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Tom Donohue: Enterprising States Can Lead the Recovery

Federal government could learn from the common policies among economically thriving states

As Americans grow increasingly frustrated with the failed economic policies coming from Washington, they can turn to the states for some good news. A number of states have adopted successful policies to create jobs, control taxes and spending, and spur growth.

What do these economically successful states have in common? They commit to free enterprise principles.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently released the Enterprising States study highlighting strategies that states are employing to accelerate the rate of recovery. According to the study, many states are streamlining and downsizing government, addressing burdensome regulations and harnessing the power of private enterprise to meet today’s economic challenges.

The study reveals common policies among economically thriving states. They have low taxes. They invest in infrastructure projects to keep people and commerce moving. They welcome science- and technology-based companies that generate the jobs of tomorrow. They embrace free trade. They cultivate people through workforce development and strong schools.

These states are succeeding against all odds. Not only have we suffered the worst recession since the Great Depression, we’re now suffering the worst recovery since the Great Depression. Economic growth has been tepid and uneven. The unemployment rate is 9.1 percent — which doesn’t include millions of Americans who have stopped looking for jobs or are underemployed.

In many ways, the federal government is making it harder for states to succeed. It continues to burden states with more taxes and regulations. It has run up massive and unsustainable deficits while failing to pass a sensible national energy strategy or adequately invest in our crumbling infrastructure.

We’re hearing much debate on how to remedy our national economic challenges, but there is only one answer: free enterprise.

Washington should take notice of what successful states are doing and tear a page from their playbook. An overarching, overactive and overstretched federal government should heed the 10th Amendment, which says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution … are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

So as the federal government finds new and exotic ways to expand its size and scope, we can find encouragement in the fact that a robust economic recovery can come from the ground up — from states and cities — and not top down from Washington.

To learn more about leading states’ efforts to create jobs and drive economic activity, click here to view the Enterprising States study.

— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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