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After one of the most trying years in American history, the state of our union continues to improve. Many children are back in school, more Americans are being vaccinated every day, and our nation's businesses are reopening and helping to heal the economy. Thanks to the American taxpayers who footed the bill for emergency medical aid, the Paycheck Protection Program, Operation Warp Speed and many other programs, the end is in sight. While in many cases the government went too far with personal restrictions, the pandemic required a comprehensive, national response to get us where we are today. Now, we are at a pivotal point: The government can continue with big spending and playing an oversized role in our lives even as the worst is behind us, or the government can step aside and let the American people finish the job.

This week, President Joe Biden addressed a joint session of Congress to discuss his first 100 days in office. Biden spoke about the progress we've made as a nation with vaccinations and Americans once again being able to pay their bills. His message of American greatness is one we can all agree with. But also in his speech was the promise of higher taxes and more government control over Americans' everyday lives. Wrapped in a sales pitch of compromise was the extraordinarily unrealistic and radical Green New Deal 2.0, which would kill 1 million U.S. jobs and cost trillions of dollars. That is complimented by other massive spending bills that would create more dependency on government handouts while letting Democrat politicians tick items off their far-left check lists — all at the expense of the American taxpayer.

I believe we need to go the other way. The government stepped in during an emergency to stabilize the country; now, it's time for the government to step aside and let the people it serves resume their lives. Before COVID-19, our economy reached historic success because the pro-growth, pro-opportunity policies of the last administration allowed our country to flourish. Instead of pitting individuals, races, religions and regions of the country against one another, the pre-pandemic economy saw unprecedented success for Americans across the board. Instead of suggesting you must sink another to get ahead, the rising tide did in fact lift all boats with wage growth at historic highs and unemployment at historic lows. Shouldn't that be the goal? For all Americans, regardless of background, to find success? The roadmap is clear. We shouldn't allow the pandemic to serve as an excuse to ignore it.

As the top Republican on the House Committee on Small Business, one of my biggest priorities is to protect small businesses in Missouri and across the country from overregulation and abuse by the government. Government's job is to serve the people, not control us. Many families and small businesses leaned on those services during pandemic, as they should. After all, it's your money that pays for these programs. But in many cases, businesses survived despite government policies. Simply being allowed to operate is the best way for good businesses to keep employees paid and their families fed. Economic and individual freedom is the only way to ensure the state of the union continues to improve. Our country is getting stronger by the day, and it is up to the president to do everything in his power to allow this progress to continue — not get in the way.

U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., shares his perspective each week on national issues, including ones that affect Missouri. He represents the state's 3rd District, which includes Jefferson City. His local office can be reached at 635-7232.

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