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Lankford Letter: Encouraging Job Creation and a Balanced Budget


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Fall weather is finally here. This wonderful season brings cooler temperatures, back to school activities like football games and cross country meets, and the anticipation of upcoming holidays. It also presents the opportunity for Congress to find solutions to grow our economy and repair our fiscal imbalance to build a prosperous future.

While visiting with friends and neighbors around the Fifth District the past several weeks, many people have expressed concern regarding the economic and fiscal challenges facing our country. I share these concerns about the economy and the staggering amount of debt our government is continuing to carry. Let me bring you up to speed on several issues facing our nation this fall:

Last week, President Obama delivered the American Jobs Act to Congress. I commend the President for keeping the focus on our economy. With unemployment stuck at 9.1%, addressing the economy should be one of our highest priorities. Several of us in Congress are working to find common ground with the President in order to advance economic reforms. The difficult part is finding agreement in a plan that contains many of the same spending and tax incentives presented to the nation in the larger stimulus package of 2009. The President has proposed temporarily increasing our debt by cutting Social Security and Medicare taxes for one year, then permanently expanding taxes in multiple other areas next year to pay for it. I have little confidence that this provision will give our economy the "jolt" it promises. In 2009, President Obama's stimulus plan promised to lower the unemployment rate below 7% by September 2011. Congress passed the bill in 2009, but two-and-half years later, unemployment remains over 9%. I believe that if we continue to rely on the same government-centric economic proposals, we will only see the same failed results.

The bottom line is that the government does not create long-term jobs. Government can certainly encourage job creation by building a stable and healthy economic environment, but business is the engine that fuels our economy. The business of business is to grow and hire, and if growth is not happening, we should ask, "Why not?" We must find and remove the government-imposed burdens that preclude employers from hiring. I believe we should find low-cost and no-cost economic incentives so that we stop adding to the national debt. We can expand energy exploration, encourage free trade, streamline regulations, allow companies to repatriate overseas profits and reform our tax code. These low-cost and no-cost solutions allow the private sector to take the lead in our economic recovery.

Job promotion and debt reduction go hand in hand. Keeping a dual focus on economic growth and fiscal responsibility is crucial for the long-term prosperity of our country. Doing "nothing" about the economy is unacceptable, just like adding to the national debt to say we did "something."

This fall, both the House and Senate will vote on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. As a strong supporter of the balanced budget amendment, I am convinced that it is the adult in the room needed to ensure we never find ourselves in this situation again. Currently, forty-nine states have some type of law that requires a balanced budget. In a poll I conducted last week during a bipartisan telephone town hall meeting held with thousands of randomly selected Fifth District citizens, more than eighty percent of the people supported a balanced budget amendment. It has been more than 15 years since Congress has considered a balanced budget amendment. It is past time to pass this common sense reform.

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction has begun its work to find another $1.5 trillion in spending cuts. They must propose recommendations by November 23 to ensure that Congress votes by the end of the year. Once the joint committee makes its recommendations, the full House and Senate must vote to approve or reject the report. While I have a healthy dose of skepticism about the final report, I am hopeful that an agreement can be finalized that takes another step in the debt reduction process. We are so far out of balance that no single vote or committee will create a perfect plan to get us out of debt. It will take years of focused commitment. But, we must keep up the progress.

A few other items will also dominate the conversation this fall, including the Post Office debt and structure, highway transportation, education, regulatory reforms, unemployment and the 2012 budget. In April, House Republicans passed our budget, the Path to Prosperity, and we have spent much of the summer working on appropriations bills for fiscal year 2012 to fund the government. Unfortunately, the Senate has not passed a budget or any appropriations bills for 2012 -- in fact, the Senate has not passed a Budget in 875 days! House Republicans forced $38 billion in spending cuts in fiscal year 2011, and we plan to push that number even further this upcoming year.

This week, I amended my H.R. 373, The Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act of 2011, in my Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee. This bill will make much-needed reforms to a 1995 law and will provide Congress and agencies with the tools needed to be more aware of the effects and costs mandates and regulations have on states, local and tribal governments and the private sector. These added costs come right out of your pocketbook. The legislation will close the loopholes and exemptions that currently exist in the 1995 law to improve proper oversight from Congress. It will help agencies better measure the costs and benefits of rules and ensure that they consider the least costly and least burdensome alternative. The bill will now move onto consideration in the full Oversight & Government Reform Committee.

Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and I have introduced a bill that will allow states to reject federal funding for implementing state health care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act and return that money to the Treasury to help reduce the deficit. The governors of Oklahoma and Kansas have chosen to reject the Federal Health Care Exchange dollars, and we want to make sure these dollars go to deficit reduction rather than paying for more big government programs. We are leading the way for solutions that are good for patients and the federal budget. You can read more about this bill here.

These initiatives will make for a busy fall in Washington as we continue to work to overcome economic and fiscal challenges. I am committed to ensuring that our nation remains strong, and I appreciate your support as our country works together to find true, long-term solutions.

May God continue to bless our nation and your family as we work toward what is right for our families and our nation today and tomorrow.

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