A flurry of recent economic news – especially the May jobs report – confirms what many have feared for some time: This president’s leadership deficit has caused a disastrous jobs deficit, and where he has led, his policies have made things worse.
The president clearly inherited a difficult fiscal and economic situation when he took office. But his response to the crisis has been woefully inadequate. The president and his party’s leaders have made it their mission to test the hypothesis that more government spending and greater government control over the economy can jump-start a recovery better than the private sector can.
That experiment has failed. The stimulus spending spree failed to create jobs. Massive overhauls of the financial sector and health-care sector are fueling uncertainty and hindering our recovery.
House Republicans are charting a new course with a better plan – starting with a budget that frees the private sector from regulatory uncertainty, punishing tax increases, and the crushing burden of debt that is weighing on this recovery. But making progress on this plan will require leaders in Washington to relinquish the idea that government knows best, and many just don’t seem ready to face that reality.
The May jobs report was yet another reminder that the government-knows-best crowd got it wrong. When he came into office, the president’s economic team predicted that a stimulus bill of unprecedented size and scope would hold unemployment below 8 percent and steadily lower it to 7 percent by the first quarter of this fiscal year.
These estimates weren’t just off by a little bit – they completely missed the mark. The jobless rate went all the way up to 10.1 percent, never fell below 8.8 percent, and has now ticked back up to 9.1 percent. Private-sector hiring continues to stagnate. The cost of gas and groceries continues to rise. And the national debt continues to climb, casting a long shadow over economic activity and job creation.
This recovery pales in comparison to past, private-sector-led recoveries. Unemployment today has fallen by just 1 percentage point from its recessionary peak. By contrast, unemployment at the same point in the past ten recoveries dropped by an average of 5 percentage points in past recoveries. The dismal jobs record underscores the fact that the Great Recession is far from over for millions of American families.
There are three main reasons why the president’s policies have made this recovery weaker than usual:
1. Regulatory uncertainty: After the stimulus passed, the president turned his attention immediately to costly overhauls of the nation’s financial and health-care sectors. These overhauls needlessly transferred more control over America’s economy to government bureaucrats in Washington, without fixing the problems they were intended to address. The transfer of so much power to the arbitrary dictates of federal regulators has made it hard for businesses to plan for the future with confidence, and things will remain this way until these laws are replaced with real reforms.
2. Tax uncertainty: The president’s ad hoc tax policies, with a mix of tax hikes on job creators and temporary rebates for others being the hallmarks of his approach, have left businesses in the lurch. Moreover, the president’s new health care law imposes a crushing $800 billion tax hike, and he continues to threaten businesses and families with higher rates in the future, even as he dithers on his vague promise to address America’s uncompetitive corporate tax rate, which is the highest in the developed world.
3. Debt uncertainty: The president has not put forward a plan that saves Medicare from bankruptcy, even though nonpartisan experts tell us that this could happen in 9-13 short years unless we act. Each year that we fail to put our critical government health and retirement programs on a path to long-term solvency, we are making trillions of dollars of unfunded promises to future retirees. We are already borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend, and Washington’s inability to solve its spending problems is leading rating agencies such as Standard & Poors to downgrade our credit outlook. Government under this administration is failing at its number-one economic job, which is to create a stable, predictable environment for job creators.
By contrast, the Republicans have put forward a plan to tackle each of these problems head-on. Our budget, which we call The Path to Prosperity, reduces regulatory uncertainty for businesses by repealing the new health care law. It reduces tax uncertainty by promoting low, stable rates and clearing out loopholes and deductions that go primarily to the well-off. And it reduces debt uncertainty by dealing with our long-term unfunded liabilities, saving Medicare from bankruptcy, and putting us on a path to pay off the debt.
This debate comes down to one big philosophical difference: Who should we put in the drivers’ seat when it comes to jobs and the economy: government bureaucrats in Washington, or a vibrant private sector freed from uncertainty?
The president’s economic experiment has failed. It is time to get back to what we know works: empowering free citizens with the tools they need to prosper. To close the alarming budget deficit and the painful jobs deficit, we must first erase Washington’s leadership deficit by providing real solutions for a real recovery.
Rep. Paul Ryan is chairman of the House Budget Committee and represents Wisconsin's 1st district.