They say that the first step to a recovery is accepting that you have a problem.
Well, in Washington, D.C. spend-happy politicians haven't taken that step. They're clueless as to why our country remains in an economic recession with a national unemployment rate in double digits. And even though lawmakers have repeatedly tried and failed to stimulate our economy with costly spending bills, they're considering even more spending in the months to come.
Instead of looking at other ways at stimulating our economy, Congress is bent on sticking to their spend-happy ways - which would further add to our ballooning deficit.
Just a year ago, President Obama signed the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act," promising us a swift economic recovery by putting more Americans to work. However upon closer inspection, it's clear that the so-called "stimulus bill" was nothing more than pork-barrel spending.
Skeptics of the stimulus bill have been vindicated a year after we faced harsh criticism from many on the Left. Recent statistics show the unemployment rate hovering around 10 percent. And according to The Washington Post, the unemployment rate for Hispanics stands closer to 13 percent. In light of these figures, it's fair to say that our economy is struggling and the stimulus bill has failed.
Yet the White House continues to insist that this massive piece of legislation was a resounding success. In fact, it wasn't long ago that the administration claimed the stimulus bill had "saved or created" a large number of jobs (the actual number changed repeatedly). The White House has since stopped this practice, since there's no verifiable way of attributing job growth to the stimulus bill. And yet that hasn't stopped the president from dispatching Cabinet officials to 35 communities across the country to tout the stimulus' "success."
As if this weren't bad enough, lawmakers are considering another economic stimulus bill, filled with even more wasteful spending. It, too, would do nothing to improve our economy. Apparently, Congress is convinced that the third time will be the charm.
Lawmakers would do better to approve the various free-trade agreements that remain stalled in Congress. By opening our markets through increased trade, we could create more jobs here in our country. Already-negotiated, "shovel ready" U.S. trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea are being held up in Congress because powerful labor unions oppose them.
These unions helped to craft President Obama's current trade policies. Liberals don't want to upset these powerful labor unions and put their hefty political campaign donations at risk,
Politics shouldn't interfere with sound policy decision-making. In our recently published 2010 Index of Economic Freedom, trade analysts and economists showed the benefits that increased trade can have on economies. In an increasingly globalized world, protectionism is simply lousy policy.
Instead of writing another blank check for yet another stimulus bill, lawmakers could consider cutting tax rates for more Americans. Doing so would return more of our hard-earned money, and allow individuals to decide for themselves when and where to spend it. Similarly, reducing taxes would be particularly beneficial for small-business owners, who could decide to use some of that money to expand their businesses or hire additional workers.
Sadly, none of these ideas are on the table as Congress and the president march forward with plans for spending our money protecting union jobs and punishing American consumers.
Many of us have no choice but to pay off credit card and utility bills at the end of every month. But Congress seems to believe it can continue spending incessantly without a worry in the world. At this rate, we'll eventually see our taxes go up. And all to satisfy Congress' appetite for spending -- unless politicians get a clue.
Israel> Ortega is a Senior Media Services Associate at The Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in the Americano