The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the "stimulus," turned three years old on Friday. When properly accounted, the price tag for this historic spending law is more than $1.1 trillion. To put this figure in perspective, the stimulus is more than twice the size of the New Deal and more than the entire value of Australia's economy.
Supporters of the stimulus plan promised it would "save or create" 3.5 million jobs and keep unemployment from reaching 8 percent. However, instead of seeing a dramatic increase in growth, our country is experiencing the slowest pace of economic expansion since the Great Depression. Quarterly growth has averaged an anemic 1.4 percent since the stimulus was passed. By comparison, quarterly growth averaged 5.6 percent in the same period of time following the recession ending in 1982.
While the pace of job creation has improved in recent months, the continued decline of the American labor force is a cause for concern. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the labor force participation rate -- the number of able people working or looking for work -- currently stands at a thirty-year low. If the participation rate were at the same level today as it was before the recession started, the national unemployment rate would be an astounding 11.4 percent due to the severe lack of job opportunities.
Clearly, the stimulus has not worked, which is why I was disappointed to see the President double down on this approach in his recently proposed budget. Like last year's proposal, the budget he recently submitted has been met with bipartisan opposition because it contains hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending. It's time to consider new ideas.
Nebraskans understand we cannot spend our way to prosperity with money we don't have. Our state has weathered the Great Recession better than almost any other precisely because we chose not to grow government or engage in wasteful spending. We don't need another stimulus. I have remained focused on pro-growth policies which eliminate government barriers to private-sector job creation, voting to pass nearly 30 bipartisan bills which would reduce burdensome regulations, cut wasteful spending, and expand domestic energy production.
Bills like H.R. 1633, which would prevent the EPA from regulating farm dust, and H.R. 1173, which would repeal the unsustainable CLASS Act, passed the House 268-150 and 267-159 respectively; there is broad, bipartisan support for these commonsense pieces of legislation, but they are still awaiting a vote in the Senate. If the President were to put as much energy into supporting these responsible pieces of legislation as he has his misguided and wasteful stimulus measures, our nation may well be on a more sustainable fiscal path.
Getting government out of the way and living within its means would be the best stimulus plan of all. I will continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reverse this pattern of overspending and free our economy from the burden of excessive regulation, over-taxation, and growing debt.