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Mr. HELLER. Mr. President, last month was yet another disappointing month of job growth. Over 12 million Americans are unemployed, close to 6 million have been unemployed for over 27 weeks, and 8 million have been forced to work part time because they have been unable to find full-time work.
To put this in context, since this administration came into office, the number of Americans who are unemployed has increased by 700,000. This is a 5-percent increase in our national unemployment rate. Home values and middle-class income have decreased, and America has dropped from being the most competitive Nation in the world to the fourth most competitive Nation in the world.
After this administration's failed policies of bailout after bailout, Senate Democrats are endorsing the idea of letting America go off the so-called fiscal cliff at the end of this year instead of letting businesses maintain their existing tax rates. This would effectively raise taxes on every American during one of the slowest economic recoveries in modern times.
While I support extending these taxes and giving our Nation's job creators certainty, I believe we need tax reform. Our Tax Code is too complex. We need to close loopholes, broaden the base, and lower rates.
As a member of the Committee on Ways and Means in the House, I worked on this issue, and I will continue to advocate for comprehensive reform while I am in the Senate. While I recognize that sometimes comprehensive policies may be difficult to move forward, especially in an election year, I believe we can find consensus on commonsense solutions.
Since coming to the Senate, I have advocated for policies that create jobs for Nevadans and for all Americans. My State has been one of the hardest hit in this current economic climate. Nevada has had the distinction of leading the Nation in unemployment for over 2 years, as well as in foreclosures and bankruptcies. One part of our population has been especially hit hard, and that is our veterans.
Over 13 percent of the Nation's bravest who put their lives on the line are unable to find a job in this economy. They come home from overseas to find their homes underwater or chronic unemployment in their communities. While a number of veterans have fallen on tough times financially, some have had difficulty adjusting to civilian life. Congress should make it a priority that necessary resources are made available to those who have bravely served our Nation. We must also not forget the families of our veterans, particularly those who have lost loved ones in combat.
So I am proud to join with Senator Burr to introduce the Veterans Small Business Act, which simply ensures that surviving spouses and children are eligible for small business benefits. Congress has provided numerous benefits to our Nation's veterans who own small businesses, including sole-source contracting, low-interest loans, and other resources in order to help these small businesses grow and create jobs. However, should a spouse or a child of a veteran lose a loved one in combat, they can no longer receive these benefits or enroll in these programs.
My legislation closes this large gap in Federal law that does little for those who own businesses before their activation and were killed in the line of duty. As a Member of Congress, we must honor our Nation's fallen as well as ensuring that the loved ones they leave behind have the same economic opportunities afforded to that veteran.
We should be doing all we can to provide all of our Nation's small businesses with the tools needed to survive in this current economic climate. Congress needs to stop worrying about the next election and put in place policies that will not only ignite economic growth, but also get our country back to work.
While there are larger issues we must address, such as tax reform, there are smaller commonsense measures, such as this bill, that we can pass right now if given the opportunity. Measures such as this will make a big difference in our Nation's veterans and job creators.
If it is any indication of how important these issues are to Nevada, I had a constituent, Dan Lyons, who walked from Reno, NV, to Washington, DC, because he didn't think Washington was doing enough for veterans. This was a 6-month walk from Reno, NV, to Washington, DC. He felt he was not getting through to his elected officials via phone or e-mails. So Dan, with a tent, a map, and a plan, started walking across America to see his elected officials face to face.
He walked 25 miles a day, battling treacherous weather, snakes, long, lonely miles, and probably a few blisters just for the chance to sit down and ask that we do more to help struggling veterans. I was proud to meet with Dan, and he is a reminder of what is right with society. He reminds us that we must honor our obligation to our veterans. When they have sacrificed so much to preserve and protect our freedoms, we should at least ensure their needs are met when they and their surviving families fall on hard economic times.
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