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‘Today, thanks to a growing economy, the recovery is touching more and more lives.”

So said President Barack Obama in the State of the Union last week. At first glance, this appears correct. In Michigan, the unemployment rate fell from 8.5 to 6.7 percent last year. The economy also grew 5 percent in the 3rd quarter of 2014 — the fastest rate since 2003.

But behind these numbers are some uncomfortable realities for hard-working Michiganians. The labor participation rate is still the lowest it’s been since Jimmy Carter was president. Family income is 2.8 percent lower than it was six years ago. And while President Obama has decried “income inequality,” his policies have mainly helped Wall Street, the wealthy, and the well-connected.

In other words, the economy isn’t back on track for everyone. So what policies would bring economic relief to more Americans?

Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce has released a practical plan outlining exactly what congress and the president should do. We’re calling it “A Plan for Economic Growth.”

The plan is broken down into three areas: reforme excessive regulations and the tax code, repair ineffective programs, and restore a fiscally accountable government.

Reforming regulations and the tax code is first. Last year alone, the federal government proposed and finalized regulations costing a staggering $181.5 billion — a number that’s equivalent to 3.5 million middle-class family incomes. Americans now spend almost $1.9 trillion a year — more than 10 percent of our economy — weaving our way through Washington’s red tape.

Congress must stop the regulatory deluge. This means eliminating some existing ones and stopping pending ones, especially from the Environmental Protection Agency, that will cost taxpayers hundreds of billions. It also means instituting a review process so the public knows exactly how much a new regulation will cost us.

America’s tax code also needs reform. It is so broken that both parties acknowledge the need for change. So legislators should reduce the overall tax burden on individuals and businesses and simplify it page by page. Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation recently declared such reforms would create 1.8 million jobs.

The second area in which Congress should act involves repairing ineffective government programs.

Washington typically tries to fix problems with one-size-fits-all solutions — an approach that causes more problems than it solves. Congress can change this in several policy areas. Legislators can allow federal K-12 dollars to be used on parental choice programs. They can expand higher education opportunities by allowing states to make accreditation decisions for local colleges. On infrastructure spending, Congress should empower state and local governments — not bureaucrats in Washington — to make decisions on how tax dollars should be spent. And elected officials shouldn’t increase the gas tax to pay for more irresponsible spending.

Legislators can also help the most vulnerable Americans by repairing the country’s safety net. Today, too many programs either encourage dependence or financially punish people who try to climb the economic ladder. Others, like Social Security, are on a fast track to bankruptcy.

The final thing Congress should do is restore a fiscally accountable government. This starts with passing a budget that balances within 10 years — without tax increases. It also means sticking to the spending limits that Republicans and Democrats agreed to in 2011 but are threatening to break. You and I are making tough choices regarding our hard-earned money — after racking up $7.5 trillion in debt in the last six years, it’s time for Washington to do the same with our tax dollars.

All of the policies in the Plan for Economic Growth share one thing in common: They would bring the economic relief to the millions of Americans, including too many in Michigan, who so far haven’t seen it. It’s time for both parties in Washington to put the country on the road to a real and lasting economic recovery.

Andy Koenig is the budget and spending project director at Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce.

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