Our government needs accountability and balance

Rep. Phil Roe Contributor
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There’s no denying the fact our country is facing some of the toughest economic times many of us have ever seen.  Unfortunately, the leadership in our country has fallen short and has taken us down the wrong path. With increasing poverty levels and high unemployment rates, the Administration’s response has been, “it could have been worse.”  It’s time for the Administration and the Democratic leadership to start being honest with the American people and acknowledge that their policies have not worked so we can begin dealing with the challenges this country is facing and will face down the road because of the choices Democrats have made.

Under the Obama Administration, the unemployment rate reached a 26-year high of 10.2 percent (the current unemployment rate is 9.6 percent). Participation in the federal food stamp program has set records for 20 straight months.  On average, 43.3 million people are expected to receive food stamps each month in the fiscal year that began October 1, 2010.  Yet on September 30, 2010, Speaker Pelosi adjourned the Congress without taking any action to prevent a recovery-crushing $3.9 trillion tax increase on all Americans — the highest tax increase in history.

Since the Obama Administration has been in charge, the economy has lost nearly four million jobs. The Associated Press reports that the unemployment rate has been stuck above 9.5 percent for 14 consecutive months, the longest stretch since the 1930s.  There are currently 15 million unemployed Americans.

But unemployment rates only tell part of the story.  Millions of Americans have taken lesser jobs than they had previously in order to keep food on the table and a roof over their head.  These folks are labeled as “underemployed,” and according to Gallup, “underemployment peaked at 20.4 percent in April and has yet to fall below 18.3 percent this year.”

All of this has occurred despite policies — most notably the stimulus — enacted in the name of solving this economic crisis.  These policies have led to soaring deficits and debt as far as the eye can see.  It is no wonder there is such dissatisfaction with Congress.

My biggest disagreement with this Administration has been its aggressive effort to expand the role of the federal government in so many different aspects of the economy and people’s lives — in health care, energy, student loans, the financial markets, and many other areas.  I think we need to reward the entrepreneurial spirit, innovation and risk-taking that comes with starting small businesses, incentivize investment in existing businesses that will lead to job growth, and reduce unnecessary and burdensome regulations which manifest themselves most prominently in the form of needless paperwork.  The true impact of government-controlled health care combined with the prospect of rising tax rates and energy costs has created an atmosphere of uncertainty for business.  When businesses are uncertain about the future, they don’t hire additional employees and they don’t order new equipment to expand their operation.

We must also address the ever-expanding debt and deficits crisis.  Ultimately, the government has to live within its means, just like everybody else. An important part of government reform is reducing spending to levels that are less than what is taken in.  Despite my opposition last year, Congress passed a budget very similar to the $3.9 trillion one that the Administration proposed.  Federal government spending, which has averaged 19 percent of GDP since World War II, is now 27 percent of GDP.  Spending hasn’t been this high, as a percentage of GDP, since World War II.  This year, Congress failed to pass a budget altogether.

Our government needs accountability and balance — our future depends on it.

Rep. Phil Roe represents Tennessee’s First Congressional District.