Thursday April 04, 2013 | 06:00 AM
Posted by Bruce Poliquin

A couple of weeks ago, I chatted with a Lewiston grandmother excited about visiting one of her sons and his family living in Virginia. She looked forward to spending Easter weekend with the grandkids but wasn’t thrilled about the long drive. Two of her other three children and their families also live away – in New Hampshire and Connecticut. The grandmother worried about not being able to see her family during Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as Easter, when she could no longer make the trips.

How many times have we Mainers heard this story? Increasingly, our young workers and their families are forced to leave because they can’t find promising jobs here in Maine. Many want to return home but cannot. Too many of our kids and grandkids grow up without the joy and comfort of their parents and grandparents nearby. It’s no surprise that Mainers have the oldest average age in the country.

Government can help our families by assisting the business community in creating more and better jobs. Let’s take a look at the current situation that might serve as a guide going forward.

The graph below maps the past six U.S. economic recessions and recoveries as measured by employment. The years to the right of each line indicate the periods of each recession/recovery. When the lines fall, jobs were lost. When the lines rise, jobs were created.

The red line is the current deep recession and slow recovery. The American economy has been “recovering” for nearly three years but still isn’t generating enough new jobs to lower unemployment to where it should be. The prior two recoveries posted the same shallow job growth. At this point in the business cycle, companies should be hiring at a rapid pace, thereby, dramatically lowering the unemployment rate. That’s not happening.

Now, look at the three earliest recessions and recoveries depicted on the graph. Each downturn was shorter, and the economy bounced back faster. The pain of being unemployed didn’t last as long because new jobs were being created more quickly.

What’s causing today’s abnormally sluggish recovery? Why are families across America still struggling to find work when our economy has been on the uptick for almost three long years?

Many economists believe shortsighted policy decisions by career politicians have created this pattern of lingering, painfully high unemployment. For example, during each of the past four years, Washington has spent $1 trillion more than collected from us in federal taxes. The federal government then borrows or, worse, prints money to make up the difference. Our public officials have racked up a $17 trillion mountain of debt that must, somehow, be repaid.

America’s entrepreneurs know that Washington’s fiscal recklessness will end in smothering taxes to pay for out-of-control spending and growing debt. In fact, it’s already happening. So, business owners sit on the sidelines rather than risk their capital, and the economic recovery creeps along without producing enough new jobs. Back in Maine, our young workers scramble to secure the limited number good full-time jobs, most likely out of state.

Our 50 states live together under a single red, white, and blue umbrella. At the same time, however, we compete with each other and the outside world to attract business investment and jobs for our residents.

Maine’s elected officials possess the power to help build a business-friendly climate that invites risk-taking and more jobs for our workers. Right now, the state legislature is setting those rules. Let’s encourage them to work together to put Maine on an upward path away from the worst (50th) business climate in America. Let’s ask them to do what’s right to help deserving Maine families struggling through the worst recession in 70 years.

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Bruce Poliquin is the former Maine State Treasurer and a 2012 Republican primary candidate for the United States Senate. He has 35 years of experience owning and managing businesses. Bruce is a proud third-generation Franco-American Mainer and Harvard University graduate. Visit for his most recent commentary and analysis on media outlets throughout the State about the important issues facing Maine families and their jobs.

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Previous entries

July 2013

June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

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