According to Thomas Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the “single biggest challenge” to solving the unemployment crisis is the “tsunami” of regulation that has been passed in recent years. Donohue made that claim this morning in the Chamber’s annual State of American Business Address, which was held in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce building on H Street in Northwest Washington.
While Donohue noted that the Chamber’s members are “cautiously optimistic” that the economic recovery will continue in 2011, he said that without an effort to roll back much of the recent regulatory legislation that has come out of the Congress, creating new jobs will be much more difficult.
“Many of these are regulations we need, and the Chamber supported them. Yet in recent years, we have seen an unprecedented explosion of new regulatory activity. Furthermore, the administration is likely to turn increasingly to the regulatory agencies now that getting legislation our of Congress could be more difficult,” Donohue said. “The resulting regulatory tsunami poses, in our view, the single biggest challenge to jobs, our global competitiveness, and the future of the American enterprise.”
Donohue said that the Chamber’s top priority in 2011 will be to turn the economic recovery “into a jobs recovery.” To do that, he said, it will take efforts on four key fronts.
He said that the Chamber would begin by continuing to call on Congress to “go back to the drawing board” on health care reform and to push for changes to the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform law that would spur economic growth.
Among the changes the Chamber is seeking, Donohue said, are limits to the power of the newly enacted Consumer Financial Protection Bureau so that it doesn’t “deny small businesses and consumers the credit and financial products they need.” He also said the Chamber will continue working to change the proxy access rule, which grants shareholders access to corporate proxies to nominate directors.
In September, the Chamber filed suit against the Securities and Exchange Commission, alleging that the proxy access rule is unlawful under the the Investment Company Act, Securities Exchange Act and Administrative Procedures Act.
Donohue said that the Chamber is working to expand the United States’ trade agreements with its foreign counterparts. He said that later this month he will be traveling to several European countries and to the Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to propose doing away will all tariffs on all goods that are exported and imported across the Atlantic. Donohue argued that doing away with tariffs could increase transatlantic trade by more than $100 billion between 2011 and 2015.
“We think it could also jump-start global trade negotiations and set the stage for similar agreements with other partners,” he said, adding that he would also continue arguing for increased protections on intellectual property, particularly in China and other Asian countries.
Another Chamber priority, Donohue said, was working to increase spending on infrastructure projects such as improving transportation, investing in domestic energy sources and improving the global supply chain. To address the global supply chain portion of the effort, Donohue said, the Chamber has hired former Postmaster General Jack Potter to “rally the business community around the plan to improve, maintain, secure and advocate for a 21st Century global supply chain and logistics system.”
The final portion of the Chamber’s plan for 2011 has to do with upping its pressure on Congress and the Obama administration to reduce the deficit, even if that means supporting proposals in cases where “we don’t like all of the details.”
Donohue acknowledged that the Chamber often butts heads with the Obama administration. But he said that both sides have tried to find more common ground recently. That said, Donohue pledged to continue working to roll back large amounts of regulations.
"We cannot allow this nation to move from a government of the people to a government of the regulators," Donohue said. "That's where it has been headed under the Republican Party and Democratic Party alike. We're going to be engaged in this fight for years to come."
Donohue also offered condolences on behalf of the Chamber to the victims of Saturday's shooting in Tuscon, Ariz. and their families.
In brief remarks opening his address, he said, "Under any circumstance, the violence, injury, and loss of life that occurred are an outrage to us all. We are especially offended by the fact that this rampage was directed at our democracy itself--striking down public servants as well as free citizens who had come to engage in a dialogue and express their views," Donohue said. "We are praying for a full recovery for Congresswoman Giffords and the others who were injured. All our hearts go out to the families wo lost their lives."