Senator John ThuneWhen I return to South Dakota on most weekends, I frequently hear from constituents about their concerns with increased government spending and the unprecedented level of intervention from the federal government the private sector. I share many of their concerns, particularly when it comes to the fact that this degree of government activism is yielding little in the way of private sector job creation. If our economy is going to pull out of the current slump, the government must do more to spur job creation, not stand in the way.
Recently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report showing that in October the national unemployment rate stood at 10.2 percent, the highest rate in 26 years. These numbers are very concerning, especially for those who are looking for work and those who are concerned about their job security. The unemployment rate is also cause for alarm given the massive amount of government spending by the Obama Administration and the Democrat-controlled Congress, including the $787 billion economic stimulus bill that has failed to create the jobs that were promised.
Earlier this year, the President and Democrat leaders in Congress called for an unprecedented infusion of taxpayer money into the economy through the economic stimulus bill. While initially calling for a measure that was timely, targeted, and temporary, Congressional Democrats instead rushed through a bill that was bloated and unwieldy and that created new government programs that will almost surely live on after the money from the bill has been spent. In South Dakota, over 5,800 jobs have been lost since the stimulus bill was signed into law in February.
Instead of focusing taxpayer dollars toward small businesses that are responsible for creating a majority of the jobs in our economy, the stimulus bill allocated substantial taxpayer dollars toward projects and programs that have produced little in the ways of sustained job creation. Another case in point is the health care proposals before both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate will increase insurance premiums for individuals, raise taxes on small businesses, and put Medicare benefits at risk; we need health care reform that lowers costs. As a result of these rising costs, additional jobs will be in jeopardy and that is the last thing that Congress should be doing during these difficult economic times. Increased government control of health care is something that we cannot afford.
The climate change proposals advanced by Congressional Democrats and the White House are another barrier to job creation. The cap and trade component of the controversial bill passed by the House of Representatives earlier this year and the one recently approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee would drive up energy costs and kill jobs, particularly in states like South Dakota. While transitioning to cleaner forms of energy is something that I have long advocated, we cannot sacrifice jobs in a weak economy for little environmental gain, which is what these cap and trade proposals would do.
Instead of pursuing an ideological agenda that hurts businesses, both large and small, Congress and the Obama Administration should turn to policies that encourage private sector growth and job creation. Lower taxes, more freedom in the health insurance market, and more responsible energy policy could help businesses hire more employees and get our economy moving forward again. The continued pursuit of policies that do nothing but grow the government and increase our national debt will only slow our economic recovery, which we cannot afford.