The Morning Call
When President Obama took office, he inherited the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The year since has seen decisive steps to turn our economy around. But there is still a recognition that more remains to be done to put Americans back to work.
On Thursday, the president held a forum to hear ideas on job creation from some of the nation's economic and business leaders; today, he is going straight to the American people, hearing firsthand from Pennsylvania workers about the challenges they face and taking their concerns back to the White House.
Though an honest look at the evidence shows that Democrats' recovery efforts are helping to put the country back on track, families in Pennsylvania and across the country continue to struggle. For their sake, we must do more.
The most important of those efforts has been the Recovery Act, which has cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans, funded job-creating projects across the nation and increased aid to families who have been hit the hardest.
Democrats have also helped everyone from employers to students to take out the loans the economy runs on, which make education, employment and growth possible. We've worked to make it easier for small businesses to access credit and cope with skyrocketing health care costs. We've stopped credit card companies from exploiting responsible customers, and we've helped responsible homeowners keep their homes.
What have the results looked like? We've seen more than 1 million jobs saved or created. States have averted mass layoffs of teachers, police officers, firefighters and other critical personnel. We've seen economic growth for the first time in more than a year -- the best growth in two years. And according to the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, we've seen the Recovery Act keep 6 million Americans from falling into poverty, while reducing the severity of poverty for 33 million Americans.
Those are positive results, and they are the reason that economists agree the recession is over. But for Americans who are still out of work, their recession is real and enduring. Time and again, on the way out of recessions, America has seen that hiring is slow to catch up with economic growth. Employers want to see that the growth will stick before adding to their payrolls. This time, sadly, is no different -- and unemployment is unacceptably high.
Democrats have worked to make unemployment benefits last longer for families facing long-term unemployment. That's important, especially because those benefits are quickly spent, boosting local economies. But there's no substitute for creating new jobs. That's why President Obama is in Allentown. And every idea -- from workers, business leaders, economists and from both parties -- is on the table.
Congress is working to shape the best ideas into a jobs bill, which might include incentives for small businesses to invest and create jobs, aid to states that will keep teachers and police officers on the job, and new infrastructure projects to make our country stronger. Ideas like those are still up for refinement and debate, and we're eager to hear Pennsylvanians' feedback.
At the same time, we have to ensure that our work to navigate these hard times doesn't impose a burden on the generations to come. We must take strong steps to boost employment and get the economy growing in the short term; without doing that, our fiscal problem would be even worse. Doing nothing to create economic growth is the most irresponsible step we could take.
But as we grow the economy in the short term, we must also stay focused on exercising fiscal discipline in the long term. President Obama has committed us to a number of policies to help dig America out of its fiscal hole: taking on the dramatic growth of health care costs, which is the biggest driver of the deficit in the long term; pledging to only sign health care reform that is deficit-neutral; and making it clear our country must once again pay for what it buys.
In Allentown, and in communities like it all over America, these are still painful times. But if we pull together and listen to the best ideas, no matter where they come from, we can meet these times with the best America has to offer and emerge tested, stronger and more prosperous.
Democrat Steny Hoyer of Maryland is the House majority leader.