Deficits are down and the stock market is up – that premature victory chant by President Barack Obama couldn’t be further from the truth today. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has plunged more than 2,000 points from its high, and according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the federal government is projected to spend 544 billion dollars more than it will take in this fiscal year alone.
As much talk as there is about how the U.S. spends more on defense than any other nation in the world, consider that our government spends more than three times as much on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. In 2015, it spent more than 200 billion dollars just to pay down the interest that has accumulated on our national debt, which today stands at 19 trillion dollars or $59,000 per U.S. citizen.
Even though federal receipts have increased substantially under this administration, Obama has presided over federal deficits higher (by number and percentage of GDP) than any fiscal year since World War II. So when our president said deficits are on the decline, it’s because at the time they really couldn’t go any higher. It is clear that our government has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.
Unfortunately, this is no longer talked about in Texas or Washington as we seem to move from one crisis to the next overnight. We’ve witnessed ISIS inspired attacks on the homeland. Russia, China, Iran and North Korea are provocative. Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are unstable. So it is not surprising that budget issues have taken a back seat to national security concerns.
But the effects of Obama’s failed economy are not only illustrated by a figurative debt clock, they are realities felt by everyday hardworking American families who are struggling to survive.
Today we have the lowest percentage of Americans working since the mid-1970s. More than 45 million Americans are on food stamps and 45 percent of recent college graduates are underemployed. On top of that there are 1.2 trillion dollars in outstanding student loan debt. The average borrower owes 29,000 dollars.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2014, five years after the Great Recession ended, 47 million Americans were living in poverty, which is considered $24,000 for a family of four. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, “22 percent of all children live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level.”
In that same year, already well into Obama’s second term, more than one in four African Americans and 23.5 percent of Hispanics were living below the poverty line. The next time our president mentions the declining unemployment rate, remember that that measurement doesn’t take into account those who have given up looking for work.
But instead of building a climate from which we could lift people out of poverty, reduce their dependence on unsustainable government “safety-net” programs and get them back on their feet, Obama and his Democratic Party have focused on raising the minimum wage, redistributing the nation’s wealth and taxing us further into oblivion.
As a second-generation small business owner, I have seen firsthand the effects of this failed Obama economy: regulations have increased and Main Street businesses have closed. Washington issues on average one regulation every two hours – most of which are not done by our lawmaking body of government but by unelected federal bureaucrats in the executive branch.
To many entrepreneurs, the risk, cost and patience of opening and running a business today are just not worth the possible reward. This is a problem because small businesses employ half of America’s workforce.
Laws like Obamacare and Dodd-Frank have required even mom and pop stores to hire teams of lawyers and accountants to navigate through thousands of pages of new standards.
Washington must create a climate that will benefit America’s greatest asset – its workers, and I have a plan that will lay the foundation. Last summer I introduced seven bills comprehensively called Jumpstart America. They will lower taxes, encourage American companies to bring back jobs from oversees and stimulate growth. It has the support of many of my colleagues and a former CBO director, a former FDIC chair and many small business owners across this country.
The president and members of Congress should make it easy for Americans of any background to establish his or her own place of business, help them create jobs and set them up for success. But the American dream, under this president, seems to be no longer within reach. The future can be bright again for America; we just need a president to help us realize our full potential.
This oped originally ran in The Hill on Feb. 4, 2016.
Williams has represented Texas’ s 25th Congressional District of Texas since 2013. He sits on the Financial Services Committee and is the chairman of the House Conservatives Fund.