One of America’s strongest and most influential business leaders, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue, recently gave his report on the state of business in America (view it online at uschamber.com). Governmental officials at all levels, business leaders, workers and investors would do well to hear what Donohue had to say.
Donohue expects the national economy to bump along at an unspectacular growth rate of between 1.5 and 2.5 percent in 2013. On the positive side, he sees housing continuing its rebound from historic lows and domestic energy activity driving more investment and employment and stabilizing prices. Negative influences, according to Donohue, are the recent tax increases and higher business costs from the new health care law that will hit many small businesses hard.
Beyond interest rate figures and unemployment numbers, Donohue asked some questions in his speech that really get to the heart of the matter. He asked, "…Is this a country that can still get big things done…Do we have leaders with the courage to put the country first…Can we find government leaders who truly appreciate the role that the private sector can and must play in building a new American prosperity?" Through these questions, Donahue clearly set the agenda that can lead to that prosperity.
•Producing More American Energy: Donohue touched on all energy components that can spur jobs and investments and put an emphasis on the shale development phenomenon that is bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. and creating millions of desperately needed American jobs. He also called for an end to the "war on coal" and championed nuclear energy expansion, as well as renewable energy.
•Expanding American Trade, Investment, and Tourism: The U.S. Chamber President called for the passage of new trade agreements with European and Pacific trading partners that would expand markets and allow U.S. business to reach the 95 percent of consumers that live beyond our borders.
•Reforming Regulations to Create a More Competitive Economy: Donohue decried the staggering amount of new regulations pouring through the regulatory pipeline. He called for streamlining the regulatory process so business can act in an expeditious manner; holding regulators more accountable for their actions by restoring more of Congress’s oversight functions; and leading the charge in the courts when regulators truly over-step their authority.
•Immigration Reform: The U.S. Chamber, according to Donohue, supports comprehensive immigration reform that secures our borders, reforms the visa process for both low-skilled and high-skilled workers, and institutes a workable national employee verification system.
•Addressing the Fiscal Crisis: Donohue stressed that the recent "Fiscal Cliff" deal in Congress did nothing to address the underlying spending problem driving the crisis. He emphasized the need to develop common sense entitlement reforms that will slow the growth of the items driving the U.S. to fiscal disaster. He noted that the last time Congress raised the debt ceiling was in August 2011. They raised it by $2.1 trillion, and 17 months later, the debt limit hit the ceiling again. Donohue argued that the accumulation of debt at that pace is unsustainable.
As a final guiding principle, Donohue said that governmental leaders should preface the discussion of every bill, regulation, and negotiation with the questions: "What does it mean for jobs? What does it mean for growth?" Without strong economic growth, there is no solution to the fiscal problems besetting the country. Without a strong, united, and effective business community, there is little hope of achieving that growth. Without the leadership provided by Tom Donohue and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, it would be difficult indeed for an effective growth and jobs agenda to succeed.