Over the past several weeks, I have traveled across the state visiting small business owners, mayors, shrimpers, teachers, and many other Mississippians. From Potts camp to Picayune to Olive Branch and Gautier, the number one concern on the minds of Mississippians is the economy and jobs. Although the Obama administration promised job creation with the passage of its "stimulus" package, the results have been much different.
The Failure of the Stimulus Bill
In February of last year, leading economists and members of both political parties stated that any stimulus bill should be targeted, timely, and temporary in order to spark economic growth. Unfortunately, Congress enacted an unfocused and poorly crafted bill that did little to address the housing crisis, lower taxes, or stimulate growth.
In numerous speeches and interviews, the administration promised Americans that the stimulus bill would save or create 3.5 million jobs. In fact, the trillion dollar stimulus plan failed to meet the President's own expectations. Rather than creating jobs, the U.S. has lost over three million jobs since the stimulus bill was signed into law. The White House economic team anticipated that the stimulus package would keep unemployment rates below eight percent, but the national unemployment rate continues to hover near double digits.
Focusing on Small Businesses
The Small Business Administration estimates that small businesses create 60 to 80 percent of all new jobs. However, less than one percent of the trillion dollar stimulus bill was dedicated to small business tax relief. The increased borrowing and runaway spending have not stimulated the economy. Removing the uncertainties caused by the administration's policies and implementing permanent tax cuts are ways the government can help improve the current economic environment.
Many businesses and entrepreneurs across the country are eager to start new companies and invest, but they are refraining from doing so because of the harmful policies coming from Washington. The recent health care reform bill is an example of this. The Democrats' health care law requires that any business employing 50 or more people provide federally-approved health insurance. I have heard from many business owners who want to grow and add more employees, but fear the costs now associated with hiring. If a small business expands beyond 50 employees the owner would have to either meet the costly federal insurance mandate or pay a new tax to the federal government.
The health care legislation is not the only policy threatening small businesses. President Obama has announced that he will allow tax hikes to increase on small businesses in 2011. This would raise taxes on approximately 75 percent of small business owners that report their business income through a personal tax return and impact 25 percent of the American workforce. These are the types of harmful tax and regulatory policies that hurt job creators and impede our country's economic recovery.
Promoting the Mississippi Workforce
Protecting jobs and fostering an economic climate that will produce new and higher-paying jobs is a top priority of mine. This past week, I had the opportunity to visit Jarden Consumer Solution's Sunbeam factory in Waynesboro. Over the last few years, the company's business has been threatened by China's illegal trading practices. I recently testified before the International Trade Commission and got a favorable ruling to help protect jobs at Sunbeam and level the playing field so the company could fairly compete in a global market.
Mississippi's highly qualified workforce has proven time and again that we can succeed in a global economy. Economic development efforts have led to significant progress, attracting companies to our state. In August, Governor Barbour announced that KiOR, a biofuels company headquartered in Pasadena, Texas, will be establishing five biofuel production facilities in Mississippi. We estimated KiOR will invest more than $500 million in its Mississippi facilities and create at least 1,000 direct and indirect jobs in the state.
As our country continues to face economic challenges, we need to make sure local, state, and federal officials are working together to create an environment for economic growth rather than impose regulations and taxes that inhibit our recovery. I will continue to work in the Senate to fight job-killing policies and promote legislation that provides the support small businesses need to be job creators.