Remember the Economy? It’s Still Bad

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U.S. Capitol – Illustration by Emily Metcalf

According to a poll earlier this year, voters have a higher opinion of cockroaches than Congressmen. President Obama’s personal popularity remains solid, but his job approval rating is going down. Why are our elected officials unpopular?

It might just be because they are not listening. In poll after poll, the American people continue to tell Washington that their top priority is the economy. A recent Fox News poll asked participants what is the most important issue facing the nation. The results: the economy got 42 percent, deficit 17 percent, guns 5 percent, and immigration 4 percent.


President Obama inherited a weak economy, to be sure, but his policies, including Obamacare with its costly expected mandates on businesses and the Dodd-Frank financial services regulations have made the situation worse. Even when we see some economic growth, the jobs growth has been feeble. People have been leaving the workforce. Heritage’s James Sherk noted recently, “Labor force participation dropped to 63.3 percent, the lowest rate since 1979..” America needs to get its people back to productive work, not recruit Americans to start taking food stamps.

Instead of working on bills that would help the economy, right now the politicians are working on an Internet sales tax bill and a comprehensive immigration bill offering amnesty.

The liberals’ push on each of these issues will be destructive to our liberties. The Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action have been fighting liberal policy each step of the way.

Heritage continues to fight on immigration, pointing out major flaws in the Gang of Eight’s plan and calculating how much an amnesty would cost American taxpayers.

Heritage has also criticized the move for a new Internet sales tax to help states raise more funds to grow government. The Senate is considering forcing businesses to collect taxes for states where they have no physical presence—an affront to representative government and the camel’s nose under the proverbial tent of Internet regulation.

Liberals effectively control the agenda in Washington. Harry Reid (D-NV) has the gavel in the Senate, and President Obama has the bully pulpit. Washington is focused on what they want to talk about and what they are pushing. A compliant press corps certainly amplifies their message.

But conservatives in the House of Representatives are not helpless. They should try to set the agenda on the economy. Last session, they passed some 40 bills that they said would be good for the economy, all of which died in the Senate. But in this Congress, they seem to have given up.

In some ways, who can blame them since liberals reject their ideas out of hand? It would be far better for America, though, if they would set forth their own agenda and make clear that distractions like comprehensive immigration reform with amnesty, and the Internet sales tax are going nowhere in the House.

Instead, House leadership is almost inviting the divisive and distracting issues by saying nothing, or worse, saying the House will take up similar legislation (in the case of immigration reform).

Washington could do a number of things to improve the economy. Here are three especially relevant now: (1) reverse the New Year’s tax hikes that are already hurting economic growth, (2) take steps, even modest ones supported by both parties, to reduce the unfunded long-term obligations of entitlement programs and get us on a path to balance the budget in 10 years (because adding debt slows the economy), and (3) repeal, or at least delay, Obamacare, whose crushing mandates and costs are destroying jobs and trampling on the religious liberty of employers from Hobby Lobby to social service ministries to homeless shelters.

If those sound too partisan, why not take an easy first step and approve the Keystone XL pipeline? It would create thousands of well-paid jobs. The President could act, but if he does not, then Congress should approve the pipeline and force the President to veto it. During the Senate budget debate, an amendment from Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) supporting Keystone passed 62-37.

We know that America’s economy won’t be helped when liberals are waging ideological battles. Conservatives in states like Wisconsin, Texas, and South Carolina are showing they have real solutions that benefit all their citizens. They are fighting for limited government, lower taxes, balanced budgets, and more economic freedom.

Conservatives in Washington should take notice. Washington politicians will continue to be unpopular with the American people if they focus on the wrong issues and do so in a way that divides the American people. Wake up, Washington—our economy is hurting.

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