The U.S. economy has experienced a major bounce back since the Great Recession. It has rebounded from the loss of 7 million jobs in a single year beginning in 2008 and an unemployment rate that soared to 10 percent in 2009.
More than 11 million private-sector jobs have been created in the last five years, with 58 straight months of private-sector job growth leading the unemployment rate to fall to 5.6 percent -- the lowest since April 2008.
The economy of this country has been put back on its feet, and it's moving ahead. The stock market has climbed to record highs, and the deficit as a percentage of GDP has been cut by two thirds since 2009. The Affordable Care Act has helped to dramatically cut the percentage of Americans without insurance, and healthcare premiums are growing at the lowest rate in 50 years.
This major reversal from deep decline to economic growth occurred despite Republican opposition to President Obama's proposals, repeated GOP threats to default on our debt obligations, and an incredibly harmful 16-day government shutdown fueled by an unending ideological opposition to the Affordable Care Act.
And not only have Republicans stood in the way of these Democratic policies, but they're now attempting to take credit for the recovery itself. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell earlier this month credited "the expectation of a new Republican Congress" with the turnaround, and Ways and Means Committee Republicans attributed the growth to the termination of emergency unemployment benefits, despite the fact that private-sector job growth began long before benefits were cut off at the end of 2013.
This year must see a different environment. It needs bipartisan action on important issues.
Among the deepest challenges facing our economy today remains one that has persisted for decades, starting in the 1980s: stagnant middle-class wage growth. Wage growth has nearly flatlined for the bottom 90 percent of American workers since 1980, even as incomes have grown significantly among the very wealthiest.
In December the Washington Post chronicled the long-standing problems facing America's middle class. They found that the average wage in a quarter of American counties is actually lower today than it was 35 years ago. That's real stagnation in the lives of America's middle class. And yet, even immediate and much-needed steps that Democrats have promoted to address this problem have encountered an ideological roadblock from Republicans.
Efforts to increase the minimum wage and ensure that women earn the same as men for equal work have encountered fierce Republican resistance. An Obama administration proposal to require overtime pay for millions of additional white-collar workers who are currently not covered has been met with strong criticism from some congressional Republicans. And financing the long-term needs of our nation's infrastructure has taken a back seat -- despite the fact that we know investments in infrastructure create jobs now and make us stronger in the future.
We must also focus on reforming the tax code to make it fairer for working families -- promoting economic growth and eliminating loopholes for special interests and ensuring that both individuals and businesses pay their fair share of taxes.
I urge the new Republican Congress to move past partisanship and work with us to build on this growth, continuing to create more jobs and ensuring that hardworking Americans share in the prosperity.