He made it all sound so simple, didn't he?
A good education will lead to good jobs. Good jobs will provide Americans with solid incomes, giving them enough money to save toward home ownership and a secure retirement. It seemed the only thing President Obama left out of his speech Wednesday in Galesburg, Illinois, was the promise of a chicken in every pot.
I agree these are worthy goals, and we should strive to give all people the opportunity to pursue the American Dream. I do not agree the government is the means by which we achieve it.
In what sounded more like a partisan campaign speech than a national economic strategy, President Obama presented such ideals through five "cornerstones" that he says will grow the middle class, starting with "an economy that generates more good jobs."
Here's the thing, Mr. President -- the economy doesn't create jobs. Small business owners do. The corner deli, the hair salon, the accounting firm, the website designer, the home builder, the tool manufacturer -- these are the drivers of our economy.
And a strong economy is the result of job growth.
Of course, small business owners are more willing to take a chance on hiring a new employee if they have confidence that the economy is on an upswing. They depend on consumers having discretionary income to pay for the goods and services they produce. More demand leads to more production, and more production requires more employees.
The economy grows when small business owners take a risk -- whether it's launching their own start-up or hiring their first employee or building another factory. An entrepreneur has an idea, examines the market for that idea, and takes a risk to turn that idea into a reality.
But too often, government policies, taxes and regulations stop them from taking that risk.
During my campaign for U.S. Senate in 2012, I met with more than 300 small business owners all over Connecticut. A manufacturer in Cheshire told me he'd love to hire more workers but would be penalized by the Affordable Care Act if he expanded beyond 50 employees. Another in Danbury told me he planned to add another employee, but the $50,000 earmarked as salary instead went toward a government fine when he was penalized for initialing, rather than giving a full signature, on some paperwork. A manufacturer in Plainfield wanted to double the size of his factory and add seven new employees; but despite his good credit, restrictions imposed by the Dodd-Frank Act meant he couldn't get the capital he needed.
President Obama said there are workers "sitting at home waiting for a call" offering them a job. What if those very workers took the initiative to start their own small businesses? What if constantly changing laws and limited access to capital didn't stop entrepreneurs from pursuing this piece of the American Dream? This country was built with initiative, perseverance and creativity, not sitting at home waiting for a call. Our government should give talented, skilled people the confidence to take a risk without putting overly burdensome taxes, regulations and restrictions in their way.
It's scary to take such an initiative. When my husband and I founded our company 30 years ago, we risked everything we had. We worried about things like whether we could afford to buy a typewriter or if we should continue leasing one for $12 a month. We started off sharing a desk in our basement and only hired our first employee when the company had more work than we could handle ourselves. And as the company continued to grow, so did our payroll. Today, that company has almost 700 employees -- employees who pay taxes, buy homes, and invest toward security in their retirement. They are fueling the economy.
The president said he'd like more Americans "flipping the sign to 'Open' on their own business." But for that to happen, the government must be their advocate, not their adversary. Entrepreneurs need lower taxes, more predictable regulations, and less bureaucratic red tape restricting their access to capital. While no one expects everyone to be an entrepreneur, more businesses hiring more workers will not only mean more jobs; more jobs will lead to a stronger economy and a stronger America for all of us.