More than one-third of America’s small businesses couldn’t pay their rent last month.
Those businesses are the backbone of our economy, supporting almost half of all U.S. jobs, and 37% of them say they’re unable to pay their bills. Our economy is in a perilous position. Job creators face a workforce shortage and an inflation crisis at the same time — all while trying to recover from two years of forced shutdowns. The federal government’s spending addiction and rapid expansion of entitlement programs has made the cost of doing business unaffordable and decimated the will to work.
From the campaign trail to my time in the U.S. Senate, I have had the honor of meeting owners of businesses, big and small, from all across the state of Alabama. I hear two things over and over. One, they need more workers. And two, rising prices are killing them.
I heard these same challenges while recently visiting Mobile.
On a tour at Austal USA’s headquarters at the Port of Mobile, I got up close and personal with the state-of-the-art ships it is producing for private companies and the U.S. military. I also spoke with Austal leaders about some exciting plans for future growth. After opening a new steel shipbuilding facility in April, the Mobile shipyard was awarded U.S. Coast Guard contract to produce 11 Offshore Patrol Cutters. Those new ships alone have a value of $3.3 billion — and they’ll all be produced by Alabamians.
This economic investment in our state is exciting, but the growth will require enough employees who are able to do the work. Unfortunately, finding workers seems to be more difficult than ever.
There are almost 11 million open jobs in the United States. However, only 5.8 million Americans say they’re looking for work. This historic divide between job openings and job seekers highlights a problem at the root of our economic woes: lack of workforce participation. Alabamians’ skills, innovation, and determination have the potential to turn this trend around — but only if the government gets out of the way, curbs crushing inflation, and stops disincentivizing the work it will take to get America back on track.
This isn’t just an Alabama problem. It is a national issue that has been building over the past few years as the federal government spent unprecedented amounts of money on programs that encouraged Americans to stay home. This shift in our national attitude — away from individual success through hard work and toward a social welfare state — has had disastrous effects on our economy.
For example, the federal government spent more than $150 billion on enhanced COVID unemployment benefits for more than a year, even as businesses across the country reopened. The enhancement was the largest increase in federal unemployment benefits in our nation’s history. Paying those who could work to stay home was a mistake, and serious misuse of taxpayers’ money.
Lawmakers and leaders should be working to make Americans self-sufficient, not government-dependent.
We are an extremely generous country, and I believe Americans want to help our neighbors in times of need. But it does not help them to discourage hard work by expanding government benefits that have no guardrails for use or benchmarks designed to help Americans support themselves. Policies that incentivize dependency are a weight on our country’s economic growth. When businesses don’t have the workers they need, they can’t add to an economy that’s in desperate need of invigoration.
America’s innovative companies are eager to reinvest in our communities. I saw this during my recent trip to Mobile and hear this almost daily from people across Alabama. The federal government should do everything it can to get out of their way and encourage that growth. There’s nothing our country can’t achieve when we put in the work.