The checks from the first stimulus package have not even been mailed yet and already the Senate is contemplating another $75 to $95 billion deficit spending spree. This time they want to give away more federal dollars in jobless benefits, food stamps, heating bills, and new infrastructure. Before Congress breaks out the checkbook again, maybe they should take a look at how their own policies are putting the squeeze on the vary families they are trying to help.

For starters, the House energy bill passed Wednesday can only harm the economy and middle class families. Sure sopping evil oil companies with $17 billion in higher taxes feels good politically, but any honest economist will tell you those corporations will act like corporations always do. They will pass the higher costs onto consumers in the form of higher fuel prices today and curtail domestic production which will add to fuel costs tomorrow. Ethanol mandates in current energy policy also hurt middle class families by driving up the cost of corn which then raises prices across the agricultural sector.

If only Congress could find the political will to use it, they already have the ability to quickly stimulate the economy without adding a single dollar to the deficit: pass the pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. Expanding trade is one of the fastest routes to economic expansion. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez recently noted that in 2007, “U.S. exports…increased 12.7 percent to $1.4 trillion, an all-time record. We’re on track to beat that this year with continued, double-digit growth.” Much of the growth in gross domestic product (GDP) was a result of free trade agreements that the United States has negotiated with 14 countries.

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