Last week, I crisscrossed our great state on a 1,500 mile jobs tour through 13 different counties. I met with small business owners, auto workers, manufacturers of everything from trucks to plastics, coal miners, workers in the defense industry, farmers, community college and career center leaders, health care professionals, and others. People talked about how the economy is so sluggish, that they just can’t seem to get ahead.
We all know that America’s economy has been slow to recover since the financial crisis of 2007-2009. But what you might not know is that economists say we are experiencing the slowest economic recovery since the 1940s. The percentage of people working is the lowest it has been in 38 years, and wages have been flat, while expenses like health care and education and electric bills are up. This has helped create what I see around Ohio: a “middle class squeeze” that has made it harder for working families to make ends meet. The answer is clear. We need real economic growth, and the government needs to stop adding more costs and expenses.
On the tour, I listened to a lot of ideas job creators have to add more, and better paying jobs, and what I heard was pretty consistent. People are looking to Washington to make it easier, not harder, to create jobs by backing off on the regulations and mandates, and reforming the laws and policies that make it harder to compete and add jobs. I agree.
We had helped several of the businesses I visited to be able to stay and grow in Ohio, whether it was keeping the line open at the Lima tank plant or fixing a trade issue to open up a key market for a meat processor in Akron. We talked about ways to help more.
We also talked about some of the pro-jobs legislation I have been able to pass in the Senate, even with the partisan gridlock. I was able to thank a couple of Ohio community colleges for their help on our worker retraining reforms we passed that are making it easier for Ohio workers to get the skills they need. I thanked the aluminum manufacturers who attended a jobs roundtable, the rural electric cooperative folks at a farm forum, and the electrical supply company I visited, for their help on our energy efficiency legislation that is now law.
I also spoke about a vision for a brighter future for struggling Ohio families through the reforms I have been fighting for in the U.S. Senate. Although my team and I have had success in passing some good legislation, there is so much more that should be done but is being blocked by partisan gridlock, special interest opposition or the Obama Administration. In fact, instead of pursuing pro-jobs policies, the Obama Administration seems to consistently turn to more burdensome regulations and executive orders, higher taxes and bigger government.
The alternative is to jump start the economy and add more and better jobs through tax reform, patient-centered health care to replace Obamacare, more comprehensive education and workforce development reform, regulatory relief, a true all-of-the-above national energy strategy, expanded exports, tougher enforcement of trade laws, and fiscal responsibility. With these reforms, America can get back to being a growth engine for good, middle-class jobs here and a beacon of hope and opportunity for the world.
After 2010, because of new leadership and pro-jobs policies in the Buckeye state, Ohio started to turn the corner. Before we were lagging way behind the rest of the country, now we are doing better than most states. But to take it to the next level, we need to reverse the headwinds coming from the Obama Administration and replace it with common sense, pro-growth policies to expand opportunities in Ohio and create more jobs.
As I listened to concerned citizens, whether it was in Youngstown or Cincinnati, Lima or Dayton, Cleveland or a small town in eastern Ohio, I heard a recurring theme – people are frustrated that Washington isn’t moving forward with the pro-growth reforms that would really help and they are tired of burdensome regulations that result in more road blocks to success. It’s time to tear down barriers to success and pass the reforms needed to allow every Ohioan to reach his or her God-given abilities.
Rob Portman is a United States senator from Ohio.