For more than 30 years, my father worked the assembly line at a factory just outside of Detroit. The hours were long, the job was tough but he took pride in earning a paycheck that paid the mortgage and put food on the table for his six children. He taught me that achieving the American dream was possible for anyone who rolled up their sleeves, worked hard and played by the rules.
Yet for millions of Americans today, that dream is becoming unattainable.
At the heart of America's financial engine lies small businesses and entrepreneurs. Yet the sad reality is that these job creators are facing unprecedented hurdles in the form of suffocating regulations, a punishing tax code and a federal government that eschews free-market principles. Instead of encouraging and rewarding risk-taking, the policies coming out of Washington are strangling free enterprise and adding mountains of debt onto the backs of our children.
No wonder polls show that 46 percent of Americans think our best days are behind us.
It doesn't have to be this way. The United States did not become the greatest nation in the world by accident. Our greatness flows from a tradition of self-reliance and an optimism unshaken by adversity.
Economic growth that creates jobs, opportunity and self-sufficiency is the catalyst to ensure a vibrant middle class. By promoting the principles of our forefathers -- free markets, independence and small government, the American dream will not only survive it will flourish.
Here are some specific steps we can take to get our economy and country back on track:
The next war we face won't be on the battlefield, but in the global marketplace. China is poised to pass America in 2017 as the world's largest economy with India and Japan not far behind. That's why signing into law House-passed legislation to help workers access the education and training they need to compete in today's economy is so essential.
The aptly-named SKILLS Act will eliminate arbitrary roadblocks that prevent workers from acquiring the specific training needed to fill America's increasing number of job vacancies.
We must also equip parents with choice and equal opportunity to seek out great teachers and schools to make it easier for students to access the right college and quality job training.
According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, more than 3,700 federal regulations were issued last year alone at an annual cost of more than $1.8 trillion. We should be encouraging job growth, not suffocating America's workforce with a never-ending onslaught of unnecessary regulations.
The Keystone pipeline exemplifies the potential economic benefits of reducing legal and regulatory barriers. This shovel-ready project offers us a prime opportunity to boost our nation's energy security and strengthen the economy by creating tens of thousands of new American jobs.
Simplify the tax code
Some 74,000 pages in length, the U.S. tax code punishes everyone from families trying to make ends meet to employers trying to compete abroad. Instead of promoting economic growth and enhancing our international competitiveness, it does just the opposite.
It is time to get serious about passing a major tax reform package. We can start by lowering corporate tax rates -- now the highest in the world -- to encourage businesses to grow jobs at home and not watch them disappear overseas.
The United States has the costliest legal system in the world. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the tort liability price tag for small businesses is a whopping $105 billion annually.
It's imperative that we eliminate frivolous lawsuits that unfairly burden consumers and business owners with exorbitant fees.
Cut government intrusion
Whether it's snooping on the privacy of ordinary Americans or intentionally targeting individuals who share opposing political views, our government has overstepped any reasonable limits of self-control. In fact, a recent survey revealed that 66 percent of Americans are either very or somewhat dissatisfied with the government's size and power.
We are never going to rebuild the prosperity that was once the envy of the world until we put an end to Washington overreach, return power back to states and individuals and restore trust in our public institutions.
America is the greatest country in the history of the world. Let's do everything possible to keep it that way now and in the future.
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, is a member of the House Ways & Means Committee.