Recent headlines have trumpeted good news on Wall Street with the stock market reaching record highs. For investment accounts, pension funds and other retirement plans this truly is good news. But despite the good news coming from Wall Street, the same high spirits are not being felt in rural America in places like Weirton, Mannington, and Keyser in West Virginia. Across the country millions are still unemployed, families are struggling to make ends meet, and many have given up hope.
While the stock market rally should be welcomed for how it could help families and bolster pension accounts, it's clear that what's happening on Wall Street is not translating to Main Streets across America. As I travel around the First District of West Virginia, I hear stories of families just barely getting by, holding out hope for a job offer for a family member who has been unemployed for months, or putting off repairs on a car because they need to put food on the table.
The persistent high unemployment rate has caused numerous job searchers to stop looking for work because of endless disappointments. Last month, half a million Americans left the workforce. The percentage of Americans in the workforce is at its lowest point since 1979.
What can Congress do to help? It's clear burdensome regulations and a complex tax code are hurting Main Street businesses. Large businesses can hire attorneys and accountants to navigate the tax code, the new health care law, and other regulations, but our small businesses do not have this luxury.
Congress and the President need to focus on a Main Street economic recovery by making our tax code fairer, simpler, and lower and reducing burdensome regulations that are holding back our economy. Building up Main Street will reduce unemployment, create opportunity, and give struggling families the much-needed financial security they desperately need.
Faced with a crippling $17 trillion debt that grows each year by nearly $1 trillion, Congress must act. If there is one economic fundamental for Congress to remember: it cannot tax our economy enough to achieve a balanced budget, nor can it not cut enough spending sufficiently to balance the books.
Congress must recognize that spurring our economy to grow in a long-term, robust and dependable manner will allow us to balance the budget.
Our elected officials should not get distracted by the euphoria of the Wall Street headlines and remember that families on Main Street across this country are still struggling. They are counting on Congress to fight for them.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va., is West Virginia's 1st District Congressman.