JOHNSON: Obama at a loss

Applying business sense to government can get U.S. back on track

When stock prices were plunging earlier this month, President Obama strode to the teleprompter and utterly failed to calm the markets or the American people. Sadly, they saw what I saw - and have come to exactly the same conclusion: Mr. Obama does not know what to do. He never did.

Since taking office in admittedly tough economic conditions, the president has taken America 180 degrees in the wrong direction. His failed $825-billion stimulus, Obamacare, Dodd-Frank and the explosion of his administration’s other job-killing regulations have combined to put a stranglehold on our economy. Until these policies are reversed, the lack of confidence that dampens consumption, business investment and job creation will be the order of the day. Unfortunately, Mr. Obama is blinded by ideology and refuses to acknowledge the harm his agenda has wreaked on America and our economic future.

Fortunately, some in Congress understand the harm his agenda is causing and are working hard to reverse course.

As a thought experiment, imagine how much uncertainty would be removed and the level of confidence that would return if the entire Obama agenda were repealed tomorrow. A pretty pleasant thought, isn’t it?

We can’t repeal the additional $4 trillion that has been added to our nation’s debt during his tenure, but we can repeal his agenda - the sooner the better. I can’t think of a more effective first step in any “jobs program,” and I challenge anyone to come up with a better one. I’m confident the president’s umpteenth attempt at a jobs program will be nothing more than a slight variation on already-tried-and-failed themes. Why would we expect anything different or think he has any personal knowledge on how to create jobs?

Few on Mr. Obama’s team have ever built a company, manufactured or marketed a product or balanced the company books. They have no clue how to get our economy reignited and no clue how to create an atmosphere in which the private sector can create the jobs we need. To them, the private sector is little more than a cash cow to fund bigger, more expensive government in Washington.

As the former chief executive officer of a midsized manufacturing business, I do understand the value of the real job producers in America. I also understand how Mr. Obama’s policies affect their ability to expand their businesses and create new jobs. What we need to do to get our economy moving again is pretty obvious. Here’s a short outline of the necessary components of a solution:

c Repeal Obamacare and Dodd-Frank: Neither of these laws fixed the problems they were designed to solve, and instead, they do far more harm than good.

c Regulation moratorium: The $1.75-trillion-per-year regulatory burden is making the United States a very unattractive place for global business investment. Imposing a moratorium on new regulations is a necessary first step in reversing the damage. A bill I introduced last month would do just that.

c Credible plan to control spending: The elements of the “Cut, Cap and Balance” plan had the support of 66 percent to 74 percent of the American people. Once consumers and investors are convinced we have spending under control, confidence will return to our economy.

c Tax reform: Our 70,000-page tax code costs taxpayers more than $300 billion in annual compliance costs to raise $2.2 trillion in revenue. It is riddled with special treatments that result in less efficient economic behavior. Reforms should make the system more streamlined in a way that promotes rather than harms economic growth.

c Budget reform: I will work with House members to pass legislation that will:

1. Replace “base-line” budgeting with “zero-based” budgeting.

2. Require Congress and the administration to make all entitlements structurally solvent for 75 years by fiscal 2014.

3. Require all spending to be authorized regularly by Congress. (Currently, 70 percent of the budget is on automatic pilot.)

4. Replace the annual budget process with a biennial budget process that authorizes spending in Year 1 and conducts spending oversight in Year 2.

c Civil service hiring freeze: Controlling the size of the federal work force would be a powerful tool in limiting the size, scope and cost of government.

c Energy security: The United States should protect our national security and help ensure price competition by fully utilizing our own natural energy resources.

c Congressional “sunset” committees: Both the House and Senate should have permanent committees whose only focus would be on the elimination of unneeded laws and regulations. More often than not, government has become part of the problem instead of the solution.

I am willing and eager to work with anyone who is serious about addressing the long-term fiscal crisis facing our nation. Hopefully, Mr. Obama will begin to realize the harm his agenda has caused and work with Congress to reverse course quickly.

Sen. Ron Johnson is a Republican from Wisconsin and former chief executive officer of Pacur LLC.

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