In August, I held town hall meetings across eastern Kansas. The message I received loud and clear was that Washington will only be able to accomplish the goal of getting Americans back to work if we can work together, stop insisting on poison pills intended to politically damage the other side and find areas on which we can agree.
So when the president made his most recent speech, I was pleased to learn that, at least rhetorically, Washington has finally agreed that the top priority of the federal government needs to be addressing the jobs crisis.
There are some real solutions on the table that Republicans and Democrats agree on, and we can and should work together to immediately put these ideas into action.
For instance, there is broad consensus that we can reform our tax code so it’s fairer, flatter, more competitive internationally and doesn’t place an unfair burden on the middle class, and even the most stalwart big-government progressive can agree that many of these government regulations on businesses are stifling growth when we need it most.
Another effort that seems to have strong support and where we can have the biggest effect on American jobs in the shortest amount of time would be to pass the three pending free-trade agreements — with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. In today’s global marketplace, it is essential that we make every reasonable effort to open foreign markets to American products.
Unfortunately, the president doesn’t seem to have taken this opportunity to make these real changes. He talked about them in his speech but, to date, his only proposal would extend many of his failed stimulus programs, which he proposes to pay for by increasing the super committee’s deficit reduction target, raising taxes on many small businesses and eliminating several tax provisions that keep American manufacturers and energy producers competitive.
As our country struggles with lackluster gross domestic product and stagnant job creation, South Korean businesses are signing long-term deals with European, not American, manufacturers, food producers and businesses.
The reason for this is simple: Congressional Democrats and the Obama administration have continually dragged their feet in the approval process.
While the administration dithered, the European Union was able to enact its free-trade agreement with South Korea before the United States could pass its own. Therefore, the South Koreans are able to purchase European products at a much lower price because, unlike American goods, they do not have costly tariffs attached to them.
The same is true with American goods in Colombia and Panama. American businesses are losing market share and their competitive edge as a result of Washington’s inability to pass these essential agreements.
One would think this would be a simple process, especially considering that the president has indicated his support for these agreements in several joint addresses to Congress and in countless stump speeches across the country.
Yet after nearly three years, we are still waiting for the administration to send these agreements to Congress.
The administration’s own projections say these agreements can create 250,000 American jobs. It is time to put the rhetoric aside and get to work.
I sincerely hope the president will release his hold on these agreements soon, so Congress can ratify them and we can get the American people back to work.
Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) is a member of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade and the House Trade Working Group.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.