(Editor’s note: This letter from the United States Chamber of Commerce to President Obama was delivered today.)
An Open Letter to the President of the United States, the United States Congress, and the American People
Eighteen months ago, during the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, the business community stood united with Congress and the President behind our shared goal of rescuing the U.S. economy and putting Americans back to work. We supported programs to stabilize our financial institutions, bolster key industries, and aid the unemployed.
Working together, we succeeded in stabilizing the economy and preventing another depression. But once accomplished, the congressional leadership and the administration took their eyes off the ball. They neglected America’s number one priority—creating the more than 20 million jobs we need over the next 10 years for those who lost their jobs, have left the job market, or were cut to part-time status—as well as new entrants into our workforce.
Instead of continuing their partnership with the business community and embracing proven ideas for job creation, they vilified industries while embarking on an ill-advised course of government expansion, major tax increases, massive deficits, and job-destroying regulations.
This approach has failed to return our economy to a path of robust growth, which is a critical prerequisite to significant private sector job growth. In some cases, wrong policy choices are actually eliminating good job opportunities for American workers. By straying from the proven principles of American free enterprise, policymakers are needlessly prolonging the economic agony of the recession for millions of Americans and their families.
Today, more than 16% of American workers are unemployed, underemployed, or have simply given up looking for a job. Consumer confidence remains low, housing prices are still depressed, the stock market has trended downward, the global recovery is sputtering, and there are growing concerns about the prospects of a double-dip recession.
Uncertainty is the enemy of growth, investment, and job creation. Through their legislative and regulatory proposals—some passed, some pending, and others simply talked about—the congressional majority and the administration have injected tremendous uncertainty into economic decision making and business planning. This is why banks are reluctant to lend and why American corporations are sitting on well over a trillion dollars. It is why America’s small businesses and entrepreneurs, the engines of innovation and job creation, are starving for capital and are either struggling to survive or unable to expand.
In the process, we are also eroding our competitive position globally, as other nations take steps to cut taxes, reduce regulations, and restrain the appetites of government. Some are making serious headway in efforts to upgrade the skills of their students and workers, while we have yet to make significant progress. For all these reasons, the known and unknown costs that come with expanding operations and adding to payrolls in the United States are simply too high.
As the President has said repeatedly, and as every economist knows, prosperity and job growth come from the private sector, not from the government. Government’s role is to establish the right conditions in which the private sector can do what it does best—foster economic growth, create innovative products and services, generate wealth, and, in the process, produce expanded revenues to educate our children, care for the sick and poor, and defend our nation.
Yet who in our government today recognizes that every bill—proposed, considered, or passed—is a “jobs bill.” Government can either help the private sector create jobs or it can drive jobs away. No matter how well intentioned or politically popular a proposed law or regulation appears to be, the question must always be asked, What will the impact be on jobs?