Five years later, hardly stimulated

Five years ago today, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law. This was the so-called “stimulus” bill that the administration assured us would rescue our economy after the 2008 financial collapse.

The administration’s top economists projected that the stimulus bill would prevent unemployment from ever reaching 8 percent, and by now it was supposed to have lowered our unemployment rate to just 5 percent. Neither of these projections came true, of course, as in October of that same year our unemployment rate topped out at 10 percent after the bill was signed into law – a full percentage point higher than the administration projected it would rise to if nothing was done at all.

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And now, even with an economy where the labor force has shrunk to its lowest levels since the Carter administration, our unemployment rate sits at an unacceptable 6.6 percent following two very disappointing monthly jobs reports.

Even worse, the president’s signature domestic policy achievement, Obamacare, is one of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of economic recovery. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has warned us that over the next ten years Obamacare will cost our economy the equivalent of 2.5 million full-time workers. At a House Budget Committee hearing I recently had the opportunity to ask CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf what effect reduced labor force participation would have on our economy and he told me pointedly that it will be “the central factor in slowing economic growth.”

This is unacceptable and why we must work together to strengthen our economy and get Americans back to work. My House Republican colleagues and I have worked to pass dozens of jobs bills to help spur economic growth, yet sadly these measures are left sitting on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) desk awaiting a vote. Some of these measures are admittedly controversial, such as repealing the president’s health care law that is causing Americans so much pain. But many of these measures are commonsense and even bipartisan.

For instance, the Innovation Act passed out of the House with broad bipartisan support, and if signed into law it would helps businesses better defend themselves against abusive patent litigation, promoting more private-sector growth, innovation, and job creation. And the REINS Act would reform the outdated regulatory process that hurts private-sector job creation by requiring an up-or-down vote in Congress on any major new regulation that has high economic costs. The Offshore Energy & Jobs Act would help grow our economy by opening up the most resource-rich areas to new offshore energy production. Furthermore, the President could use his pen at any moment to approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that would create thousands of jobs as well as help lower gas prices for American families.

The president’s economic record is certainly underwhelming and as someone seeking to establish a legacy before he leaves office, working with Congress to strengthen our economy should be job number one. After five difficult years, it’s time for President Obama to turn the page on his failed stimulus by working with House Republicans to promote policies that strengthen our economy and get Americans back to work.

Black has represented Tennessee's 6th Congressional District since 2011. She sits on the Budget and the Ways and Means committees.