Every part of our nation is touched by the deepening recession. South Carolina is no exception. In fact, recent job numbers reveal that unemployment in our state has reached a record-high 12.1 percent and more than 265,000 of our neighbors are out of work.

As we deal with this economic crisis, I don’t believe solutions will be found in massive government spending camouflaged as a stimulus package. Instead, we will find them by following the common-sense, conservative principles that I believe are central to the American way: supporting a free-market economy, defending constitutionally guaranteed personal freedoms, and keeping taxes as low as possible.

The American way is often summed up as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I believe it can also be defined as forward-looking determination and a commitment to progress, hard work and education. We paused over the weekend to celebrate the birth and heritage of our great nation, and now we must take back our freedom and return to the constitutional principles our founding fathers established.

One foundation of the American way is a competitive market that fosters opportunity, ambition and enterprise. To get South Carolina’s economy back on course, we have to recognize that businesses are engines of job creation and not the government. The private sector, as it has in the past, will lead us out of this recession; not going deeper into government debt and spending taxpayer dollars.

While it’s not government’s role to create jobs, it can help create a strong, stable business environment where private-sector companies flourish. We can establish South Carolina as one of the nation’s leading states for free enterprise by reforming our tax structure, reducing bureaucratic regulations, investing in infrastructure, and improving our schools. We also can continue to enact positive pro-business policies that help South Carolina better compete for new jobs.

In addition, we can support small businesses and foster entrepreneurship. Today, small companies are the backbone of South Carolina and, without a doubt they will be one of the driving forces behind job creation and economic recovery.

As a state, we need to make it easier for all businesses to start up and succeed, so our citizens can get back to work. This year in the House, we passed several bills to improve our business climate including ones that reduce red tape for small businesses and improve the Port of Charleston, a first-rate economic development asset. We also approved formation of a committee that will take a comprehensive look at South Carolina’s tax code and recommend improvements.

In addition to nurturing a free market economy, I believe the American way is about boldly protecting personal liberties as guaranteed by the Constitution. To me, this means defending the rights of individuals and keeping government out of citizens’ daily lives as much as possible. It also means preserving our fundamental constitutionally guaranteed American rights like voting.

The House also took action on the issue of voting this year, passing the Voter ID bill. Our intentions with the bill are to ensure every voter is registered, every voter votes one time, and every vote is counted. As close as many recent elections have been, even a few fraudulent votes could tip the scales and impede our democratic process.

Finally, the American way is about a government that exists for the people, not the other way around. A cornerstone of our freedom is that we should get to say how our hard-earned money is spent — not the government. Citizens should not have to pay the bill for out-of-control government growth. In South Carolina, I believe we must limit government and reduce the tax burden so hardworking families can keep more of what they earn. This will provide its own economic stimulus.

Even in these lean times, House conservatives were able to balance a state budget that was $1 billion less than last year’s without raising taxes. We cut government waste wherever we could, including deep cuts to many state agencies. To cut our own House budget, we adjourned two weeks early, and took four weeks of furlough. We implemented many cost-saving measures to save taxpayers well over $1 million. I believe all of these cuts will prompt us to find new ways of increasing efficiency and eliminating waste, which will benefit our state long term.

In the end, I believe that our commitment to principles that have made our nation great — the American way — will bring about real and lasting economic recovery in South Carolina.