President should set the tone for a new era of engagement

This era follows renewed engagement by the American people in their government. They spoke out in record numbers both at rallies and at the voting booth, calling for us to work together to create policies that will help them get back to work, restore fiscal discipline to their government, care for their families, and live the lives promised in the great founding principles of our country.

It is my hope that the president’s message on Tuesday reflects this spirit.

If so, it will also be the start of a long and sometimes uncomfortable conversation. But it’s one we must begin today so we are not forced into it later.

The country is still feeling the effects of the economic crisis from 2008. The economy has been slow to recover, and in turn job creation has lagged. Many Americans are still out of work, and many have simply stopped looking for employment. Spending is at a record high, and because of this, our nation is in major debt, hurting our chances for recovery and prosperity.

In November, the people of America said, “Enough,” and called for a new direction.

While we might not always agree on how to achieve the ends, I know that we can work together, because we all want our country to succeed. We can start by setting a vision, with clear and realistic national benchmarks for success, and I hope that we begin to hear an outline for these in the State of the Union.

As a small-business owner, I know there are some universal principles of successful businesses that Congress could work towards to grow our economy again. First, don’t spend more than you’re taking in. Second, do what you need to do to create an atmosphere for success. For government, that means creating an atmosphere for success through tax and regulatory environments, and a cooperative, not adversarial, attitude with those who create jobs. Finally, don’t expect miracles. Change requires hard work, self-sacrifice, and tough decisions.

Yet we violate that first principle annually as we spend more than we earn and are dangerously close to doing it on a long-term basis by accruing so much national debt, which is now about $14.1 trillion. Our GDP, or how much we make, is about $14.7 trillion. That means we owe nearly 96 percent of what we make. It also means just four percent of our money is really our own. This makes our nation vulnerable to bankruptcy and economic stagnation. But by simply having a plan, starting now, we can avoid this.

We need to create an atmosphere in our country that will foster job growth. Simply put, the private sector, not the public sector, creates prosperity. We don’t need more government or a bigger one. We just need our government to focus on accountability, responsibility and oversight.

My hope lies in this new Congress, with so many new members fresh from districts across America, where we got our marching orders in November. The message was loud and clear: Americans understand the stakes are too high to continue down the path we are on. Now we have to figure out how to work together to help them achieve the American Dream promised in the founding principles of our country.

As one of these freshmen, I know my class understands we must fulfill our promises to our constituents, and we are resolved to undertake the hard work and make the tough decisions necessary to do so. This is truly a critical moment for our country, and it is my hope that the State of the Union reflects this by addressing the urgent need to start an open, honest and adult discussion about the issues facing us. We must show the American people their government also wants to come together to help this country turn around, so once again our children and citizens may have the full opportunities promised to them.

Rep. Huizenga is the freshman representative for Michigan’s 2nd congressional district.