The IssuesEven in this down-turn, America is still the strongest, most vibrant, most entrepreneurial economy in the world. This is not the product of government policy. It is the result of a nation full of people who have the courage to take risks and the imagination to dream big. America truly is the Land of Opportunity. People still come from all corners of the globe seeking the American Dream. Even in Europe, old class distinctions sometimes limit a person’s potential to succeed. In America we can all succeed, and we need to keep it that way by keeping our economy strong and our playing field level. The government has a bad habit of picking winners and losers. The more we ask it to do, the less autonomy (and money) we keep for ourselves. The government has a critical role to play in keeping America strong and prosperous. But it is a limited role. The government makes mistakes. The welfare laws of the ’70s and ’80s and the housing policies of the ’90s and ’00s were disasters that caused immeasurable harm to many American families. Elections have real consequences. We need a government that has the wisdom to know when and how to help and when to get out of the way.
Rebuilding Economic Strength for AmericaThe current recession is the result of bad government policy and private sector greed. In 1995, the Clinton Administration changed regulations to force lenders to help more Americans afford homes of their own. This was a well-intentioned initiative, even though it forced banks to give loans to people who were poor credit risks. Lenders, though, quickly saw it as a way to make more money. More people in the housing market meant higher demand and higher prices. As long as the value of houses went up, a repossessed house was always worth more than the mortgage so lenders made money no matter what. That led to more and more “creative” and irresponsible mortgages. In 2008, the bubble burst and America paid the price. Congress deserves the most blame for allowing this to happen.
Most American businesses are run by honest executives and powered by the best workforce in the world. The real strength of the American economy lies in everyday businesses in every town across our country. It does not lie in Wall Street. For that reason, I know our economy will recover and high unemployment rates will start to decline. The essential thing today is for Democrats and Republicans to work together for the benefit of the American people.
Unemployment is not a statistic. Unemployment is a critical problem facing millions of Americans who struggle daily to meet their basic needs. But where do jobs come from? They don’t come from Washington. They come from private sector employers who see opportunities for growth and invest in them. High taxes, complicated and inconsistent regulation, an unwillingness to expand domestic energy production, and protectionist trade policies all lead to higher unemployment. The January 2009 “stimulus” bill was too expensive and too ineffective. Dominated by state government bailouts, pet projects, and liberal policy priorities, the bill did little to actually stem rising unemployment. I voted against it. Instead, we should have lowered taxes for individuals and businesses, worked to lower the price of energy (a key cost for all businesses), and finalized trade deals with eager markets like South Korea, Panama, and Colombia. In his State of the Union Address earlier this year, the President finally recognized these things as priorities. Even so, Congress still has not acted on them.
Regaining Economic Security for FamiliesThe purpose of a strong economy is not to make Wall Street bankers richer or to get politicians reelected. The purpose of a strong economy is to help families succeed. For some people, that means paying the rent and putting food on the table. For some people, it means going to college or putting a down payment on a house. For some people, it means expanding a business and hiring new employees. Whatever your goals are, the government cannot help you by taking more of your money from you. It can help you by letting you keep more of what you earn and by passing laws that help you in your life rather than hurting you.
I pushed hard for the law that now allows Americans to save more in 401(k)s, IRAs, and Section 529 college saving plans. But those options don’t help a family that doesn’t have enough money left at the end of the month to invest. That’s why I believe so strongly in reducing taxes. We need trade policies, tax policies, and regulatory policies that will fire the engine of the American economy, while also keeping greed and irresponsibility from ruining things.
The government cannot create prosperity. Only the American people can. And the government needs to stop making it hard for us to do so.
Health Care—An important part of every family’s economic security is the knowledge that they have health insurance they can count on. Too many families don’t have that security because they lack sufficient income, their employer can’t provide it for them, or because of pre-existing conditions. I offered details plans for addressing each of these problems while also strongly opposing the Obama-Pelosi-Reid health bill that was recently forced through Congress. We don’t need a new trillion-dollar bureaucracy to help people get the care they need.
Protecting the EnvironmentWe live in a place where many families still farm land first deeded by William Penn 300 years ago. We are conscious of this remarkable heritage and we want to protect it as generations have before us. I am also a person of faith, and I believe that God created the Earth and made it our duty to protect and cherish it. As one bumper sticker says, “Good planets are hard to come by.”
Organic gardening, recycling, and simply turning the lights out when we’re not in a room are some of the things each of us can do to protect the environment. Smart growth policies and open space preservation programs are some of the things we can do as a community to conserve our heritage. Lessening our dependence on imported fossil fuels and promoting the development of clean and renewable energy sources are critical priorities for our nation. There is great reason for optimism in this area, but we need to make the transition through encouragement, entrepreneurship, and investment—not through taxation, bureaucracy, and punishment, the way the bill presently being pushed in Congress does.
Cleaner and Better EnergyI am a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and I work on these issues every day. We need to make significant changes to the way we produce electricity and power our cars in this country. At the same time, we must remember that we can’t do without energy. In fact, we need more of it all the time. The price of constricting energy production is economic stagnation and unemployment.
Truly renewable sources of energy are few. Wind, solar, and hydroelectric power are used today to produce about seven percent of our nation's electricity. Wind and solar account for about one percent. We definitely need to increase the amount of electricity we produce this way. But the places where wind and solar power can be produced also tend to be far away from the cities that consume that power, creating technical challenges. Sometimes the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow, which creates a need for back-up generation capacity.
The most effective thing we can do to protect our atmosphere from pollutants and reduce greenhouse gases is to increase the amount of electricity we generate from nuclear power. France generates over 85 percent of its electricity from 59 nuclear power plants. We, on the other hand, produce only 20 percent of our electricity from nuclear power. Increasing the amount of electricity we generate from nuclear power would protect the atmosphere and lessen our dependence on oil imported from dangerous and unstable parts of the globe. Nuclear waste storage is a serious question, but it is a question with viable answers. Nuclear waste can be reprocessed and used again, reducing the volume of radioactive waste by as much as 95 percent. What remains needs to be safely stored and guarded.
The current popularity of hybrid cars is just the beginning of a revolution in cleaner ways to drive. Plug-in hybrids and hydrogen fuel cell cars are not as far away as many believe. These technologies need to be promoted and used.
National SecurityIt is hard for Americans to understand how now, in the 21st century, so much of the world is still dominated by hatred, tyranny, and fanaticism. We have to recognize that that’s the way it is, and to understand that some of that hatred and fanaticism is directed toward us. Tyrants hate us because the American model of freedom is a threat to them. Fanatics hate us because we don’t subscribe to their hateful ideologies. The events of September 11, 2001 proved once and for all that wide oceans are no longer an effective defense from foreign dangers.
We must remain vigilant in the war on terror. Al Qaeda and its allies remain dedicated to killing Americans on American soil. Iran wants nuclear weapons and North Korea already has them. The world is a dangerous place, and we must respond accordingly.
Iraq—The War in Iraq was, in fact, justified by intelligence that turned out to be wrong. Moreover, the Bush Administration made some serious mistakes in the war’s execution--something I stated publicly at the time. None of this changes the facts that Saddam Hussein was in violation of virtually every article of the 1991 Gulf War cease-fire agreement, that he had possessed weapons of mass destruction and even used them, that he had invaded two of his neighbors, that he was firing almost daily at our aircraft, and that he was a brutal dictator over his people.
Thoughtful people will continue to debate our entry into Iraq, and few will disagree that we should withdraw as soon as possible. However, I believe we have a moral responsibility to contribute to the security and progress of the Iraqi people. We should not make the mistake of simply abandoning them because we have grown weary of our involvement there.
Afghanistan—Abandoning Afghanistan to the Taliban would not only be a bad mistake, it would be a repeated bad mistake. Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan rightly opposed the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and we helped the Afghan people resist it. However, when the Soviets withdrew, we disengaged as well. This allowed the Taliban to take control and to provide a safe haven for Osama Bin Laden. Before the Soviet Union, before the Taliban, and before Al Qaeda, Afghanistan was a peaceful country. We have invested tremendous resources in helping the Afghans return to peace and begin to build prosperity. We should not abandon them now. We made that mistake once before, and we should not repeat it.