By Charlie Summers
Earlier this month, the federal Labor Department released yet another disappointing jobs report that showed just 96,000 jobs were created in the month of August.
For the 43rd consecutive month, the unemployment rate was 8 percent or higher, and for every American who found a job, four people gave up looking altogether, putting the labor participation rate at its lowest level since 1981. If the same number of people were looking for a job today as when President Obama first took office, the unemployment rate would be 11.2 percent.
Just last month, the Congressional Budget Office predicted unemployment will rise above 9 percent next year if our country goes over the"fiscal cliff," the combination of across-the-board spending cuts and tax hikes set to take place at the end of this year unless Congress and the president act. Not only could many Mainers face a tax increase if this happens, but the draconian cuts to our military could mean pink slips for folks working the line at places like D&G Machine, Pratt & Whitney, and Bath Iron Works.
This all confirms what Mainers already know: We are in the midst of one of the slowest economic recoveries in history, and our nation is on the wrong path. The policies coming out of Washington and this administration simply are not working. Clearly we need to go in a new direction. We've tried Washington's way, now let's try the Maine way -- the small-business way.
The Maine way preserves middle-class tax cuts. Raising taxes on anyone in this economy is a bad idea, but hiking taxes on middle-class Mainers would be devastating.
Most small businesses are pass-through entities that file their taxes as individuals, not corporations. Since 97 percent of Maine's businesses are small businesses, the last thing Washington should do is hinder their ability to grow and create jobs.
The Maine way means reforming our convoluted tax code, including closing loopholes and exceptions. Lowering rates and broadening our tax base will provide economic certainty, put more money in Mainers' pockets and incentivize our small businesses to reinvest and add jobs.
The Maine way would ease burdensome, excessive regulations, particularly on small businesses. It would mean implementing any new regulations in sensible, pragmatic ways that won't stifle growth. Federal agencies have added 38,000 new rules over the last decade to a Code of Federal Regulations that is nearly 170,000 pages long and growing. Excessive and confusing regulations increase uncertainty and stifle growth.
As Maine's secretary of state, I pushed for the creation of the nation's first small-business advocate, a resource for Maine small-business owners facing onerous paperwork requirements, complex state laws and overzealous regulators.
My first bill in the U.S. Senate will be the "R-Cubed Regulatory Relief Bill": to rewrite, reform and repeal unnecessary and duplicative regulations over the next two years. It would also create a national small-business advocate's office like the one that helps Mainers now.
Together, we can accomplish all this and more, but it requires the right people in Washington. It will take a fresh set of eyes. It will take someone who understands what Maine's small-business owners go through. I know what it means to manage a payroll, to balance budgets and to roll up your sleeves and fight to keep a small business going.
Over the years I have had the honor to serve Maine as a state senator, an aide to U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, and now as secretary of state. As a military officer, I have served our country in Iraq and Afghanistan. I believe my experience has prepared me to honorably serve our state.
Maine has a long history of sending strong leaders to Washington who were effective and got things done for our state. Margaret Chase Smith, Ed Muskie, Bill Cohen, George Mitchell, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins all had at least one thing in common: They all brought the Maine way to Washington.