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Southern Wisconsin’s families continue to work hard to make ends meet in an uncertain economy. In Wisconsin, the unemployment rate remains at 4.3 percent, while the national unemployment rate stands at 5 percent.  Also telling, is that the labor force participation rate stands at 62.4 percent. The participation rate refers to the number of people who are either employed or are actively looking for work. The number of people who are no longer actively searching for work would not be included in the participation rate.  Therefore, during an economic recession, many workers often get discouraged and stop looking for employment, as a result, the participation rate decreases.  Another way of looking at this is the U-6 unemployment rate, which is a comprehensive measure of labor underutilization that takes into account persons marginally attached to the labor force as well as persons who would like to be employed full time but can only find part-time work – in other words, the unemployed, the underemployed and the discouraged who have given up on finding work.  The U-6 unemployment rate stands at 9.8 percent.

As the economy struggles, much focus has been on increasing taxes to address our deficit and our debt.  These tax increases would hit job creators, like those small manufacturers located in industrial parks in our communities, and hard-working families.  Our local manufacturers and families are already forced to live under the strains of the current difficult economy.  Asking them to pay more will hurt our local communities.  What the federal government needs to do is stop spending too much.  It simply can no longer afford to spend money that it doesn’t have and take out more loans to pay for that spending.

Economic growth comes when American families and small businesses work, save, and invest. Congress needs to prioritize legislation that encourages job creation by keeping taxes low, controlling government spending, and addressing the severe problems ahead if we do not reform critical government programs that are driving up our national debt. Left unchanged, these programs will continue to take up a larger portion of our budget each year, crowd out other government spending, and hurt our economy.

A Responsible, Balanced Budget to Grow the Economy and Create Jobs

It has been more than six years since the financial crisis rocked our nation's economy, but the fiscal challenges still facing our nation are innumerable.  Economic growth is underwhelming, families' homes remain in foreclosure, paychecks cannot keep up with rising costs, students continue to struggle with skyrocketing tuition, and millions of hardworking taxpayers are seeing their medical costs increase as a result of President Obama's health care law.  Regrettably, the President and his party have turned to more taxes, more spending, and more regulation in an attempt to address these issues. 

 Most recently, the President demonstrated his inability to put forth real solutions to our nation's most pressing fiscal problems with the submission of his budget proposal to Congress.  Budget proposals help resolve conflicting judgments about our nation's priorities.  They also serve to help reconcile divergent views of our country's future.  In this sense, it is clear that the President's priorities are to tax more, spend more, and regulate more.  His budget calls for a $2.1 trillion increase in taxes, a $2.4 trillion increase in spending, and would add $8.5 trillion dollars to the debt between FY 2016 and FY 2025.  Furthermore, the President's budget does not balance – ever.

Conversely, House Republicans have introduced and passed budget resolutions for five consecutive years that would tackle the looming debt crisis and restore economic growth.  The budget that was introduced for FY 2016 by Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, "A Balanced Budget for a Stronger America," is a serious budget that addresses our needs and our overwhelming debt by achieving balance, repealing the Affordable Care Act, ensuring a strong national defense, and cutting waste while improving accountability.

In stark contrast to the President's budget, the "Balanced Budget for a Stronger America" would balance in less than 10 years.  In addition to achieving balance, it would cut $5.5 trillion in federal spending and call for a fairer, simpler tax code that would promote job creation.   It would also place the country on a path to pay off the national debt by growing the economy and making government more efficient, effective, and accountable.  Most importantly, it would accomplish all of this without raising taxes.

This budget also offers a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has cost millions of hardworking taxpayers their insurance and spends trillions of dollars that we do not have.   It would repeal all of the ACA's taxes, regulations, and mandates, and return the balance of power to patients when it comes to making decisions regarding their healthcare.  Lastly, it would eliminate the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a group of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats responsible for making cost-cutting decisions that will lead to restricted access to critical care for seniors on Medicare.

Importantly, this budget would ensure that our military has the funds needed to train, equip, and fairly compensate the brave men and women who serve our country, while also ensuring that the interests of the United States, both abroad and here at home, are furthered.  In a world as volatile as ours, it is imperative that our national defense has the resources it needs.  The Republican budget boosts defense spending above the President's levels while putting in place a plan to responsibly address the current spending caps and the threat of sequester.

Lastly, the "Balanced Budget for a Better America" would secure our future by strengthening Medicare.  It would accomplish this by ending the ACA's $716 billion raid on Medicare, making structural improvements to Medicare to make sure it is available for future generations, eliminating the "double dipping" of Disability Insurance and Unemployment Insurance, and preventing the President's plan to raid the regular Social Security Trust Fund.

This budget came before the House on March 26, 2015, and was passed with my support by a vote of 228 to 199.  I was encouraged that my colleagues chose to support a budget that would result in common-sense spending restraints and much-needed economic growth.  Ultimately, a budget is more than just a list of numbers:  it is an expression of our governing philosophy.  This budget offers the American people a brighter future.  It would stop spending money we do not have, create jobs, and expand economic opportunity.

Expanding U.S. Trade

Over ninety percent of the world’s customers live outside the United States, and I can think of few better ways to grow our economy than to grow our customer base.  I believe that Wisconsinites and Americans across the country can compete with anybody – if given a fair chance, which is why we have to work to break down barriers to exports and complete many of the trade deals in the works.  At the end of the day, if we don’t write the rules of the global economy, other countries will. 

One area that encouraged me during the President’s State of the Union was his request that Congress to pass trade-promotion authority (TPA).  TPA is the process by which Congress grants the administration authority to enter into trade deals in exchange for setting the negotiating parameters for the administration.  Because the administration’s negotiating parameters are set by Congress, TPA allows for Congress’ voice to be heard and for the United States to negotiate from a position of strength and unity. 

As markets in Asia expand and the United States increases trade in that region of the world, the president must be granted trade-promotion authority – without it we will not get the best trade agreements for hard-working taxpayers.  Trade agreements allow the United States to have greater access to foreign economies, which means expanded opportunities and higher incomes for taxpayers in America. 

If you add together the countries that do not have trade agreements with us, we run a manufacturing trade deficit. Conversely, if you add up the counties that do have agreements with us, we run a surplus.  In 2013, dairy exports from Wisconsin grew by 41%.  In fact, Wisconsin’s dairy exports are now bigger than our beef exports, but under current rules we cannot export our dairy products to markets in Asia.  This is just one example of why the President needs to be granted TPA.  Again, I was pleased to hear the President discuss this pressing issue in his address to the nation, and I am hopeful that Congress will work with the Administration to wisely and expeditiously move the issue forward. 

Job Creation and Economic Growth

The economic growth that our country needs cannot come from Washington.  It originates from the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of the American people.  This spirit can only thrive if the government creates an economic-friendly environment that allows businesses to grow and create jobs.  To achieve these ends, Republicans in the House have passed dozens of bills aimed at empowering small business owners, reducing regulatory burdens, encouraging entrepreneurship, increasing competitiveness for American manufacturers, and paying down America's unsustainable debt burden.  As the 114th Congress continues, I will work to advance policies that address our economic challenges, foster innovation and investment, and help job creators without raising taxes on working families and small business owners.

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