There's no question that President Obama inherited a fragile economy. Unfortunately, policies enacted by his administration have made the problem worse, significantly weakening the economy and stymieing job creation.

Traveling around the state over the last two years, I hear the same thing over and over again from small-business owners: We can't grow our business and create jobs when there's uncertainty on federal taxes and certainty of federal regulation.

The U.S. currently has the highest corporate tax rate in the world. If we have any hope of retaining major manufacturers and convincing new businesses to form their companies in this country, we need to lower the rate. Additionally, it's tough for businesses to make plans to expand when they are facing the so-called "Taxmageddon" at the end of this year when several tax cuts could expire, resulting in an effective tax increase of $310 billion.

I support comprehensive tax reform that will broaden the base and lower overall rates. It's been decades since the tax code was reformed, and there are hundreds of credits, subsidies, expenditures, and other loopholes that need to be closed. By giving taxpayers and the private sector certainty on taxes, they can begin to make plans to grow their businesses and create jobs.

In addition to tax reform, in order to be able to grow the economy, the private sector needs relief from burdensome federal regulations. The U.S. Senate's inability to pass a budget in three years has allowed mettlesome federal regulators to run amok.

Federal regulators are threatening to shut down Arizona's coal-fired power plants, which would have a devastating impact on the state's economy. They are forcing Arizona to spend money and man hours proving to the federal government that dust storms are naturally occurring events that Arizona shouldn't be penalized for. The federal government is even threatening to expose Arizona's hotel industry to expensive lawsuits for not having permanent wheelchair lifts for every pool and spa on their premises. Whether it's environmental, labor, or financial regulations, the federal government seems to be going out of its way to stifle economic growth.

Government doesn't create jobs, but it can, and should, create the economic environment that enables businesses to thrive, creating jobs. The federal government may have gotten the country into this mess, but it's going to be Americans that get us out.

The Star invited Arizona's three U.S. Senate candidates to answer that question.

We'll also publish guest commentaries from the Senate candidates on the next two Sundays - Sept. 23 and Sept. 30. We'll follow that with three Sundays of opinion pieces by House candidates.

Republican Jeff Flake has been a congressman since 2001, representing the 6th District, which includes much of the East Valley area in metro Phoenix.