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After two years of the Trump presidency, America’s economic engine has been reignited.

Since President Trump took office nearly five million jobs have been created, including more than 450,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector.

Last month the economy added 304,000 jobs, a figure that “smashes expectations,” as one media outlet put it. The January jobs report marked the 100th consecutive month of employment gains.

In Michigan, the last time the unemployment rate was this low — hovering around four percent — Tom Brady had yet to start a single NFL game.

Wages are climbing as well. In the past year, for the first time in over a decade, the increase in workers’ wages was above the three percent threshold.

A Gallup survey is the latest in the drumbeat of positive economic news. The survey found seven out of 10 Americans are optimistic that their finances will improve in the coming year — the highest level recorded in 16 years.

America’s robust economy did not happen by accident. It was the outcome of pro-growth policies like overhauling the tax code and modernizing the regulatory climate. As a result, American workers and Main Street businesses are better off.

With a strong economy and labor market, a critical challenge is finding talent to fill all the available jobs. Building a skilled workforce has long been a priority throughout my time on the Education and Labor Committee.

Last Congress, as a senior member of the committee, I helped champion bipartisan legislation into law to strengthen career and technical education programs. These programs are critical to preparing students with on-the-job experience that employers need. To close the skills gap — and address the country’s seven million unfilled jobs — we need to redouble our efforts to equip and inspire the next generation to pursue rewarding careers in in-demand fields.

The long-term health of our economy also depends on rebuilding our infrastructure. The strength and reliability of Michigan’s roads, bridges and ports are directly tied to our state’s ability to efficiently move products and support jobs and economic growth. Likewise, the ability of rural communities to compete in an ever-connected economy often hinges on access to high-speed internet. Here, too, we must find common ground to improve our communications infrastructure.

In just a couple years, the economy has made significant strides. However, the rush by some leaders on the left to abandon free enterprise principles and embrace the tenets of socialism threatens this very progress.

The left’s extreme wish list has been on full display in recent weeks. Eliminating employer-sponsored health coverage, doing away with airplane travel, and increasing tax rates to 70 percent are just a few of the out-of-touch ideas. The common thread between them? More top-down power for big government.

These policies have not and will not work. As President Trump stated in his State of the Union address: “America was founded on liberty and independence — not government coercion, domination and control.”

In the next two years, this is the defining choice before us. Do we continue to build on a growing economy, advance opportunity, and lift up all Americans? Or do we turn to an agenda that limits opportunity and hands greater control to government bureaucrats? For the sake of America’s future, let’s choose wisely.

Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, represents Michigan’s 7th District in the U.S. House of Representatives and is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Education and Labor Committee.

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