As COVID-19 infections fall, vaccination rates rise, and America reopens, this upcoming summer should be full of optimism and hope. But, for too many Kentucky businesses and families, our miraculous recovery is being undermined by Washington Democrats’ out-of-control spending and irresponsible programs that pay people more to stay at home than go to work.

Earlier this month, I traveled across the Commonwealth to meet with constituents and listen to their concerns. During my visits, the consequences of the Democrats’ misguided economic agenda were clear. I heard a single, overwhelming message from hardworking Kentuckians: the Biden Administration’s excessive spending has raised prices and made it almost impossible to get people back to work.

When meeting with small business owners in Henderson, Shelbyville, and Paducah, nearly every single employer told me that they are facing a worker shortage. Washington liberals may not have to deal with the effects of their irresponsible policies, but Kentuckians certainly do.

One small business owner I met, Steve Meador, is looking to hire twenty-five people at his packing and logistical services company in Shelbyville, but has struggled to find new employees because of government policies that discourage work. He has been forced to turn away potential customers because of a lack of workers, disrupting vital supply chains that run through the Commonwealth. This is what happens when far-left Democrats in Washington call the shots on Kentucky’s economic recovery.

Another employer I spoke with, Terri Lundberg, runs a medical imaging service in Paducah and said that the labor shortage has stretched her current staff thin. Employees across the healthcare industry already endured immense strain during the pandemic and now have had to take on extra hours and responsibilities to provide needed medical services to their communities. Now that safe and effective vaccines are widely available, there is no reason for Kentucky’s vital frontline workers to continue to shoulder this burden alone while others are paid to stay home.

Democrats promised that their so-called “American Rescue Plan” would create four million new jobs this year, but so far this multi-trillion-dollar liberal wish list has grown the national debt, spurred inflation, and prevented workers from returning to the labor force. Even Larry Summers, a top economist in both the Clinton and Obama Administrations, predicted that Democrats’ misguided economic policies would undermine our recovery and pile a mountain of debt on our kids and grandkids. The lackluster jobs reports from the past two months have confirmed these fears, undershooting expectations by hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Small businesses simply cannot compete with government programs that encourage Americans to stay on the sidelines of our economic recovery. Kentucky still has 90,000 fewer workers than we did before the pandemic, while nationwide workforce participation has stayed stagnant for almost a year. Kentuckians are now paying the price for Washington Democrats’ reckless spending spree.

Some governors are taking matters into their own hands and starting to clean up this mess. As of early June, twenty-five states, including five of the seven bordering Kentucky, announced they will opt out of these short-sighted federal programs. It’s time for our state to join them and stop Democrats from taxing working Americans to subsidize those staying at home.

As the Senate reconvenes for another work period, I’m taking the stories I heard in Kentucky back to Washington. Democrats might think they can push their failed policies while neglecting the needs of hardworking Kentuckians, but I will continue to fight to defend our economic recovery and deliver for businesses and families in the Bluegrass.

Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, is the Senate Republican Leader.

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