Economic Growth Must Drive the Agenda
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During the past two years, Congress and the administration have tried just about everything to reignite the nation’s economic engine. But little of what was undertaken—not the misguided overhaul of our health care system, not sweeping financial markets reform, and not a flood of new regulations—yielded positive results. It wasn’t until just a few weeks ago that Congress began to change direction. The two-year extension of existing tax rates—along with a changing business cycle—seems to have injected some life into the economy.
What must be done to ensure that this recovery takes hold, creates jobs, and expands the economy? It starts by recognizing that economic growth must be policymakers’ top priority. While not a silver bullet, economic growth is still the best option for solving the country’s many challenges. Robust growth creates jobs and opportunities, encourages innovation, and improves our standard of living.
In some cases, realizing our growth potential will require a financial commitment. While the U.S. Chamber has long believed that the reach of government should be limited, there are legitimate reasons to invest public funds. The trick is to distinguish investments—which offer a positive return—from wasteful spending.
Take infrastructure, for example. Research conducted for the Chamber found a direct link between infrastructure investment and economic growth. By allocating the resources needed to modernize our crumbling infrastructure system, we can create jobs and facilitate commerce. But we must also be smart. This means eliminating “Bridges to Nowhere” and focusing on projects of national or regional importance. Roadblocks to private infrastructure investment must also be removed so that taxpayers alone are not left to foot the bill.
What enabled the United States to become the world’s dominant economy in the 20th century was a willingness to invest in assets that produced long-term returns and set the stage for economic growth—things like infrastructure, education, and basic research.
At the same time, we must not lose sight of the nation’s growing fiscal crisis—or the growing regulatory state. To preserve the free enterprise system that has served us so well, spending and regulations must be pruned. Everything must be on the table, including the modernization of our social welfare programs.
It’s plain business sense—you can’t spend more than you take in for long.It’s time that lawmakers put ideology aside and focus on a common agenda that will stimulate economic growth. By doing so, we can preserve America as a land of hope and opportunity.