Creating Jobs, Not Pointing Fingers
Lately, Ohio has hosted some visitors who have offered their own commentary on the Buckeye State's economy. These visitors happen to be United States senators and candidates for President, so their views definitely have been heard loud and clear on the radio and television and in the pages of our local newspapers. And as the year moves on, we can fully expect to hear more from them and from others on this very same subject.
They are correct - just as others from both parties are - to call attention to Ohio's job losses and manufacturing downturn over the past five or six years. It's a difficult issue for all of us who live in Ohio. As a former small business owner myself, I know just how hard it can be to endure an economic downturn and stay afloat for the upswing that follows. And as a legislator, I've joined others on Capitol Hill and beyond in offering some seemingly common sense steps to create a friendlier business environment - not just in Ohio, but throughout the rest of the nation.
To begin, none of the steps I've endorsed involves "the blame game." Pointing a finger never created a job, and that's not about to change now. As 2004 wears on, we're likely to read and hear a great deal of political rhetoric placing blame for lost jobs or closed factories on a variety of politicians or even a few foreign nations. China is a popular target for some, as a matter of fact. But according to a comprehensive, independent National Association of Manufacturers study conducted late last year, such finger pointing at China - or any other foreign market - is misdirected. According to the study, "domestically imposed costs - by omission or commission of federal, state, and local governments - are damaging manufacturing more than any foreign competitor."
So what's really to blame? The study explains that these domestically imposed costs add "at least 22.4 percent to the cost of doing business from the United States." In other words, to identify a real obstacle to job creation, we should look inward: at our own business environment, which places U.S. firms at a competitive disadvantage against our global competitors. That means we have the ability to control and reduce these costs and help to create a friendlier environment in which to do business. In Washington, we've taken steps to do just that, but more must still be taken.
For example, did you know that even after three consecutive years of tax cuts passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush, the U.S. faces the second highest rate of business taxation in the developed world? What's even more shocking is that some in Washington - including Ohio's recent visitors - actually want these tax cuts to expire, thereby raising rates even higher! On top of this high tax burden, American businesses face exploding health care costs, high energy prices, excessive and frivolous litigation, and often-unworkable workplace and environmental regulations that simply put a chokehold on American economic expansion.
Taken together, these factors create a "perfect storm" that makes it more difficult than ever to create jobs on American soil and keep them here. Until we work together to address these issues, politicians can scream about China or outsourcing or free trade all they want, but they'll never get to the heart of the matter: making our own business environment friendlier for employers and employees alike.
There's no single issue I hear more about from my constituents than Ohio's lost jobs and depleted manufacturing sector. And there's no issue I care about more deeply. I have used and will continue to use my role as Chairman of the U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee to support and advance legislation to address our health care cost crisis, promote the best job training programs in the world, and strengthen our education and retirement systems - the bookends of economic prosperity. By setting aside the rhetoric of campaigns, editorial pages, and misdirected finger pointing, we can take steps toward creating and keeping jobs here in Ohio and in every other state as well. But doing so will take a great deal of political will - and the commitment to stop blaming and start moving.