Weekly Columns

If you look objectively at almost any metric, our country is not headed in the right direction.

Over 23 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed. The poverty rate is at a 17-year high. Health insurance costs are up by 29%. Gas prices have more than doubled.     

Arkansans want to know why we aren’t working together to fix these problems. They want to know why we didn’t address these important issues before leaving town. Quite frankly, I would like to know why as well. 

The final weeks of Congressional schedule—both prior to the August district work period and the abbreviated September session—were entirely devoid of any substantive legislation. The Farm Bill extension did not get completed, not a single appropriations bill to fund the federal government was passed and no significant measure to put Americans back to work made its way to the President’s desk.

There is a clear lack of leadership from the Administration and the Senate Majority. The lack of a federal budget is a perfect example. It has been over 1,200 days since the Senate Majority has passed a budget. Since that time, the federal government has added nearly $5 trillion to the national debt.

Americans can’t find work because the economic uncertainty Washington has created has slowed hiring to a halt. As a former small business owner, I can tell you that if you don’t know what your tax rates and energy, healthcare and compliance costs are going to be, then the last thing you are going to do is hire a bunch of people. Unfortunately, that is the message small business owners are getting from Washington’s inaction right now.

That message of uncertainly is only further clouded by that rapidly approaching fiscal cliff, the combination of automatic spending cuts from sequestration and the expiring lower tax rates that will hit together on December 31st.  The Senate Majority’s failure to take action to stop the devastating impact that this will cause is unacceptable.  It will hit every American’s wallet, hamper the military’s ability to defend our nation and further slow job creation.  In short, it could very possibly push our economy back into a recession.

We are trying to remove that cloud of uncertainty and keep the country from going over that fiscal cliff.  But in order to do that, it is going to take everyone working together—Republicans and Democrats—and time is quickly running out.  Our country’s fiscal health is on the line. What we do over the next few months will have a dramatic impact on our nation’s economic policies.

But it never needed to get to this point. We should have addressed this approaching storm during the first nine months of this Congressional session. We should not have adjourned early for campaigns. But the Senate Majority chose to once again to punt. Now we will have to find a solution to this crisis in a rushed lame duck session at the end of the year.  It is further evidence that cannot afford to keep kicking the can down the road. It only leads to a dead end.  

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