U.S. Chamber President to Small Business: Make Your Voice Heard

Apr 30, 2013

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue speaking at America's Small Business Summit in Washington, DC. Photo by David Bohrer / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue jumpstarted day two of America's Small Business Summit by urging attendees to "tell our leaders what small businesses want and need to grow, compete, and succeed."

The theme of this year's Summit is "Big Impact," and Donohue expanded on that theme: 

Running a small business is a big job. Many of you are the CEO, the CFO, the HR department, and the IT guy. And because you’re here this week making your voices heard in the nation’s capital, you can add “advocate” to the list. You’re in a position to not only advocate for the policies that will allow your businesses to succeed—but also for the policies that will allow success to sweep across this country through economic revitalization and renewed hiring. 

With the right policies coming out of Washington, small businesses can help guide the recovery and grow the economy, Donohue says. But they need an environment of certainty to do it. 

In Washington reality boils down to this: We're broke and we'll get even broker until we learn to control spending, reform entitlements, and overhaul our nightmare of a tax code...

Comprehensive tax reform should broaden the tax base so more people are paying into the system and simplify compliance for all businesses.

And we should lower rates for corporations and individuals alike. 90% of American businesses operate as pass-through entities and file taxes under the individual code. 

To tackle entitlements, Donohue suggests:

Reforms that begin to address the drivers of our spending crisis would signal to small businesses, consumers, and the world that our leaders are capable of making the tough decisions.

Going after burdensome regulations is another way to root out the uncertainty that hampers growth, Donohue says, and the Chamber is working to ensure that small businesses are not struggling under the mandates in the new health care law and the financial regulatory reform law.

We are looking for opportunities to get rid of the law's worst features—such as the employer mandate—and we have a group of the best minds in the country developing alternative solutions...We are also working to fix, add to, or replace parts of the financial regulatory reform bill that aren’t working. Small businesses must have steady access to credit and capital for day-to-day operations. 

The Chamber is working to tear down barriers to trade so all small businesses can compete on a level playing field in world markets, Donohue says.

We’re pushing for completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact that would give businesses greater access to the booming markets in the Asia-Pacific. We’ve long championed a new economic agreement with Europe, which would drive tremendous growth on both sides of the Atlantic. And we’re continuing to push for new opportunities to get your products and services into the hands of customers around the world.

On infrastructure: 

The government does and should share responsibility for infrastructure investments. But we’ve also got to leverage private financing, including the $250 billion in global capital available for infrastructure investment. Unless we tear down the regulatory and legal barriers, that cash will stay on the sidelines and prevent us from regaining our competitive edge.

On energy: 

Most of the progress we’ve seen so far has been on private or state-controlled lands. But Washington is still standing in the way of prudent development of federal lands. The Chamber is going to keep the pressure on our leaders to move forward with a bold energy agenda.

On developing a skilled workforce:

We’re also in a global hunt for talent. American students are falling behind. Our public education system isn’t equipping them with a strong foundation to build careers or continue their educations. We must address the shortcomings in our public K-12 education system, post-secondary education, and job training. 

And on immigration reform: 

What we need is a system that will welcome the world’s best talent, hardest workers, and biggest dreamers...The Chamber has long advocated for comprehensive reform. We’ve got to continue to secure the borders … put in place temporary worker programs that include high-skill and lesser-skill workers and are based on market needs … establish a nation E-Verify system … and provide a pathway out of the shadows for 11 million undocumented workers in the United States today. The recently unveiled Senate immigration bill achieves those objectives for reform. But the hard work is just getting started. The Chamber will stay in the fight until we get it done.

Donohue ended his rousing speech by defending the free enterprise system: 

It’s okay to make a profit. And by the way, businesses that do well almost always do good. They empower others through the dignity of work. They enrich their communities and strengthen their economies. They lend a helping hand to those in need. As long as we preserve the opportunity to experiment and innovate, and to pursue dreams and rewards in an open economy, there’s very little we can’t accomplish in America. 

That’s why we’ve got to defend and advance the free enterprise system. 

When it comes under attack by those who falsely believe that opportunity and success come from the government, business must stand up and make not just the economic case for free enterprise—but the moral one...

Seize the opportunity to succeed. Take some risks. Learn from your failures. Reap the rewards. And create some opportunities for others along the way.

Keep striving to grow and compete. And always make your voice heard.

Following his speech, Donohue appeared in an interview on CNBC.


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