Each year at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, we take stock of the state of American business and chart the year ahead. As we begin 2012, the state of business is improving, but it is doing so weakly, slowly and insufficiently to put enough of our country back to work.
We are still down 6 million jobs from the start of the recession. And with more than 23 million Americans unemployed, working part time or giving up hope, we’ve got to rev the economic engine — our current rate of growth won’t cut it.
But government policies and Washington politics are undermining business and slowing our recovery. While the federal government expands its powers, costs, obligations and debt at a record clip, businesses are buckling under uncertainty and are paralyzed by an onslaught of new regulations and taxes.
We can accelerate economic growth and create jobs if our leaders in Washington work with one another and with the business community to clear away the impediments that are standing in the way of a stronger economy. To get the ball rolling, the Chamber of Commerce is advancing an ambitious, commonsense American Jobs and Growth Agenda.
The plan calls for a resurgence in American energy and the rebuilding of our crumbling infrastructure. It pushes for a bold expansion of trade, bilateral investment and U.S.-bound tourism. It proposes long-overdue modernization of our regulatory system and tax code. The plan challenges our leaders to maintain and advance our innovative edge through IP protection and through fostering a competitive work force. And it requires that we get our fiscal house in order by reining in spending and deficits and reforming entitlements.
These may sound like big ideas, but we have big challenges. So we need bold leadership. We need leaders who are dedicated to solving America’s challenges. And we need leaders who will act with urgency — election year or not.
The business community also has a responsibility to lead. We’ve got to maintain the spirit of enterprise and risk-taking that form the foundation of our economy. And if government starts removing the impediments that are stifling growth and jobs, business should start taking a few more risks and making some new investments.
The state of American business is one of readiness — we’re ready to invest, compete and hire. But we need Washington leaders to be our partners in this effort. The only way out of the problems we face is to drive economic growth from one end of the country to the other. So let’s go do it.
— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.