It is a remarkable fact that, five years after an economic catastrophe that left the country on its heels, Washington still hasn't done much to put the nation back on the road to consistent growth.
What's even more remarkable, however, is that no one seems to be paying this problem much mind.
It's a testament to how many other concerns are dogging the body politic at the moment — be they Obamacare, filibuster reform, Iran, etc. — that there's virtual silence about the fact that the United States is still enduring one of the most prolonged periods of economic anemia in the nation's history. While it's true that the nation is in nowhere near as dire a condition as it was in 2008 and 2009, we can surely do better. Our economic ambitions have to be set higher than "not entirely awful."
In October, the national unemployment rate was 7.3 percent. The number of Americans out of a job stood at 11.3 million. And the percentage of Americans in the workforce had dropped to its lowest level in 35 years. These aren't the kind of numbers that encourage optimism for the future.
In addition to the labor force statistics, there's the truly daunting burdens placed on the economy by Washington. The federal debt now stands at over $17 trillion, a figure higher than national GDP. And there are no signs that any serious course corrections are on the horizon.
As we prepare to enter into an election year, it's incumbent upon voters to demand something better from Washington. We're overdue for serious tax reform that lowers rates, eliminates loopholes and makes America more competitive in the global economy. We need to roll back the burden of federal regulations, which, according to a study that appeared earlier this year in the Journal of Economic Growth, have cut economic growth by an average of two percentage points per year over the past six decades.
We also need to broaden America's commitment to global trade and welcome new workers through comprehensive immigration reform.
Just as importantly, we need to reduce the profligate spending coming out of Capitol Hill — spending that will inevitably result in higher taxes. Our most pressing need on that front is entitlement reform. Taken together, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid account for well over 40 percent of federal spending. With obligations under those programs set to explode in the years ahead, the time for reform is now.
We have no illusions that any of these reforms will be easy. They are all, however, necessary. If they prove to be beyond the grasp of the current group of lawmakers in Washington, then it's time for fresh blood in the capital. The nation's fiscal health depends upon it.
REPRINTED FROM THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER