- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 7, 2002

If you believe the newspapers, the latest statistics strongly suggest that a full-blown economic recovery has finally taken root. The economy grew modestly between October and December, and one might easily be led to think that things are going to be fine if we continue the current economic course. Our country will heal from the economic wounds of September 11 by itself, with no need for legislative incentives.
But a closer look at these numbersreveals some troubling facts. Jobs are still disappearing at an alarming rate. Some89,000 jobs vanished in January alone. And 1.1 million have been lost since September 11, and 1.4 million since the recession began last March. Despite the promising indicators, many who were laid off following September 11 are nearing the end of their unemployment benefits, with no job yet in sight.
Senate Democrats have repeatedly blocked House legislation that would have stimulated rapid and intense economic growth and created more jobs for American workers. But action now by Congress can put the jobless back to work faster. Replacing unemployment checks with paychecks is the clearest path to a stronger and sustained recovery.
Although the business cycle slowdown that began in mid-2000 was initially too mild to be considered a recession, the events of September 11 pushed our economy into a temporary contraction from which we are still recovering. Thousands of jobs were lost and billions of dollars of wealth destroyed. Our borders were closed; our airports were shut down, financial markets closed. People were afraid to go shopping; businesses put investment projects on hold.
Consumer confidence about the future quickly recovered, and the stock market has regained its losses. But business confidence has not yet returned. Companies are unable to make major new investments until a clearer picture has emerged of our economic future. Without greater business confidence, the economy will not grow in earnest, and that growth is fundamental to creating more jobs.
American workers and business owners are quick to adjust to change; they are creative and innovative, especially when the chips are down. Incentives for business investment will help build on that spirit of innovation, pushing the economy forward faster and leading to better wages and more wealth, now and down the road. Providing incentives for businesses to invest in additional machines and equipment will increase the demand for additional workers, since labor and capital are compliments, not substitutes.
Current economic growth barely keeps pace with the demands of a growing population. Faster growth will give seniors more income for a more comfortable retirement, and help parents more easily afford college tuition for their kids. It will give more Americans the opportunity to own their own home or start their own business.
Helping Americans get back on their feet will help make the economic recovery already underway faster, deeper and more robust. Millions of people still need help. If you're out of work, you may be encouraged by reports that the economy is recovering, but until you've got a job, it's still a recession in your eyes. Americans need more than unemployment checks. They need the real prospect of a job now and in the future. An effective bill to revive the economy will still make a difference.
Last year, the president asked Congress to pass a bill that will do just that. In just three weeks, the Househad passed a comprehensive bill to kick-start the economy and boost employment.Five months later, the Senate has yet to act. As America waited, nearly 574,000 jobs were lost. It is time for serious action.
The House of Representatives today will consider legislation to put Americans back to work. By helping businesses generate new jobs and offering additional assistance to people on unemployment, this bill will give the economy the extra kick it needs to ensure we are over the hump. Congress must quickly act to get this much-needed bill to the president's desk.

Rep. Bill Thomas, a Republican, is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.


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