President Obama Addresses U.S. Chamber: Our View

Feb 7, 2011

The President strolled across Lafayette Park this morning to speak to us here at the U.S. Chamber. He received a nice, warm introduction from more than 200 chamber members and staff and a gracious welcome from Tom Donohue, who noted that the tradition of Presidents visiting the Chamber goes back to President William Howard Taftin 1912. We are both pleased and honored that the President of the United States came to speak to the businesses large and small that make up the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  “I’m here today,” the President said, “because I’m convinced we can and must work together.”  We welcome and take seriously his commitment to working with the American business community, and there’s no better place to deepen that relationship than right here at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The President touched on a wide array of issues, including global competition, encouraging innovation, rebuilding our infrastructure, strengthening education, and increasing exports. This is certainly an agenda that America’s job creators can all get behind. The President’s commitments in these areas are right on. Now we need to put words into action.

In order to double our nation’s exports, we must pass all three pending Free Trade Agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama. This is the surest way to create new American jobs in a revenue-neutral way, and protect nearly 400,000jobs that are at risk from inaction.

The President referenced the many barriers to job creation, from taxes to regulations. On infrastructure, we’ve said all along that there’s upwards of $180 billion in private capital waiting to be invested if regulatory roadblocks were cleared away.  What we need from this Administration is a comprehensive, multi-year plan for surface transportation that includes reform, strategic focus, and strong accountability, plus a plan for paying new investments in infrastructure.  SAFETEA-LU expired in September 2009 and been temporarily extended 6 times. We need certainty for planning purposes and adequate resources.

On education, the Chamber strongly supports the goal of educating and training the workers of tomorrow. We have been vocal in our support for this Administration’s various education initiatives, including the “Race to the Top” program.

“Another barrier government can remove,” the President said today, “is a burdensome corporate tax code with one of the highest rates in the world.” He went on to call for reform of the corporate tax code as well as making permanent the R&D tax credit. While the Chamber agrees with those goals, the President’s speech left us with more questions than answers. What about international tax reforms? And what about small businesses who pay taxes through the individual code? How are we going to ensure U.S. companies can compete while we remain attractive to foreign investment? We need a comprehensive conversation on tax reform, not one where the government picks and chooses the issues and the winners and losers.

We are also pleased with the President’s commitment to addressing “outdated and unnecessary” regulations. Here is an area where we need to see more specifics.  The Chamber agrees that most regulations are necessary to ensuring there are clear rules for operating a complex society, but what’s needed is to rein in excessively costly regulations that are harming the economy.  The process has lost all balance as Congress has yielded power to the federal agencies without proper accountability.  Reform is needed to restore the proper checks and balances.

And, finally, the President gave a nod to fiscal restraint by mentioning the freeze in domestic spending and the need to reform entitlements.  Reducing our deficit is essential to bolstering our worldwide competitiveness – but we need a specific plan to get us there.

To be clear: The American business community is committed to the priorities laid out by the President today. We are meeting our responsibility and can do even more if our government takes smart steps to continue to foster business and job growth.  It’s time for all of us to roll up our sleeves and take action on a jobs and competitiveness agenda. We intend to work with the Administration and the Congress to create the environment that allows American business to prosper.

You can see a copy of the President’s prepared remarks – from which he varied only slightly – here. You can watch our archived video of the speech here.

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