The December jobs report issued last week by the Department of Labor found that the nation added 200,000 jobs in the last month of the year and the unemployment rate fell slightly to 8.5 percent. This marks the 35th consecutive month in which the unemployment rate remained higher than 8 percent, the benchmark set by President Obama while campaigning for his failed stimulus package.
While the report was better than expected, this rate of job creation is simply not enough. Experts say as many as 250,000 new jobs are needed each month just to keep up with population growth much less put those currently unemployed back to work.
This report also belies just how bleak the economy is today. When those who have given up on seeking employment all together and those who are only able to find part time employment are taken into account, the nation’s “underemployment” rate is 15.2 percent, totaling 23.7 million Americans.
Moreover, the report suggests December’s positive jobs numbers may not represent a lasting shift in the right direction. It noted seasonal hiring was particularly strong in December, representing 20 percent of the total jobs created. This surge in one sector is likely temporary.
Any new job is something to celebrate, but the fits and starts of the Obama economy continue to fail the American people. The uncertainty created by Washington’s inability to enact long-term policy is keeping much-needed capital on the sidelines. To get job creators hiring again, they must have the ability to pan for extended periods. How can you hire today if you don’t know what you will owe Uncle Sam in two months?
If Washington continues its piecemeal approach to governing, the situation will get worse as more and more Americans give up on seeking work and more businesses focus on growing cash reserves instead of investing in expansion.
To get the economy working again, three things can and should be done immediately:
• Fundamental Tax Reform – Our tax system has become so antiquated that the CEO of Coca-Cola recently said it is easier to do business in China than America! Permanently reforming our tax system to make it fairer, flatter and more competitive will not only provide certainty but, as a Harvard economist estimated, could increase the size of the economy by $5 trillion!
• Develop American Energy Resources – The bounty of America has helped lead to our strength but today we are sitting on vast energy resources, opting instead to import it from some nations which are hardly American allies. The notion that Saudi Arabia, Libya or Venezuela can develop their energy resources in a more environmentally friendly manner than America is ludicrous! Increasing our energy supply would provide relief for businesses, farmers and working families across our country and create thousands of jobs.
• Entitlement Reform – I hear from small business owners all the time that some of the biggest competitors they face are entitlements. Their stories led me to introduce legislation to require drug testing for unemployment insurance. We need a safety net for those who fall on hard times but we need to ensure that these benefits are being used as a helping hand up instead of a permanent hand out. Reforming our entitlement system to remove disincentives to work is an important step to getting America back to work.
It is also time for the Senate to act on the 28 bipartisan jobs bills passed by the House and sitting at the Senate’s door. If President Obama is serious about breaking the log jam, he should start by calling Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and urging him to take up our bills and bring his own plan to a vote.
The House has made clear that we are ready to work and find the solutions to the problems we face. It is time for the Senate and the president to do the same.
Kingston serves the 1st Congressional District of Georgia, which includes Bryan County.