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Sen. Jeff Merkley Headshot

It's Time to Get Serious in Washington. Serious About Jobs

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The verdict is in. This last Congress, the actions of Washington have been part of the problem, not the solution, damaging efforts to put our economy back on track.

Here's why. Thanks to Congress, we've seen one fiscal cliff after another, including crises over the debt limit, the funding of government operations, and sequestration -- the automatic spending cuts that come from the 2011 Budget Control Act.

According to the just-released study by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the budget politics of Congress have cost us dearly, shrinking our GDP by one and a half percent. That means the destruction of about two million jobs. Most alarmingly, the report says we won't reach full economic output for another four years!

Moreover, programs to put America back to work have been sidelined. For example, the use of low-cost loans for energy-saving building renovations -- often viewed as the single best bang-for-the-buck in job creation and a huge lever for getting the construction industry back on its feet -- has been struck down again and again.

Congress has also ditched numerous other jobs bills including ones that address refinancing our families stuck in high-interest home loans, rebuilding our aging roads, levies and bridges, investing in our schools by rehiring teachers, and putting our veterans back to work. So, in tonight's State of the Union, here is what I want to hear from the president:
  • First, tell Congress to end the budget games afflicting America. We need to set aside for a year the sequester scheduled for March that will knock our economy back even further. Replace it by closing corporate loopholes.
  • Second, use that year to get back to the regular budget and appropriation rhythm so we aren't careening from crisis to crisis.
  • Third, lay out a 10-year plan that will steadily close the vast bulk of the difference between our revenue, which is at 16 percent of GDP, and our spending, which is at 23 percent of GDP. Deficits need to shrink and shrink steadily, but without the austerity shocks that are undermining economies throughout Europe.
  • Fourth, lay out the five jobs bills that will have the biggest punch in putting America back to work. While many corporate profits have soared and Wall Street has hit an all-time high, real people and small businesses are still suffering. There is no better program of any kind than a living-wage job!
In short, Mr. President, in tonight's speech, focus on jobs. Urge Congress to abandon policies that we know will shrink our economy, and present a plan for putting America back to work.