- The Washington Times - Friday, November 28, 2003

In the past two weeks, Americans seeking work received two pieces of good news: Our economy posted the fastest growth in nearly 20 years and we created over 280,000 new jobs in the past three months. More Americans are taking home paychecks instead of unemployment checks, and for those people who don’t have a job, help is on the way.

After the shocks of recession, war and corporate scandal, every American can take pride in our economic rebound. But at the same time, we can’t be complacent; we must do more to help convert growth into jobs.

The economic expansion is increasing incomes and living standards for American workers. This year, our stock market has increased $2 trillion; consumer confidence is rising; and homeownership rates are at historic highs. Yet too many Americans still cannot find a job.

My career in the private sector taught me that a job is central to the American dream: Owning a home, providing for your family and creating a better future for your children. That is why President Bush will not be satisfied until every American who is looking for work can find a job.

Historically, job creation lags economic growth. As business activity resumes, businesses are initially reluctant to make long-term investments in new employees, and first seek added productivity from existing employees or hire temporary workers. We have seen evidence of this in recent improvements in productivity, business earnings and temporary employment.

But history also tells us that businesses must eventually hire new employees. Already, we see signs of an improving labor market. New claims for unemployment insurance are down to their lowest level since the beginning of 2001. In September and October, the United States created 251,000 new jobs — dropping the unemployment rate from 6.1 percent to 6.0 percent.

The president has a six-point economic plan that will make it easier for the private sector to create jobs. The plan cuts indirect business costs like health care, energy, regulations and junk lawsuits, while opening markets and making tax relief permanent.

The president’s plan starts from the premise that government does not create jobs — businesses do. To create new jobs, government must unleash the entrepreneurial spirit.

For example, spiraling health care costs are discouraging new hiring. That is why Mr. Bush is working to make health care costs more affordable and predictable. Small businesses must be allowed to purchase pool health coverage. Expanded medical savings accounts would help consumers.

We also need to reduce the job-killing lawsuit burden. The current tort system raises costs by permitting trial lawyers to venue shop for courts with lax standards. Junk lawsuits, especially those targeted at doctors, drive up the cost of doing business. That is why the president proposed, and the House of Representatives approved, measures that would allow more class action and mass tort lawsuits to be moved into federal court.

Businesses also need affordable and reliable energy. The president has proposed a comprehensive national energy plan that features more domestic production, investments in our nation’s grid, enhanced conservation efforts and energy efficiency. Although Congress has deadlocked on the plan, the president has vowed to revive it next year.

Congress must also make tax relief permanent. Right now, some key elements like tax rate reductions and larger child tax credits will expire in a few years. Unless we act, the “death” tax will also be back at the end of the decade. Permanent relief will allow families and businesses to plan their financial futures.

The president has consistently worked to strengthen our economy. Economists predict that as many as 1.5 million additional Americans could have lost their jobs without the president’s tax relief. We will continue streamlining regulations, opening markets and lowering the cost of doing business on American companies.

The United States has been through a lot, but our economy remains the strongest and most dynamic member of the global community. This success is a direct result of the work ethic, talents and entrepreneurial vision of American workers and businesses.

Donald L. Evans is the secretary of commerce.

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