I spent the last five years working in Washington as a member of the President’s Cabinet and as the SBA Administrator. Every week I travelled across the U.S. visiting small businesses—businesses that made everything, from high-end jeans to high-tech medical devices to tomato sauce. And wherever I went, I encountered an economic anxiety. First, because of the recession, small businesses were just wondering, “Am I going to survive?” And today, despite all the progress we’ve made in the recovery, the anxiety continues. People are asking, “Will that core component of prosperity, a wellpaying job, be there for me and my kids?” This anxiety is not just idle fear. It is real, and economists know it. That is why some economic commentators have called this a jobless recovery and worry that we are entering a period of “secular stagnation.”
So, what is Washington doing? On Wednesday, President Obama called for a “grand bargain on jobs” to pair major new investments in our infrastructure with corporate tax reform. There is a lot of merit to that proposal, and I know that we will be discussing it more over the next few days at this summit and in the weeks to come as we gear up for a national debate on the transportation reauthorization bill. But, for the past few years, Washington has been consumed by a rancorous debate about debt and deficits. It is an important debate, and we are making progress. The federal deficit in this last fiscal year was down by more than half — 4.1 percent of GDP, down from 9.8 percent in 2009. This is the most rapid deficit reduction since World War II.
Image: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images