A picture of Representative Jeff Fortenberry
Jeff F.
Republican NE 1

About Rep. Jeff
  • Restore an Opportunity Government Through Responsible Government

    by Representative Jeff Fortenberry

    Posted on 2015-01-21

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    FORTENBERRY. Mr. Speaker, last night, we gathered here in the House of Representatives for a great American tradition: the State of the Union--the Presidential address where we celebrate openness and transparency in our government, where a vision is laid out that we are free to disagree with or agree with components of but, nonetheless, points to this great American ideal that we are a people who self- govern and that we are accountable in an open way to the people who sent us here, even in the midst of deep philosophical divides about the direction of our Nation--and, of course, the world was watching.

    Mr. Speaker, I believe it is important, though, that we take a moment of reflection and be honest about this moment in time and the current conditions in our society. Many Americans do face downward mobility, stagnant wages, and an increased cost of living.

    Many people feel very abandoned in the face of a Washington-Wall Street axis, where more and more power is concentrated into fewer and fewer hands. But I think we have to be careful about something. We have to be careful about seeing the solution as lying in more government.

    I think our Nation deserves a smart and effective government, and I think our job here in Congress is to continue in an open way, look at the past, and see what worked and see what doesn't work, to let go of that which is tired and old and worn out and continues to linger, and to invest more in that which is smart and effective and can truly build a good society that creates opportunity for all.

    Mr. Speaker, I also believe that we shouldn't divide ourselves by class and income and that, in a healthy economy, it is one that is focused on small business. This is where most new jobs are created in our country.

    Particularly for young people, I think we need to create a culture of creativity, one in which a person who has an idea can seize the moment and use the gifts of their own two hands and their own intellect to make good things, to create benefit for others, to create jobs, hire people, protect families, and to make a contribution to society.

    Many young people want to pursue these avenues; yet we have to be honest about what is happening. We are entering, in this country, into an entrepreneurial winter. What does that mean? In other words, the number of startup businesses--small businesses--is less than the number of small businesses dying.

    We do not have a net increase in the number of small businesses; and, again, this is where most Americans live and work, making good things for others, in small business. That is where jobs are created.

    How do we address this problem? Well, the tendency, again, in our body is to think about public solutions, but let's examine--not through my opinion but just the analytics--as to why small businesses are not creating new jobs and are not starting up as aggressively as they have in the past.

    It is really two things. It is health care and regulations. Smart regulations are necessary to protect the health and well-being of all Americans, but when you have oppressive regulations that tend to stack the deck toward those who are larger and can hire an army of lawyers and accountants, it represses the ability of small businesses to take risks and create jobs.

    The second problem we have is health care. Mr. Speaker, I got an email yesterday from someone who said: ``Congressman, my health care has gone up so much that I have to move into government housing.'' Now, think of the irony of that.

    Again, we need the right type of health care reform, one that is going to reduce costs and improve health care outcomes while we protect vulnerable persons. But what has happened? Some people have been helped by the new law, but many, many families have been hurt with escalating health care costs, and, again, it creates an environment in which small business is repressed.

    Mr. Speaker, again, I think our government should be smart and effective, and I think that is what most Americans want, but Washington continues to remain mired in mediocrity, and political dysfunction and partisan gridlock have made smart and proper government difficult.

    This arthritic recovery has dimmed the financial prospects of too many individuals who, again, have stagnant wages or who have given up hope and feel directionless, isolated, and alone. We can do better, and we must do better.

    Despite these challenges, I believe the start of a new Congress is an exciting time to renew our government and this promise of our Nation. I would like [[Page H440]] to say this, Mr. Speaker: there is nothing wrong in America that can't be fixed by what is right in America, but it is going to require bold resolve, innovative public policy, and a return to our highest ideals.


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