Six steps for jump-starting the U.S. economy

As jittery world markets keep a nervous eye on the unfolding (and entirely predictable) financial crisis in Greece, Congress has a unique opportunity to make “Made in America” matter again. If we are truly serious as a nation about creating the kind of positive legislative and regulatory environment needed to create new jobs — as well as to bring jobs back to the United States from abroad — there are some common-sense steps that we should take right now, along with dramatically cutting non-essential federal spending and reducing our nation’s staggering debt.

With unemployment stuck at a stubborn 9.1 percent, it’s time to finally free American innovation and ingenuity — long held hostage by a regulatory regime which is as great a threat to our prosperity as any foreign regime. Today, U.S. businesses are holding tight onto more than $1.8 trillion in cash reserves. Let’s give them a reason to invest that money in America’s future. Here are six things we should do immediately:

First, let’s ensure regulatory fairness. Rules and regulations imposed by Washington cost Americans more than $1.75 trillion each year or about $15,500 per household. After finishing our top-to-bottom review of all regulations — scrubbing every outdated and senseless regulatory requirement off the books — we should place a moratorium on any job-killing regulations and establish a more fair and transparent review process. Moving forward, we should also require Congressional approval for all major rules and regulations imposing significant new costs on the economy.

Second, let’s encourage innovation and job growth by lowering the tax rate on U.S. businesses to no more than 25 percent. According to a recent report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, the United States ranked sixth among 40 nations in “innovation-based competitiveness.” But we were dead last in progress made over the past decade. Dead last.

Third, we need to make intellectual property protection a top priority. By most estimates, the theft of U.S. intellectual property costs our economy hundreds of billions of dollars a year, but the real damage — both in terms of lost jobs and stalled progress — is impossible to calculate. Most sinister, this is deflating to our nation’s entrepreneurial spirit and psyche. From Hollywood to the Silicon Valley, my own state of California has been especially hard hit by this problem. Simply put, our nation’s economy cannot thrive in a world of “no-cost” competitors.

Fourth, we need to open more foreign markets to U.S. products. We simply can’t sit on the sidelines while other nations sign free trade agreements and gain a foothold in promising new markets. Long-stalled trade promotion agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama should move forward quickly. Years of lost opportunities have only resulted in thousands of lost jobs. It’s time to quit playing politics with our trade policies.

Fifth, we need to dramatically increase energy production here at home. It’s time for an “all-of-the-above” approach to energy that includes more American-produced oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear, along with alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, hydropower and geothermal. This will drive down prices, create new American jobs, reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil and strengthen our national security.

Sixth, we should embrace vigorous oversight of new laws and agencies. Aggressive oversight doesn’t have to be a political parlor game. Rather, we should see these as beneficial opportunities to “get it right.” Americans want — and deserve — our best efforts. Oversight hearings, which my subcommittee will be holding this year, are a unique opportunity to see what’s working and what’s not. And, at the end of the day, we must have the political courage to embrace change that’s necessary but not always popular.