The Week Just Passed: National Small Business Week
"This week is National Small Business Week, an appropriate time to assess the health of our nation's smaller companies, America's engine of private sector job creation.
"As we are all painfully aware, our nation is trying to recover from an extremely tough recession. Frankly, many of the people I meet all across northern New Jersey, including this week at the Tri-Towns Chamber of Commerce and the Morris Economic Development Association, are not at all sure that their local recession has ended. We all know a recent college graduate who cannot start their career, or someone who is seeking to transition from part-time to full-time employment or a person has stopped looking for work altogether. The workforce participation rate -- the percentage of people actually holding down paying jobs -- is the lowest it's been in decades. In fact, if this rate was as high as it was just three years ago, today's unemployment rate would be around 11 percent!
"The answer is quite simple: we need to be doing everything we can to lower taxes, cut red tape and make it easier for small businessmen and women to expand their companies and create jobs. After all, "compliance is costly' and instead of taxing the productive part of our economy to death, we need to provide relief for our small businesses.
"Earlier this year, the House passed a Small Business Tax Cut to create jobs. This summer, we plan to vote on measures to put a freeze on Washington red tape and give our nation's small businesses some much needed certainty so they can develop strong business plans and chart their own futures.
"I look forward to working with President Obama and his allies in the U.S. Senate on these common sense solutions so that small businesses will be able to grow and create jobs, hire recent graduates and get our friends, family members and neighbors back to work."
Recommended Reading: Nicholas Owens, writing in the Wednesday Wall Street Journal, "Red Tape Diaries, One Small Business Owners' Strguggle Against Bureaucracy."
CBO Sees Another Recession On the Horizon
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said this week that unless Congress and the President act to prevent scheduled tax increases and spending cuts at the end of the year, a recession will likely result in early 2013.
Early next year income taxes are set to go up when current tax rates expire. Automatic spending cuts totaling roughly $109 billion, triggered by last August's debt-ceiling deal, are set to hit. Meanwhile, payments to physicians and hospitals under Medicare will be slashed.
CBO projects that these and other elements of the so-called "fiscal cliff" will cause the economy to contract as demand dries up.
It projected in a Tuesday report that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will contract by 1.3 percent in the first half of 2013 before growing 2.3 percent later in the year. Annualized, GDP would grow just 0.5 percent in 2013.
"Given the pattern of past recessions as identified by the National Bureau of Economic Research, such a contraction in output in the first half of 2013 would probably be judged to be a recession," the report states.
This is the first time CBO has forecast a recession resulting from the fiscal cliff. In January it saw 1.1 percent GDP growth in 2013 if policies are not dealt with.
If Congress and the White House turn off all the automatic cuts and the tax increase, growth would rise to 4.4 percent, CBO predicted in the report.
Recommended Reading: Wednesday's editorial in the Wall Street Journal, "O'Malley's Tutorial, Maryland's Governor offers a lesson in progressive taxation."
Noted With Interest (Literally): Debt Outpaces Economic Output
In the first 3 months of 2012, the U.S. debt rose by $359.1 billion according to the Department of Treasury, while Gross Domestic Product, the output of our economy, grew only by $142.2 billion according to the Bureau of Economic Statistics. This means the U.S. is borrowing approximately $2.52 for every $1 of economic growth so far in 2012.
Astronaut Lands in 11th Congressional District
Rodney welcomed a veteran NASA astronaut to several local schools on Monday. Colonel Randolph Bresnik (USMC) visited with hundreds of local students to talk about his experiences as an astronaut and the contributions of space exploration to the advancement of math and science.
Rodney escorted Col. Bresnik to Robert Lazar Middle School in Montville, Lincoln Park Middle School and East Hanover Middle School.
"It's important for young people to see and hear a genuine astronaut up close and personal," Rodney said. "We can only hope that one day one of these students will find themselves on a mission to Mars or manning the latest deep space telescope. Col. Bresnik made it clear that math matters and science is important for America's future!"
Bresnik completed his first flight on STS-129 in November 2009 and has logged over 259 hours in space, including 11 hours and 50 minutes in 2 extra vehicular activities (EVAs). STS-129 (November 16-29, 2009) was the 31st shuttle flight to the International Space Station. During the mission Bresnik performed two spacewalks for a total of 11 hours and 50 minutes of EVA . The STS-129 mission was completed in 10 days, 19 hours, 16 minutes and 13 seconds, traveling 4.5 million miles in 171 orbits, and returned to Earth bringing back with them another NASA astronaut who had completed her tour of duty aboard the Space Station.
See a photo gallery of Astronaut Bresnik's visits in the Daily Record here.
New Era in Space Launch
This week SpaceX, a private commercial space vehicle company, successfully launched their Falcon 9 rocket and its Dragon capsule. The vehicle is now en route to the International Space (ISS) on a mission to supply cargo to the ISS and safely return to Earth. The unmanned launch, which took place early this morning out of Cape Canaveral, Florida, is the first of its kind.
Rodney support efforts to maintain U.S. access to space. There are a number of local commercial companies working closely with NASA on future missions.
A Second Opinion on a Prostate Concern
The PSA test for prostate cancer should be abandoned, according to a government advisory panel. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force announced this week that had concluded that few lives are saved by PSA screening for prostate cancer.
Many prostate cancer groups have joined Rodney in questioning this finding. He wrote in October and December to Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius expressing his concern that such a recommendation could have a "very real and very negative impact on men's health and their families."
Rodney has never had the courtesy of a reply from Sec. Sebelius.
Recommended Reading: Michael O'Hanlon and Ambassador Ronald Neumann writing in the Washington Post, "NATO's Undue Optimism, Reducing Afghanistan's security forces would threaten its viability." Worth a read because Ambassador Neumann AND his late father where both ambassadors to Afghanistan, so he has an important perspective. Read the piece here.
Rodney's Thoughts on Memorial Day
"This weekend, America will mark Memorial Day and we will pause to remember those men and women who have paid the ultimate price to protect us.
"Our nation is free because of brave Americans like these, who volunteer to confront our adversaries abroad so we do not have to face them here at home. These volunteers do the work of freedom so we can all be here today in the greatest nation on the face of the earth!
"I know I speak for all of my fellow veterans when I say that no one loves peace more than the soldier. That is precisely why all Americans should commit themselves today to the principle paraphrased in George Washington's first State of the Union message: "peace through strength.'
"We must never forget that we are truly a nation at war and the ongoing military operations in Afghanistan and around the globe make this day particularly important. Therefore, on Memorial Day 2012, we should remember the words of President Harry Truman:
""Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.'
"This weekend, take time to honor the men and women who have worn the nation's uniform and were last seen standing duty."