America's entrepreneurial spirit is the backbone of our economy.
The enthusiasm with which our entrepreneurs and small businesspeople have pursued their ideas -- despite the risk of failure -- has generated unprecedented economic growth. The resulting prosperity and job creation have benefited not just our country, but the entire world. It goes to the core of who we are as a people.
Unfortunately today, if you're thinking about starting a business and putting your capital to work, the playing field has shifted. The Obama administration's recent encroachments into an assorted list of industries -- combined with rapidly rising taxes -- make entrepreneurs in Virginia and around the country question whether the energy and risk are worth the future reward and return on investment.
If you're an entrepreneur or job creator, consider what you're up against:
* The discussion in Washington isn't about whether or not to tax investors and entrepreneurs; it's about how to tax them and by how much.
* A wave of new regulatory agencies and regulations threatens to smother business activity and restrict the flow of credit.
* Labor unions are on the verge of changing the game to give them an advantage, thus creating more uncertainty about the cost of hiring.
* Government is asserting more and more control over what was once the private economy.
* And most chilling, America's debt is spiraling out of control, escalating the long-term threat of inflation and higher interest rates.
When the president was sworn into office 17 months ago, he had an opportunity to rally the country behind extraordinary measures to create sustainable jobs and spur genuine economic growth.
Instead, his administration jammed through a nearly $1 trillion so-called stimulus plan that was heavy on funding for government programs and aid to states but nearly empty on assistance for small businesses. It has fallen well short of the administration's own goals.
The stimulus proved to be just the beginning of a flawed agenda that would include cap-and-trade and a budget-busting new health care entitlement -- while leaving the prospect of sweeping tax increases in 2011 on the table.
Immediately after the health care bill was signed into law, a wide range of American companies began to announce the impact that higher costs will have on their ability to remain viable.
One Richmond-based insurance company, nHealth, says the uncertainties generated by the overhaul have driven them out of business. It's a shame, because nHealth was offering Health Savings Accounts, linked to a high-deductible insurance plan. This afforded individuals and small businesses a way to have health insurance when they couldn't access a group plan. But by the end of the year, nHealth's thousands of small business customers will have to turn elsewhere.
As the government continues to grow at the expense of the private sector, millions of Americans find themselves asking whether we are watching the Europeanization of America. The less-vibrant economies of Europe have long prioritized economic equality and social welfare through the redistribution of wealth -- a far cry from the free enterprise approach that fostered a culture of entrepreneurship in America through the reward of hard work.
But now the American people are waking up. They look across the Atlantic and see Greece and other European countries struggling to remain solvent. They see the welfare state's powerlessness to cope with the debt crisis it has created. They realize that if we continue to spend and govern as Europeans do, we'll be permanently saddled with unsustainable debt, onerous regulations, higher taxes, less growth, and the political allocation of capital.
These concerns have unleashed an impassioned philosophical debate nationwide over the proper role of government. The question is, what kind of an America will we choose? A limited government that promotes free enterprise and equality of opportunity -- the type of government that does for people only what they cannot do themselves? Or an oversized government which, while striving for economic equality for all, settles for that equality at the lowest common denominator?
Economic freedom and the ability to succeed are born out of the chance of failure. That is what has made this country so great, but it can only survive in an environment in which government is limited.
Ultimately, the strength of our Republic resides not in a vast government safety net, but in the innovative spirit of our people. Not in our people's desire to rely upon the government, but in their drive toward self-sufficiency and controlling their own destiny.
That's why we must start right now to pull ourselves back from the brink. The struggle begins with getting our fiscal house back in order by cutting spending.
However politically popular it may be, we cannot keep relying on the government's monetary and fiscal stimulus. Zero percent interest rates and runaway government spending may make us feel better in the short term, but only prolong the day of reckoning -- and make it worse.
Instead, we must grow by encouraging entrepreneurship, ingenuity, and capital investment. Private businesses -- now hoarding cash at record levels due to the uncertainty created by Washington -- need confidence in the tax and regulatory framework. And individuals need the incentives to once again put capital at risk.
America is at a crossroads. Parents and grandparents know that the decisions we make today will determine the world that our kids and grandkids live in tomorrow. We have to do everything we can to leave them a better Virginia, and a better America than the one left to us.
Our way of life is being threatened by an economy with too much debt because of a government that spends too much and taxes too much. But I believe that if we change course today, we will turn things around. If we get back to a system that inspires innovation and encourages "earned success" among its people, America will remain the land of prosperity and opportunity for our children.