Brighter economic future on the horizon
I would like each of you to pick up the closest newspaper or turn on the television news and look for this headline: "Improvement in Various Sectors Points to Stronger Economy Ahead."
I'd be willing to bet that to a large extent, many of you are having a difficult time finding that headline or anything similar to it. I'm not surprised -- it's difficult to find any news of the economic turnaround currently underway.
Truth be told, there's a lot going on in the world that's filling up the front pages of our papers and the top of the hour on network news broadcasts.
It's difficult to cover everything when space is limited. But the signs are there: the economy is on an upswing.
I'd like to take a few moments to highlight some of the signs that things are improving in this country and are pointing to an even greater recovery in the weeks and months ahead.
As most of you may recall, earlier this year I distributed a district-wide newsletter which, among many other things, included a survey in which I asked constituents to rank a series of ten current national issues in terms of importance to them and their families.
After tabulating the results of the surveys that were completed and returned to my office, I learned nearly 25 percent of those responding viewed jobs and economic growth as their number one priority.
It will be good news to these men and women -- and to all Americans -- that the improvements in the economy and labor sectors are beginning to arrive.
Both the House Budget Committee and other national organizations responsible for tracking economic data have released statistics for the second quarter of the year showing increases and improvement in several key areas. These include:
The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew during the second quarter at a rate of 3.3 percent. This was higher than previous expectations of growth at 3.1 percent and far exceeded the previous two quarters where growth was only 1.4 percent;
Retail sales have increased by 5.1 percent over this same time last year;
Non-farm payroll jobs experienced a net increase of 57,000 during the month of September, far surpassing the prediction by analysts that there would actually be a loss of 25,000 jobs;
New single-family home sales increased to a record high rate of 1.021 million in September; and,
Consumer spending increased by 3.8 percent in the second quarter of this year.
Perhaps most significantly -- and the indicator that most Americans tend to associate with the economy's performance -- the Dow Jones Industrial Average experienced a tremendous rally over the past six months.
From approximately one year ago, when the Dow had hit a low of approximately 7200, the average has increased by over thirty percent to 9800 as of this writing. It's amazing to believe that just one year ago, many people were expressing strong skepticism that the stock market would reach the magic number of 10,000 at any time in the not-too-distant future.
Now even I will admit that it would be very presumptuous to state without hesitation that these and other economic indicators mark the end of the downturn we have experienced over the past twelve months. With all of the uncertainty in the world today and so many unknown variables impacting our lives and the course of events internationally, I think only a Las Vegas bookmaker would be willing to put down odds on that statement.
What we are seeing are strong indications that, little by little, things are once again beginning to move in the right direction. The economy is based on more than just the few bits of data I have presented in this column, but these are certainly some recognizable signs of how things are progressing.
A strong argument could certainly be made that some of what we are seeing now is a direct result of the tax cut packages passed by Congress and signed by the President in both 2001 and 2003. According to recent statistics released by the United States Treasury Department, failure to pass these tax cuts would have resulted in the loss of 3 million additional jobs by the end of 2004.
Using those numbers, the unemployment rate would be pushed to a staggering 7 percent.
We do have to be realistic, however -- there's certainly much more work to do. While things are getting better in certain areas, there's much more that can be done.
Hundreds of thousands of men and women still need to find jobs and a way to support their families. Communities reeling from industrial shutdowns and business closings need to find new commerce to fill those gaps and rejuvenate these cities and towns.
As your representative in Washington, I can assure you I will do everything I can to ensure south Alabama receives strong consideration for new business and industry, and that every man and woman who wants a meaningful job has access to those opportunities.
It will take a strong effort to achieve these goals. But if we have learned anything over the years, it is that Alabamians have a desire to succeed, a willingness to band together, and are constantly looking ahead to a brighter future.
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