Two-and-a-half years ago, President Obama made a bold promise as he prepared to sign his just-passed $1 trillion stimulus plan. “[The stimulus will lift] 2 million Americans from poverty by ensuring that anyone who works hard does not have to raise a child below the poverty line,” he said. “This plan will help poor and working Americans pull themselves into the middle class in a way we haven’t seen in nearly 50 years.”
Yet, data just released by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the number of Americans living below the poverty line has not decreased by 2 million, as the president promised — rather, that number has actually increased by 2.6 million since 2009. That brings the total number of Americans living in poverty up to 46.2 million, the highest number ever recorded.
This has pushed our overall national poverty rate up to 15.1 percent — the highest level since 1993.
These discouraging figures — which also showed median household incomes dropping to their lowest levels since 1997 — add to an already bleak outlook for our post-stimulus economy: anemic growth, plummeting home
values, rising gas prices, an unemployment rate which has grown to more than 9 percent (remember that the stimulus was supposed to keep that rate below 8 percent), and more than 2 million more Americans out of work since 2009 (although the stimulus was supposed to create or save 3.5 million jobs).
By almost any measure, the stimulus was an unfortunate failure that, if anything, has only made things worse. And the American people agree — recent polling shows that less than three in 10 Americans believe the stimulus helped.
As painfully illustrated by the above data, the key lesson from the stimulus is this: however well-intentioned, the government simply cannot create jobs on its own. What government can do is create the right conditions for businesses to grow and hire, for entrepreneurs to take that leap, and for workers to succeed and climb the ladder to better salaries and more fulfilling careers. The frustrating thing is, this is not some new concept; we’ve known this for decades, yet still the stimulus was passed in hopes of defying the laws of economic gravity.
I once read an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal that put it best: “Governments cannot create but merely redirect. When the government spends, the money has to come from somewhere ... Something cannot be effortlessly created from nothing. Similarly, any jobs or other economic activity created by public-sector expansion merely comes at the expense of jobs lost in the private sector.”
So where does this leave us? When it comes to creating jobs and growing the economy, we are now quite clear on what will not work. In my view, the more important takeaway is that it’s time to pivot to a proven, forward-leaning economic strategy that relies on the market forces that have made our country strong for so many decades. I believe we must pave the way for the private sector to create more well-paying jobs into the future; to do that, though, we must first cut government spending and borrowing — which are acting as a brake on our economy — and then eliminate the barriers that continue to stand in the way of private sector growth and job creation.
The American people are tired of all the rhetoric and the promises, as well they should be; the figures I cited earlier show that a healthy dose of skepticism regarding some political promises is wise. More importantly, they don’t want more government — they just want solutions that can get the economy moving again and put the great U.S. job creation engine back on a strong, sustainable path.
I agree. I will continue working with members of both parties to promote effective solutions that can deliver real results for families across Arizona.
Sen. Jon Kyl is the Senate Republican Whip and serves on the Senate Finance and Judiciary committees. Visit his Web site at www.kyl.senate.gov