By Representative Sam Graves
The U.S. Department of Labor reported that 117,000 jobs were created in July and the unemployment rate fell slightly to 9.1 percent. While new job growth is always welcome, in the context of the past few months, with unemployment continuing to rise and nearly 14 million Americans still out of work -- we have a long way to go.
Our nation's average monthly job creation is 133,000 -- a far cry from the 300,000 jobs per month needed over a sustained period of time to drive down unemployment. And the average American is out of work for more than 40 weeks (up 19 percent from a year ago) -- the longest average time that Americans have been unemployed since the statistic was first recorded in 1948.
The fact that more than 1.3 million jobs have been lost and unemployment has averaged 9.5 percent in the two years since the so-called 'stimulus" spending bill was enacted proves that more government is not the answer for economic recovery.
Any hope for a long-term recovery and job creation begins with our small businesses. Responsible for creating 7 of every 10 jobs and employing just over half of the country's private sector workforce, they are our most robust job creators.
House Republicans understand this. Since the beginning of this Congress, we have passed 16 different pieces of legislation that would increase job growth. However, only one has been passed into law; the rest are sitting in the Senate. If President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are as serious as they say about job creation, then any jobs agenda must include:
* Reducing Regulatory Burdens: Excessive federal regulations already cost small firms over $10,500 per employee, which is more than 35 percent higher than the cost of regulatory compliance for large businesses. Whether it's mandates in the new health care law, environmental rules, or financial red-tape -- more regulations that increase cost for businesses mean fewer jobs for workers.
* Simplifying the Tax Code and Keeping Taxes Low: The United States tax code is a complex volume estimated to cost taxpayers and small businesses $163 billion and 6 billion hours a year to comply with its tax-filing requirements. A recent National Federation of Independent Business study found that four of the top 10 small-business problems were tax-related. A proposal to reform the tax code should also keep taxes low for businesses and individuals, since most small businesses file their taxes on an individual return.
* Passing the Pending Trade Agreements: 97 percent of identified U.S. exporters are small businesses, yet that represents a small fraction of those that could compete globally if trade barriers were reduced. This is why the Obama administration must expedite sending to Congress the pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. The U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that the three trade agreements combined would increase exports by $13 billion. Using the president's own measure, such an increase in U.S. exports could create 250,000 American jobs.
* Utilization of Domestic Energy Sources: With summer in full swing and gas prices over $4 a gallon in some areas of the country, the Obama administration continues to block production of American-made energy. In fact, since President Obama said he would tap into our emergency oil reserves, a move thought to temper costs, prices have actually risen 10 cents at the pump. These rising prices are leaving many small firms struggling to make ends meet. A recent wholesaler survey reported that 64 percent of small businesses have incurred revenue decreases as a result of rising fuel costs.
* Living Within Our Means: The Budget Control Act was a good first step at cutting spending in order to pay our bills without raising taxes. But much more must be done to address Washington's spending problem. Our record $14.5 trillion debt continues to be a dark cloud over our economy; it is a barrier for job creation that can only be removed by restoring fiscal discipline in the federal budget.
Removing government barriers for our job creators will provide the confidence necessary for them to reinvest in our economy and get Americans back to work. We can no longer continue down the same tax, spend and regulate path. It's past time to reverse course and take bold steps to get government out of the way so the private sector can flourish and get us back to the prosperous America that we are accustomed to.
U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Tarkio, Mo., is chairman of the House Committee on Small Business.
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