make our tax system even more convoluted by essentially exchanging loopholes he doesn't like for new ones he does while damaging the competitiveness of American businesses. History shows picking winners and losers in the tax code is not good policy.
What we really need is a comprehensive approach to tax reform which simplifies the code by lowering rates, reducing loopholes, and broadening the base. This will make America more competitive with the rest of the world and help all sectors of the economy invest and create jobs here at home. Just as important, the additional revenue which would be generated by economic expansion would greatly improve our nation's grave fiscal health -- a topic the President barely mentioned.
We've seen a more rapid accumulation of debt over the last three years than any similar period in our nation's history. Our nation's debt is expected to surpass $16 trillion later this year -- more than the entire size of our economy. Economists widely acknowledge once the size of a country's debt eclipses economic output, it becomes a serious drag on growth. The uncertainty this dynamic creates for employers was a major contributor to last year's tepid 1.7 percent GDP growth.
Ending Washington's current fiscal pattern requires tough decisions and principled leadership, which leaders are supposed to offer in the form of a budget. Yet, Washington hasn't operated under a budget for more than two years. In fact, the President's speech marked the 1,000th day without a budget from the Senate. The economic and fiscal challenges before us require tough choices and fiscal restraint. Last year in the House, I voted to pass a serious budget containing trillions of dollars in savings and I will certainly do so again this year.
Strengthening our nation's economy and getting our fiscal house in order continues to be my number one priority. My responsibility to you is to keep working to tackle the big problems we face. I remain committed to finding common ground in order to control spending, reduce the deficit, improve our economy, and create jobs. It is critical we work together to advance bipartisan solutions and principled reforms so we can finally get our fiscal house in order and grow our economy.