Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- Optimism about America's future is in very short supply nowadays as we near the end of the third year of an economic recession with little or no relief in sight.

I know the White House and its allies will say that the recession is over and the national economy has begun expanding again. But for most of us, it still feels like a recession, with unemployment between 9 and 10 percent, a sharp slowdown in what was weak economic growth to little more than 1 percent now, and thousands of businesses, large and small, still struggling to keep their heads above water.

Nationwide polls show that two-thirds of Americans are deeply pessimistic about our country's direction. The economic vitality that has been the hallmark of our country has vanished. Banks, investors and venture capitalists are unwilling to lend. The once-daring spirit of entrepreneurial risk-taking that we saw in the 1980s and 1990s is hard to find in the present economic climate.

Insecurity, uncertainty, doubt and fear permeate our business environment, paralyzing our once great American jobs machine.

New-business formation has slowed. Venture capital is locked up in safe, secure bonds and hedge funds. Major corporations that have survived the 2008-10 recession are keeping surplus cash in reserve funds because they don't know what the future holds for them or the economy under the administration's failed recovery programs.

What will be the impact of the new health-care law on businesses large and small? It is loaded down with new mandates, higher taxes and penalties galore that will impose higher costs on business and the health-care industry. What are the costs of the mountain of regulations, penalties and credit restrictions that will come out of the financial-reform law, costs that will in the end be born by consumers most of all.

And the biggest fear that has slammed the brakes on business expansion, capital investment and job creation is President Obama's plan to raise the top two federal income tax rates on upper income people, investors and small businesses.

This is the dismal economic environment that Obama and the Democrat-run Congress has created in the past two years. More spending, bigger government and higher taxes, especially on the people who invest in our economy the most and the businesses that create most of the jobs.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.