Hit The Ground Running
I was honored to take the oath of office for the U.S. Senate last week, and we are hitting the ground running. Ohio voters expect me, first and foremost, to focus on the issue of jobs and the economy. Too often, we have all watched as policy proposals and record spending from Washington have made it harder, not easier, for Ohioans to find work, and for us to turn things around. And that has to end.
The stories I heard during over 80 visits to manufacturing plants and economic roundtables all over our state over the past two years give me a clear sense of what needs to be done in Washington. Small business owners, workers, plant managers and local economic development leaders all shared their insights regarding the roadblocks they face when it comes to growing their businesses and expanding employment.
Ohio’s unemployment is nearly 10% and the national picture isn’t much better. One economist said the latest national jobs report was “a very disappointing number that reinforces the idea that we're in for a long, slow jobless recovery.” In Ohio, we have lost over 4000,000 jobs in the past few years.
These Ohio jobs numbers are more than statistics; they are families who have experienced the pain of a family member losing a job. And Ohioans don’t need to read a jobs report to understand the problem. They see the “For Sale” signs dotting the homes in their neighborhoods because of the foreclosure crisis, they read the reports of layoffs at a local company, and see firsthand that too many of Ohio’s young people are leaving the state looking for the American Dream elsewhere.
So what do we do? I believe there are a few commonsense but key actions we can pursue in Washington right now to begin to turn things around and put Americans back to work.
First, we need to stop the policies that make it harder to create jobs and opportunity. Among other things, we must repeal the anti-jobs aspects of the new health care law. I know as a small business owner myself and from meeting with many small business owners around the state that a number of new government-mandated provisions in the bill – including the burdensome IRS form 1099 reporting requirements– are discouraging businesses from creating jobs. What’s worse, the bill drives health care costs up, not down as promised by the bill’s congressional supporters, making it harder to hire someone and further burdening federal, state, and family budgets.
Second, we have to stop Washington from spending more than they can take in. I was proud to join the Senate Republicans to put a two-year freeze on Congressional earmarks that have contributed to the spending problem. This is a good first step in the difficult, and bigger, task of getting our federal budget deficits under control.
Third, we need to put in place new, pro-jobs policies. As an example, we need tax reform that makes it easier to create jobs here. The United States holds the dubious distinction of the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world. This puts us at a disadvantage globally when we need to be doing everything we can to encourage hiring and expansion in Ohio.
We also need to expand foreign markets for American goods, and we can start by passing the trade-opening agreements that have already been negotiated. Passage of the South Korean, Colombian, and Panamanian agreements will knock down barriers to things made in Ohio and add Ohio jobs at a time when we need them badly. This means selling more Ohio-made machinery, more Ohio-raised corn, hogs and soybeans, and more Ohio-based insurance and other services. Based on what the Obama Administration has said since the election, I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to work on a bipartisan basis to create more jobs through exports.
On health care, spending, taxes, trade, regulations, energy and other issues, Washington needs to create an environment that is conducive to job growth. While I am fighting for a pro-jobs agenda in Congress, my team in Ohio and I will be working aggressively every day with communities and local officials in every corner of the state to tackle specific economic development challenges. Please visit our website, http://portman.senate.gov to learn more.
I appreciate the trust so many Ohioans have placed in me to fight for you, your family and your neighbors in Washington. We face big challenges, and we cannot afford to waste any time in tackling them. I welcome your input and ideas as we work together to build a better Ohio and a stronger America.