Focus for Chamber of Commerce

Thomas J. Donohue, the president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, delivered The State of American Business 2011 speech on Tuesday in Washington. (Photo by Elisa Santana/Medill News Service)

Jobs are the top priority for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce this year.

“In 2011, the chamber’s top priority will be to turn an economic recovery into a jobs recovery so that we can put Americans back to work,” said Thomas J. Donohue, the president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Donahue made his remarks at the annual “State of American Business” address Tuesday morning in Washington.

The chamber’s top leader recognized that Americans had been left uneasy after the “tragic shootings in Arizona” and started his address with a mention of the weekend tragedy in Tuscon that left six people dead and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., critically injured.

But he also tried to strike a note of hope.

“While the new year has begun on this sad note, I can report that when it comes to the nation’s economy, we begin 2011 in better shape than we found ourselves last year.”

To develop a plan for 2011, Donohue said the chamber is conducting a competitive analysis. Findings will be released in the spring.

“We are examining, in a factual and objective way, the actions by our government and the actions by the business community that are either moving us forward in the global economy or holding us back,” he said. “We’ll then compare it to what our competitors are doing.”

Donohue also said the chamber would seek to focus the government’s attention on the following four “immediate priorities”:

• Regulatory restraint and reform

• Expanding American trade

• Rebuilding the nation’s economic foundation, and

• Reducing runaway spending, deficits, and debt

Regulatory restraint and reform

Donohue’s was pointed in his criticism of what he called “excessive regulations,” which he said “cost Americans $1.7 trillon a year” and he stressed the need to reform bureaucratic institutions.

Businesses will not begin investing their money back into the American economy until regulations are less costly and the correct reforms are made, Donahue said.

The chamber’s two biggest eyesores: Health care reform and the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which gave government new power to police Wall Street.

“When the (health care) bill passed, Americans were promised that it would lower costs and allow anyone who liked their existing coverage to keep it. Instead, costs are rising and health plans are being forced to change.”

Donohue and the chamber are asking the current health care reform bill be repealed and replaced with one that “will lower costs, expand access, and improve quality.”

He is also asking that the Dodd-Frank act be repealed and replaced with something more modern and coherent that could be put to quicker use. “My grandchildren will be old and retired before it is all implemented,” Donohue said.

On Thursday, Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., introduced H.R. 87, legislation that would repeal the Dodd-Frank law. “Dodd-Frank gives the federal government the ability to take over non-bank institutions that they say are failing. This is a frightening abuse of power and will do nothing but stymie our recovery,” Bachmann posted on her official Facebook page.

Other areas that Donohue said needed reform were the Labor Market’s regulations and policies and the EPA’s rulemakings and greenhouse gas regulations, both which he claimed were unfair to employers.

Expanding American trade

Donohue said the chamber believes that if the United States does not implement a Free Trade Agreement (like the EU and Canada are doing), 380,000 existing jobs will be lost in America.

Three major players that the chamber sees in it’s economic future are the EU, China, and Mexico.

He proposed a Zero-Tariff Agreement with the EU, encouraging trade with China, and a resolution that would allow safe, inspected trucks to back and forth from the U.S. to Mexico.

Rebuilding the nation’s economic foundation

With transportation, aviation, and water resources based on “short-term funding extensions, neither states nor private investors can get projects off the drawing board with this kind of uncertainty,” Donahue said. He proposed that federal dollars should focus and pay for the nation’s infrastructure.

By improving the above, Donohue said that it would expand trade by moving “people, goods, information and money”.

Two other important points to rebuilding the nation were the need to focus on “alternative, renewable, and traditional energy” as well as “improving educational and training opportunities for all Americans”.

Reducing runaway spending, deficits and debt

“The national debt already exceeds $14 trillion and is on track to nearly double over the next decade,” Donohue said.

With businesses, employers, the employed and unemployed all looking to the economic future the chamber will have to use its knowledge and influence to sway the 112th Congress and other sectors of the government in order to see some quicker results.

“Conventional wisdom says that no effort to address deficits will be considered until after the 2012 elections–But we can’t wait that long.” Donohue said

“To control deficits, we must first put unemployed Americans back to work so that they are paying taxes instead of collecting benefits. But Congress and the administration must also move swiftly to reduce spending.”