This past Thursday, I visited a thriving company in Loudoun County, Virginia, named JK Moving and Storage. I met with the owners and workers and with small businesspeople from the area, and I discussed my agenda to keep America's economy growing and to help our small businesses stay vibrant and strong.
Our agenda for growing the economy and helping small businesses starts with wise tax policy. Our economy grows when American workers and families can keep more of their hard-earned money to spend, save, and invest as they see fit. Small businesses create most of the new jobs in our country, and tax relief helps them as well, because most small businesses pay taxes at individual income tax rates.
So after I took office, we cut taxes on everyone who pays income taxes — leaving more money in the hands of workers and families and giving small businesses more resources to expand and hire. We increased the tax incentives for small businesses to invest in new equipment, and we cut taxes on dividends and capital gains. We also put the death tax on the road to extinction because farmers and small business owners should not be taxed twice after a lifetime of work.
Thanks to tax relief, spending restraint, and the hard work of America's entrepreneurs and workers, our economy today is strong. We've added over 400,000 jobs in the last two months and over 4.6 million jobs since May 2003. Our unemployment rate is now 4.9 percent, lower than the average rate of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Our economy grew at 4.1 percent in the third quarter of 2005, and it has been growing at nearly that rate for two years. Real after-tax income has grown 7 percent per person since 2001. Productivity is high, inflation is contained, consumers are confident, and more Americans now own their homes than at any time in our Nation's history.
Unfortunately, just as we are seeing how our tax cuts have created jobs and opportunity, some in Washington want to repeal the tax relief. Others want to just let it expire in a few years. Either way, they want to raise your taxes. If that happens, families across America would see their taxes increase dramatically. Small businesses would also pay higher taxes — which would mean less money to hire workers and buy new equipment. To keep our economy growing and our small business sector strong, we need to ensure that you keep more of what you earn — so Congress needs to make the tax cuts permanent.
For the sake of America's small businesses, workers, and families, we must also make health care more affordable and accessible. A new product known as Health Savings Accounts helps control costs by allowing businesses or workers to buy low-cost insurance policies for catastrophic events and then save, tax-free, for routine medical expenses. This year, I will ask Congress to take steps to make these accounts more available, more affordable, and more portable. Congress also needs to pass Association Health Plans, which allow small businesses across the country to join together and pool risk so they can buy insurance at the same discounts big companies get.
Our small businesses are confronting other challenges that we must address. Too many entrepreneurs face the threats of costly junk lawsuits. Last year, we passed bipartisan class-action reform to ease this burden. Now Congress needs to curb abusive asbestos litigation, pass medical liability reform to reduce the costs of frivolous litigation on our doctors and patients, and penalize those who abuse the legal system by repeatedly filing junk lawsuits.
Rising energy costs are also a concern for small businesses, so we're going to continue to work to develop new technologies and alternative and renewable fuels that will make us less dependent on foreign sources of energy. And we will continue to open up new markets for small businesses so they can sell their products and services overseas. On a level playing field, I know our workers, farmers, and businesses can compete with anybody, anytime, anywhere.
America's economy is strong and growing stronger. Small businesses have been a driving force behind the tremendous growth and job creation of recent years. By adopting sound policies that help our small businesses continue to grow and expand, we will keep the economy moving forward and extend prosperity and hope in our country.
Thank you for listening.