At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, we begin the new year by looking at how American business is doing, discussing the key challenges facing our economy, and identifying the top priorities we plan to work on.
Today, 23 million Americans are unemployed, underemployed or have stopped looking for work. A record 47 million people qualify for food stamps. Median family income has dropped to 1995 levels. Millions of new college graduates, many of them deeply in debt, can’t find promising positions in their fields. And at the current rate, our economy is growing too slowly to make a real difference.
As we consider these factors, economic growth can’t be an afterthought. It must be the focus. That’s why the chamber has an ambitious plan to revitalize the economy and restore the American Dream. We will advance the American Jobs and Growth Agenda to generate stronger growth, create jobs, lift incomes and expand opportunity for all Americans.
We must start by addressing the fiscal crisis — that means slowing spending, reforming entitlement programs and overhauling the tax code. Policymakers will soon face new deadlines around the debt ceiling, the sequestration budget cuts, and legislation to keep the government operating. These deadlines will mean more uncertainty for our economy, our businesses and the financial markets. Our leaders must make real progress, beginning in the areas they neglected in the fiscal cliff deal — serious spending restraint and a commitment to tax and entitlement reform.
Beyond the immediate crisis, we must embrace key opportunities to drive growth in the economy. By producing more American energy, we can add jobs, revive manufacturing, generate government revenues and improve national security. If we embrace a bold trade agenda, we can tap booming markets around the world and boost American exports.
We must also focus on policies that are holding us back. We need to address the coming flood of new regulations that will discourage job creation and stoke uncertainty. Reforming our regulatory system is vital to ensuring our competitive edge in the global economy. And by modernizing our irrational immigration system, we can continue to attract the best and brightest to our shores and ensure that we have enough workers to sustain our economy, support our population and stay competitive.
The chamber will be working on these and other critical priorities — including infrastructure, health-care reform, education and jobs training, and legal reform — throughout the year.
We ask America’s leaders to stand up and join us in these efforts to restore opportunity and prosperity in our country.
— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are his own.