Disappointing economic report calls for pro-growth action

Published 7:00 am Thursday, May 14, 2015

The American economy has slowed to a near-standstill, according to the latest numbers from the Commerce Department.
The rate of economic growth was a paltry 0.2 percent for the first three months of 2015, adding to concerns that a lasting rebound is still far from reality.
Consumer Confidence Drops
The discouraging report seemed reflected in consumer confidence, which dropped significantly in Gallup’s most recent U.S. Economic Confidence Index.
The survey averages the public’s views on current economic conditions and future outlook. It found that a majority of Americans think the economy is getting worse.
It is easy to understand why public optimism is fading, even before the sluggish first-quarter economic numbers. Unemployment, stagnant wages, and more demands on family budgets have left many Americans questioning their own economic stability and future. A different Gallup poll recently revealed that fewer Americans now consider themselves part of the middle class. Homeownership – a pillar of the American Dream – is at a 25-year low.
Budget Could Boost Growth by $400 Billion
Republicans in Congress are working hard to put policies in place that support an enduring economic resurgence. The House and Senate have passed the first 10-year balanced budget plan since 2001. Unlike the big-government budget proposed by President Obama, this plan reins in federal overspending while creating more opportunities for Americans. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that Republicans’ budget could increase economic growth by more than $400 billion over the next decade. The impact in Mississippi could lead to more than 10,000 new jobs.
As a member of the Senate Budget Committee, I was directly engaged in the budget process from start to finish. I served as a conferee on the bicameral committee that reconciled differences between the House and Senate budget resolutions. I also authored several provisions, including a requirement for long-term CBO estimates on major spending legislation.
With the federal debt at a staggering $18 trillion, Americans are looking for solutions that promote accountability and transparency. A balanced budget is an important first step toward putting the country on a trajectory of growth instead of insolvency.
By setting spending guidelines, it lays down parameters for the Senate Appropriations Committee to allocate federal funds in its annual bills.
Sen. Thad Cochran, the committee’s chairman, has pledged to restore regular order to the appropriations process – allowing every lawmaker the opportunity to take part in the tough spending decisions that need to be made.
Focusing on Job Creation
The jobs report on May 8 showed a slight improvement in hiring after a major slowdown during the winter months.
The labor force participation rate, however, remains near its lowest level in almost 40 years. This statistic reflects the number of working-age Americans who have a job or are actively looking for one. The fact that it has stayed under 63 percent for the past year suggests that many people are still discouraged by the labor market.
Legislation that prioritizes a healthy economy would send a powerful signal to American workers. I am encouraged that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is committed to bringing job-creating bills to the Senate floor.
After years of weak economic numbers, Americans are ready for positive news.

By Senator Roger Wicker

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