It may not always feel this way, but the economy has come a long way over the course of these past two years, and there is still a long way to go.
After the national unemployment rate reached a staggering 10.6 percent just one year ago, it now stands at 8.2 percent in Massachusetts.
After losing millions of jobs during the recession, we have seen over 12 straight months of job growth with more than one million jobs created in the private sector.
After enduring a dark economic time, small businesses are beginning to grow once more and consumer confidence is on the rise.
There is little doubt that America has entered into a gradually accelerating recovery, but there is also zero doubt that much work is left to be done. Recovery is just a word until people feel their lives are better.
For the last two years, I worked to help the Massachusetts economy. I'm glad we passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
This critical legislation provided tax relief to middle-class families and small businesses, gave assistance to the Americans hit hardest by the recession, invested in the private sector to strengthen our nation's infrastructure for the future and helped to save over 3 million jobs and counting by avoiding layoffs of first responders and teachers.
Additionally, I worked in Congress to save the American auto industry and the millions of jobs connected to it through the Cash for Clunkers program and temporary loans that the industry has since largely repaid.
I supported the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act signed into law July 2010 to reform the Wall Street practices that cost our country an immeasurable sum in jobs lost, homes foreclosed, retirement incomes destroyed, and dreams dashed.
This law will ensure that the greed and reckless risk-taking among the wealthiest bankers can never again threaten the well being of our people and our nation.
It is also important to strengthen our safety net during this time of crisis by ensuring quality health care for those middle class families who can't afford it, as well as more affordable quality care for those who can; financial assistance for indebted college students; and, unemployment insurance for those who lost their jobs.
I supported a new focus on righting our trade imbalance and creating jobs here in America through increasing exports.
I also voted for the Obama tax deal that will provide significant tax cuts to families and businesses alike, and will further stimulate our economy through incentives for businesses to invest in research and development and renewable energy technologies.
There is much work ahead, not just to continue the recovery, but to make America competitive for the long term.
We must forge ahead with investments in America to build and grow the innovation economy of the future.
New investments in research and development will not just put people to work today, but will also contribute to the discoveries and inventions that energize our economy tomorrow.
Opening consumer markets around the world to American businesses through free and fair trade agreements, such as the one recently reached between the Obama administration and the nation of South Korea, will grow our nation's exports and strengthen our international relationships both today and tomorrow.
Investments in clean, American energy sources and technologies will not just generate high paying jobs today, but will also power our world tomorrow.
Perhaps most importantly, investments in American infrastructure, from roads and high speed rail to digital information highways, will drive job creation today, and will support our economy tomorrow.
At the same time, it is essential that we take responsible action to reduce our budget deficit and pay down our debt, and I will continue working with my colleagues in Congress on both sides of the aisle to do it.
I have been part of the effort to insist on fiscal responsibility for a long time – from the Gramm Rudman Hollings Deficit effort of the 1980s, to the 1993 budget vote that set us on a path to a balanced budget and budget surpluses.
We need to return to that tough-minded, disciplined thinking that helped us "cut and invest" our way to a growing economy and balanced budgets of the 1990s.
I will continue to do everything I can to help get America back to work, on fiscally sound footing, and moving forward again.
- John Kerry is the senior United States Senator from Masschusetts. He can be contacted at this link.