The American Dream: The idea that every citizen has a chance to succeed, if he or she works hard; that each generation will do better than the last; that freedom creates economic opportunity and progress.
Throughout the history of the United States, we as a people have embraced these principles. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are our unalienable rights.
And our country has prospered, creating unparalleled economic success. American ingenuity and productivity have created amazing technological advancements and raised the standard of living, as working- and middle-class Americans have climbed the economic ladder to new heights.
Upward mobility has typically been an impressive feature of our society, where industrious individuals and families have often traded places with the very rich, making us the envy of the world.
Not long ago, however, opinion polls began to show troubling pessimism. Parents began to doubt their children would climb the ladder to success. Their children began to feel the same way. It was such conversations with my patients, coworkers and friends that compelled me to run for Congress.
After a prolonged period of weak job and wage growth, a large portion of young people today even express an appreciation for socialism, an ideology based on the notion of permanent stagnation.
Or, as the previous administration called it, the New Normal.
Several “recovery summers” failed to convince millions the Great Recession ever ended. Meanwhile, Washington and Wall Street did very well, thanks to a trillion-dollar stimulus, massive federal borrowing, and myriad taxes and regulations, favoring bureaucrats and big businesses over "the little guy” without high-priced lawyers and lobbyists.
Under Barack Obama, inequality and government dependency soared, but the phenomenon started earlier.
As progressives in the U.S. rushed to imitate early twentieth-century socialists, our foreign competitors were busy imitating the same innovative, free-market solutions that helped this country become an economic leader, lowering their corporate tax rates to attract investment that belongs here at home.
A quintessential American company, Apple, relocated its headquarters abroad, because tax rates here were among the highest anywhere.
To avoid complex, costly regulations like Obamacare, other manufacturers also moved overseas. For the first time on record, in 2015, small business closures outnumbered start-ups.
More recently, though, things have started to change.
Despite a barrage of negative media, a majority of Americans now rate the economy as "good" or “great” for the first time in over a decade. Domestic manufacturing, construction, and home ownership are all up.
Consumer confidence recently hit a 17-year peak. Unemployment reached a new low, the stock market reached another high, and shoppers reached for their wallets over the Christmas season, confident in a prosperous 2018.
So what happened to re-ignite the American Dream?
Donald Trump’s election turned the idea of a New Normal upside-down. Since then, President Trump and Republicans in Congress have worked hard to fulfill our campaign promises and rejuvenate the economy.
We unleashed domestic fuel production, prevented a federal land-grab affecting family farms, and liberated consumer lending from the grip of Washington bureaucrats. Most importantly, we enacted major tax reform, already paying dividends for the middle class.
Virtually immediately upon passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, dozens of U.S. companies announced wage increases, bonuses, hiring plans and future investments. Two million employees have already received extra compensation.
In my home state of Tennessee, the average family will also save more than $2,000 this year on their tax bill. Greater demand for labor should further increase wages, and a special low tax rate provides entrepreneurs with powerful incentives to pursue their ambitions.
I believe Tennesseans have a right to their own hard-earned money, are capable of making financial decisions for themselves and their loved ones, and possess the ingenuity to create exciting business ventures. Our entire country will benefit from expanded economic opportunities for many more individuals.
And isn’t that the essence of the American Dream? The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act puts power in the hands of ordinary folks, whose abilities far exceed the expectations of big government supporters in Washington.
Rep. Scott DesJarlais is a member of the House Agriculture, Armed Services, and Oversight & Government Reform Committees in the U.S. House of Representatives. He represents Tennessee’s Fourth Congressional District.