Economy & Budget

A vote for patent reform will stimulate U.S. innovation

If “patent reform” was an answer posed to IBM’s Watson computer during its recent competition on Jeopardy!, the system may have responded with, “What is legislation that will support jobs and economic growth, without costing taxpayers a cent?”

Well, maybe Watson wouldn’t be quite so ardent, but the incredible and ground-breaking inventions that enabled Watson, as well as countless other IBM innovations through the years, are the product of a commitment to invention and innovation that has generated more than 75,000 patents during our company's first 100 years.

Now, almost 60 years after our nation's patent system was last updated, the U.S. House of Representatives is poised to vote on the America Invents Act (H.R. 1249) which, if signed into law by President Obama, will enable essential and significant improvements to the U.S. patent system, while balancing the needs of inventors of all sizes in all industries.


Starving the poor to balance the budget is wrong

Along with more than 70 professors and theologians from Catholic universities, I recently wrote a public letter to House Speaker John Boehner that questioned how he squares core teachings of his Catholic faith with policies he supports that hurt the poor. I urged Rep. Boehner to stand with his Catholic bishops who along with other religious leaders have supported a Circle of Protection campaign to defend vital programs that serve the most vulnerable from massive budget cuts.


Debt limit vote is an opportunity to cut spending, reform entitlements

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor Thursday regarding the need to view the upcoming debt limit vote as an opportunity to reduce Washington spending, reform entitlements and grow the economy:

With each passing day, the American people grow more concerned about our nation’s future. A Washington Post ABC news poll this week said that by a ratio of 2-to-1, Americans believe we’re on the wrong track and nine out of 10 rate the economy negatively. And yesterday’s CNN poll found that many Americans expect another Great Depression.

It’s in this context that President Obama has started talking about how concerned he is about jobs. This week, the President said he wakes up every morning and asks himself what he can do to spur job creation. And every morning this week I’ve come to the floor with some suggestions for him.


Want an economic recovery? Here's how.

According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, Americans say by a 2 to 1 margin the country is on the wrong track, and 9 out of 10 continue to rate the economy in negative terms. This same survey showed Americans’ disapproval of how the president is handling the nation’s economy and the outrageous deficit.

Tennesseans are frustrated because, even though the president has already spent hundreds of billions of dollars on a failed stimulus package, he seems unwilling to work with Republicans to come up with a new plan to lower the deficit, cut spending and create jobs. Instead, his administration has talked about a new, larger stimulus – exactly the opposite of what most Americans think we need.


Conservatives should support swipe-fee reform

Today, every time a consumer swipes a debit card, the business pays a fee of 1 to 3 percent to the bank that issued the card. These fees average 44 cents per transaction -- but on July 21, a new policy will go into effect limiting them to 12 cents for big banks.

As one might expect, those big banks have cried foul. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) has an amendment that would delay this policy with an eye toward killing it, and many conservatives have taken his side, claiming that the government shouldn’t interfere in the market.

To be sure, they’re starting with a good principle: The business world tends to correct itself without government involvement. Most of the time, if a company jacks up its prices for no reason, consumers will go elsewhere.

But that is not how swipe fees work. There is no market force keeping them in check. That’s why a bank can charge 44 cents on average for a service the Fed has determined actually costs 4 cents on average to perform without being put out of business by a lower-priced competitor.


Consumers and job creators hurt by swipe fees

Every day, millions of American consumers use their credit and debit cards to make every-day purchases at grocery stores, gas stations, and other retail outlets. While the convenience of such payment may be familiar to many, what is not well known is the hidden world of “swipe-fees” that drive up prices and hurt job creation.


Happy anniversary, Bush tax cuts!

Today is the 10th anniversary of the Bush tax cuts. Looking back over the last ten years, if I had a nickel for every time small business was invoked to push these tax cuts that benefit millionaires, I might actually be one.

I’m not a millionaire. Not a lot of small businesses are. I’ve been in business for 17 years. I started my custom screen printing business in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1994 with three employees, and over the years we’ve grown to employ 29 people. But we’ve never landed in the top tax brackets.

Like most small business owners, we plow what could be taken as profit back into building our business. We’re concerned with how to stay afloat in this tough economy, how to keep our business healthy, how to keep our people employed and create more jobs. It does me no good to buy a house in the Hamptons if my business back home falls behind the competition.

Despite the major role the Bush tax cuts have played in creating our current fiscal problems, politicians and lobbyists continue to claim that failing to extend the cuts for the wealthiest Americans would hurt small businesses, America’s job creators. It is clear to me that none of these people have ever run a small business. Repeating a bogus claim over and over doesn’t make it true. 


Republicans' political agenda threatens our economy

I welcome back my colleagues for what I hope will be a productive month.

This new month is not unlike last month, or the month before, or the month before that. Once again, our constituents are concerned with one thing above all: Jobs.

They’re concerned because of what the economy means for their families and their lives. They’re worried about paying the bills next month and sending their kids to school next year. Too many want to go to the bank and once again know the dignity of depositing a paycheck instead of an unemployment check.


Let's focus on creating jobs, not playing chicken with the debt ceiling

I wonder how long House Republicans are going to continue playing ideological games with the economy. Moody’s Investors Service announced yesterday that it might begin a review to downgrade our government’s credit rating. This follows a failed House vote on raising the debt ceiling with not one Republican voting in favor of the increase.

Leading economists from across the political spectrum agree that downgrading our credit rating would increase our borrowing costs and actually increase the deficit. Dilly-dallying with the debt ceiling is clearly the wrong direction for our country.

I voted to increase the debt ceiling because it’s time to focus on job creation and deficit reduction in a serious way. Our country is slowly pulling itself out of the Great Recession, but we’re still leaving millions of unemployed Americans behind. 


The debit swipe-fee market is broken

As the debate rages on over legislative proposals to delay the debit card swipe fee reforms, those of us who view the issue from the perspective of economics and the economy are fascinated by how far the focus has drifted from what really matters. Lost in the coverage of who is on which side, who is right and who’s wrong, and who truly speaks for consumers is a sincere discussion about the market failures that spurred the intervention.