Americans are hurting. We see it every day. Some 23 million Americans are unemployed, underemployed or have stopped looking for work. Over the last six years, our national debt has nearly doubled, unemployment has doubled, and gas prices have skyrocketed. Meanwhile, middle-class incomes have gone down, and more people are living in poverty. What makes all of this worse is that people are losing confidence in the American dream, and people are wondering whether America can still be a place of opportunity.

My father immigrated to the United States seeking a better life. The promise of America, the hope and opportunity of a better tomorrow, limited only by one's individual merit and hard work, is one of our country's great legacies.

But it's not enough for us to say that the American dream works. We must work to protect it. And we can only do that if we face our challenges head on, create jobs and get our fiscal house in order, or historians may very well say that the 20th century was America's last great century.

Our current path of higher taxes, more borrowing and more debt is unsustainable. It's why our economy is stuck. We understand that in New Jersey. Just a few short years ago, we had a governor pursuing that same economic strategy, and it nearly broke our state. Sen. Robert Menendez is pursuing the same failed Jon Corzine economic strategy for our country, and it won't work. Continuing down the same path will lead to more unemployment, more debt and more suffering. I believe we can do better. In fact, I know we can.

I'm proud to be working with Gov. Chris Christie to meet our challenges here at home, the same challenges our country faces. Here in New Jersey we are making progress. We are balancing our budgets, rolling out economic incentives, instituting a property-tax cap, and pushing education reform. South Jersey has not been left behind. I've always worked to help South Jersey and have given it the attention it deserves - from my early years in the state Senate helping to chair the committee that gave life to the Wildwood Convention Center, to recent legislation assisting Atlantic City and finally recognizing it for the economic engine that it is for the state as a whole. We are making progress because we are working together, Republicans, Democrats and independents, not pointing fingers at each other. And I'm ready to bring that spirit of bipartisan cooperation to Washington.

My vision forward puts faith in the individual rather than the government as the engine of economic growth and seeks to get government out of the way of the entrepreneurial spirit so we can create jobs. And we can do this in three ways.

First, government must live within its means, like American families do. That is why I propose capping government spending at the historic level of 20 percent of gross domestic product, rather than the current 24 percent. Next, we must reform the tax code and make it fairer, by lowering tax rates and closing loopholes and deductions that favor the wealthiest among us. These tax reductions will stimulate small businesses that will be able to use that revenue to grow, expand and create more jobs. We must also reduce the corporate tax rate. America has the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world. America is losing its competitive edge as companies relocate to other countries with more hospitable economic climates. We cannot allow this to continue and must lower the corporate tax rate to 25 percent to say to the world that America is open for business.

Finally, the public-sector stimulus failed. That is why I want to unleash a private-sector stimulus.

Currently, there are $1.8 trillion in corporate profits locked out of our country. And companies don't want to bring that money back because it will be taxed twice. By reforming the tax code, companies can bring those profits back to our shores and invest in America rather than Europe or China. It would spur economic growth and create jobs.

This election will determine the future of our country for generations. And there are two distinct choices. If you think the country is headed in the right direction and are satisfied with how things are, then Bob Menendez is your choice. But if you know we can do better, then I ask for your vote. Only then can we renew the promise of America.

Joe Kyrillos, a state senator from Middletown, is the Republican challenger for U.S. Senate.