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Kline Statement: Hearing on "State of the American Workforce"
As prepared for delivery.

Good afternoon and welcome to our first hearing of the 112th Congress. I appreciate the time our witnesses have spared to be with us today. Whether you are a governor, a small manufacturer, or an economist, your time is valuable and we are grateful for your participation today. 

It is no secret the American workforce faces significant challenges. For 20 consecutive months unemployment has remained at 9 percent or higher. During that same period of time, more than 14 million Americans have been unemployed and searching for work. Roughly 1.3 million unemployed workers have become so discouraged by searching and coming up empty that they have given up hope and abandoned the labor force entirely. 

Despite some unprecedented attempts, perhaps best reflected in a failed $814 billion stimulus bill passed in the early hours of the last Congress, the federal government cannot legislate or regulate its way to job creation in our country. It can, however, provide some sense of certainty that will give the young entrepreneur or small business owner the confidence he or she needs to go forward and invest in their new idea or company. 

Unfortunately, over the last two years, we have seen the federal government move in a disturbingly different direction – one that creates economic uncertainty felt by businesses both large and small. A number of policies and proposals have caused many business owners to think twice before expanding their operations or hiring additional workers. 

At the center of this uncertainty is the recent health care law. We have all heard the story of a small business owner already struggling to make payroll who now faces a penalty for failing to provide government-approved health care. Despite promises health care reform would lower costs, the chief actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reports national health care spending will increase by $311 billion over the next 10 years. ObamaCare has forced business owners to choose between higher health care costs or government penalties.  To suggest this doesn’t discourage job creation in this country is to ignore reality. 

The president has suggested a willingness to fix what’s broken in the law. I would suggest the employer mandate is the place to start. 

While one arm of the federal bureaucracy transforms our health care economy, another is considering sweeping changes to the law governing the relationship between employers and labor unions. The NLRB is supposed to safeguard the rights of workers against the illegal actions of both employers and unions. Today there are conversations taking place at the NLRB that will have profound consequences for America’s workers. Many of the discussions going on behind closed doors should be debated here in this committee, on the floor of this Congress, and in the public – in full view of the American people. No federal agency or board should rewrite the rules of the game to favor special interests over the interest of all Americans.  

Despite these challenges, I am happy to see the administration reconsider various proposals that would have made it more difficult for businesses to plan and invest in the future. Recently, the administration withdrew its proposal to reinterpret the noise feasibility standards, a proposal that would have imposed significant costs on businesses without any real justification. And yesterday, the administration announced it is reconsidering proposed changes to employer injury and illness logs that would have created a significant paperwork burden for employers.  While I welcome these actions by the President, more needs to be done. 

As we look to these recent decisions by the administration, we will be guided by President Reagan’s aged wisdom – trust but verify. We will trust the president when he says he wants to review the regulatory structure’s affect on jobs, but we will verify that promise against the actions his administration takes over the next two years. 

That is why we are here today. We want to learn about the policies that may be standing in the way of job creation, and find better solutions to protect the rights, safety, and prosperity of the country’s workers.
 

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