At our annual policy retreat two weeks ago, House Republicans outlined the framework of our 2014 agenda, entitled “An America That Works.” While we were discussing policies that would create opportunity and reward hard work, little did we know that within a matter of days President Obama and the Democratic party would embrace the idea that it should be a goal of public policy to encourage able-bodied adults to retreat from the work force. This full-throated embrace of the aims of a European-style social-welfare state perfectly encapsulates the debate about the future of our nation.
House Republicans believe that the promise of America has always been that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can get ahead, and that as a result each generation will enjoy more liberty, opportunity, and prosperity. This is the American Dream.
But today, the liberal policies of the Obama administration threaten this dream. And rather than figuring out how to restore the American Dream and make America work again, the president and his allies are trying to convince us that what we are experiencing is just the new normal.
One in six working-age men out of work shouldn’t be the new normal; nor should stagnant wages and growing costs that squeeze middle-class families. Nor should a government-run health-care system that discourages work, raises costs, and denies the opportunity to see one’s doctor become the new normal. And neither should a K–12 education system that fails our most vulnerable children or a college system that is accessible only to the rich become the new normal.
House Republicans reject President Obama’s new normal and instead embrace the idea that we can build a policy agenda focused on bold, conservative solutions to the most pressing problems facing American families today. In short, an agenda to help build an America that works again.
While we will tackle many issues this year in Congress, we will focus on four key areas that demand our immediate attention.
Creating Jobs and Economic Growth
We all know the headlines: 6.6 percent unemployment and a labor-force-participation rate that is near its lowest level since 1977. But that is only part of the story.
The unemployment rate for the approximately 30 percent of working-age Americans with a bachelor’s degree or higher is 3.2 percent. But most working-age Americans don’t have a college degree. Unemployment for those with only a high-school diploma is 7.1 percent. Their labor-force-participation rate is an astonishingly low 58 percent — the lowest level for the period for which we have records. And it is even worse for those without a high-school diploma.
America doesn’t work if Americans aren’t working. An America that works requires an economy where jobs of all kinds are being created: white-collar, blue-collar, part-time, full-time. Diverse jobs that reflect the diversity of our country.
Our jobs plan begins with the SKILLS Act, our proposal to reform federal job-training programs and help connect the unemployed with the jobs available in their area. It continues with regulatory relief for those sectors of our economy we are counting on to create the jobs we need: construction, energy, manufacturing, and retail. These sectors happen to be the ones most under assault by the administration’s runaway regulatory agenda. Tax policy also has a critical role to play, as does pro-growth energy policy.