Today's question: What policies would you support to stimulate economic growth?
For many Pennsylvanians, it often seems as if there are two economies. Many wealthy professionals are doing quite well, but they are just a small sliver of our commonwealth. The vast majority are hardworking, middle-class people who are much more like my father, who made a living as a union worker laying electrical cables. While we lived paycheck to paycheck growing up, we always had a roof over our head, we never went hungry, and we knew our future was bright.
Unfortunately, many working families today are not so optimistic. The sense of opportunity for ordinary middle-class families seems to be slipping away. As a result, this tumultuous election season should be no surprise - voters are clearly demanding a new direction.
Voters are right. It's the failed economic policies from Washington that have gotten us here in the first place. When the Democratic Party obtained the presidency and large majorities in Congress in 2008, they launched a massive expansion in the size, scope, and cost of government. It included nearly doubling the federal debt, massive tax increases, the takeover of the health-care sector, and taxpayer-funded bailouts of entire industries. What they could not accomplish through legislation, President Obama enacted through heavy-handed executive action.
The predictable result has been an economy stuck in neutral. Small businesses, the engine of our economy, must deal with challenges far beyond those faced by my brothers and me when we started our own in an empty room in a strip mall in Allentown. Today's aspiring entrepreneurs must navigate the lack of accessible credit, the mandates of Obamacare, and many more of the 20,000 plus new regulations promulgated during Obama's tenure. Our small chain of restaurants was able to grow and hire hundreds of workers in the 1990s, but in the current economic climate, I doubt we would have ever been successful.
With that experience in mind, I got to work in my first term to improve the climate for job creation in Pennsylvania. I am proud to claim a number of bipartisan legislative victories that are already helping Pennsylvania small businesses and employees.
I wrote the JOBS Act with several Democratic senators that the president signed into law and called a "game changer." We streamlined government red tape to help small- and medium-sized businesses like Southeastern Pennsylvania's Wawa secure more capital to expand, hire more workers, and grow wages. In my push for pro-growth tax reform, I have worked with neighboring Democratic senators to modernize portions of our outdated and confusing tax code to make it easier for small start-up entrepreneurs to compete and grow.
In the Senate, sometimes these opportunities to work across the aisle come in unexpected places. When Obamacare's medical-device tax threatened a thriving and innovative industry across Pennsylvania, I found unlikely Democratic allies who supported my effort to suspend this harmful, job-killing excise tax.
Targeted investments in infrastructure can also be key to ensuring the vitality of the region. When it came time to ensure the Port of Philadelphia stayed competitive with others on the East Coast, I again went to work with other lawmakers in the region to secure the federal funding to make the Delaware River dredging possible.
Sometimes when specific problems arise, you simply have to get together with your colleagues and go to work. That's what a number of us did when leading refineries in Southeastern Pennsylvania were on the ropes, potentially taking hundreds of good-paying jobs with them. I teamed up with Sen. Bob Casey and others to rally support and help find new owners that could keep these facilities open, and save the hundreds of jobs that came with them.
There is so much work left to restore the economic opportunity that Americans deserve, and that has been sorely lacking over the past eight years. In the U.S. Senate, the best way to make progress is to reject partisan politics and find common ground. If elected to a second term, it will be my privilege and priority to do just that.