Previous posts at MasterResource have been critical of the energy-related positions of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, such as The U.S. Chamber’s Energy Security Index: Where’s the Definition? by Robert Michaels and Dear U.S. Chamber of Commerce: Why Attempt to Resuscitate a Brain Dead Climate Bill? by yours truly.
The Chamber, in fact, was waxed and waned for and against the free-and-neutral market for virtually its whole existence. Such is life in political capitalism where special government favor is sought and received by business.
John T. Flynn’s 1928 essay, “Business and the Government” (Harper’s Monthly Magazine), criticized the Chamber motto More Business in Government and Less Government in Business as “sloganeering.”
Flynn noted that new laws were coming far less from the imaginations of legislators as from “the legislative program committees of trade associations or from the special counsel of trade groups … backed often by resolutions from trade conventions and chambers of commerce.”
The Chamber, complained Flynn, was falsely selling a view of business “as a huge giant, gagged and shackled like a moving-picture galley slave to his oar,” to which Flynn forwarded his own ideal for the Chamber: Less business interference in government and more statesmanship in business. (Quoted in Bradley, Capitalism at Work, chapter 6, pp. 172–74.)
Flynn, early on, captured the essence of free-market capitalism and Principled Entrepreneurship™.
The September 5th Letter
The September 5th letter from the Chamber of Commerce to the U.S. Congress and President Obama, reprinted below, is noteworthy for its free market flavor. With government running on empty, and the public mood against Big Government in most areas, the Chamber has come a long way from its disappointing cap-and-trade position on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and its watered down energy White Paper.
The six point jobs plan was singed by Thomas Donohue, president and CEO of the Chamber.
The most immediate priority facing our nation is to create jobs for the 25 million Americans who are unemployed, underemployed, or have simply given up looking for work.
To create jobs, we must enact policies that promote and sustain stronger economic growth. We must also address extraordinary fiscal and competitive challenges that are smothering growth and driving away jobs. At the same time, there are specific steps Congress and the administration can take right now to spur faster job growth in America’s private sector without adding to the deficit.
We are seeking your action in the following areas:
1. EXPAND TRADE AND GLOBAL COMMERCE
You have the tools in your hands to quickly open new markets for American businesses and create new jobs for American workers. Please use them!
Implementing FTAs with Colombia, South Korea, and Panama would prevent the loss of 380,000 jobs to our foreign competitors and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the United States. The U.S.-South Korea FTA alone has the potential to create as many as 280,000 new jobs.
2. PRODUCE MORE AMERICAN ENERGY
Let American energy workers and businesses responsibly develop all sources of domestic energy immediately. This will not only create jobs but will generate new government revenues, protect our energy security, and release us from the grip of some unfriendly governments.
By 2020, natural gas production in Western Pennsylvania alone could create 116,000 new jobs, generate more than $2 billion in government revenues, and add $20 billion to the region’s economy.
3. SPEED UP INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS
Government at all levels is standing in the way of badly needed improvements in the nation’s infrastructure. Hundreds of clean and traditional energy projects have been held up by Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) delays. We can strengthen our economy, clean the air, and save lives while putting hundreds of thousands of Americans to work.
4. WELCOME TOURISTS AND BUSINESS VISITORS TO THE
Travel and tourism is a small business-centered sector that already accounts for $700 billion in revenues and 7.4 million American jobs. Spending by foreign tourists counts as U.S. exports and helps our balance of trade. When business visitors come here for conferences, training, and trade shows and to buy our products, they strengthen America’s role as the center of innovation and global commerce. We have an opportunity to create new jobs, spur consumer spending, and generate more revenues for government at all levels.
We can create 1.3 million American jobs by 2020 just by restoring the U.S. share of the travel market to its 2000 level. The United States is the greatest destination in the world, but the world needs to know that.
5. SPEED UP PERMITS AND PROVIDE REGULATORY CERTAINTY AND RELIEF
Small and large businesses alike have cited regulatory burdens, the excessive litigation that regulations spawn, and fears about what government regulators will do to them next as among the most significant obstacles to new hiring. Immediate regulatory relief is required in order to begin moving $1 trillion–$2 trillion in accumulated private capital off of the sidelines and into business expansion.
Congress has responsibilities as well—to invoke the Congressional Review Act when necessary; pass legislation requiring an up-or-down vote before new major rules can take effect; and mandate a higher standard of proof to justify regulations with a major impact on economic growth and jobs.
6. PASS TAX INCENTIVES THAT CREATE JOBS WHILE
Comprehensive pro-growth tax reform must be a key deliverable of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. Lawmakers and the administration can begin delivering now by swiftly enacting tax measures that stimulate business expansion and jobs without adding to the deficit.
* * *
Your timely action on these and other ideas would significantly ease uncertainty, get existing capital off the sidelines, spur business and consumer activity, and create American jobs.
These proposals do not diminish the need to act on an array of other critical challenges to our economy. For example, we must restore the health of our housing market by allowing the foreclosure process to proceed. The sooner we allow the market to take its corrective course, the faster this key sector will recover and start building and hiring once again.
We must address, without further delay, the need to substantially reform our education, immigration, health care, capital markets, and legal systems. And as the Chamber wrote in our recent letter to members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, it is imperative that Congress and the administration agree on a bold plan to rein in government deficits and debt by reforming entitlement programs, overhauling the tax code, and controlling runaway federal spending.
Time and time again, Americans have heard Congress and the administration declare that creating jobs must be the nation’s highest priority. If you are serious, then we ask you to enact policies aimed at growing the private sector, not at growing the government. Millions of American entrepreneurs and businesses large and small are ready to act if you act. Give them the freedom to do what they do best and the certainty that their hard work and responsible efforts will be rewarded and not punished. Then, you will see the American business community achieve extraordinary things for this great country.
To spur action, the Chamber is strongly promoting our job creation ideas to state and local chambers, industry associations, the 3 million businesses that comprise the Chamber federation, and to the American people. We are urging them to tell you directly about economic conditions in their communities and how these proposals and others could help create jobs for the citizens you represent.
We stand ready to work with both parties in Congress, with the administration, and with all economic stakeholders to revitalize the American Dream by putting Americans back to work.
Sincerely, THOMAS DONOHUE