President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
There’s a rising sense of optimism in our country today. A growing belief that the long, dark stretch of the pandemic is nearly behind us, and brighter days lie ahead. Our country is finally getting back to health and back to strength.
President Biden is sure to highlight how his administration has contributed to these positive developments as he marks his first 100 days in office later this week. It’s a good opportunity to celebrate how much our nation has achieved in the 400+ days since the WHO declared the global pandemic.
At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, we are proud of how the private and public sectors have worked together during the crisis to help communities and stabilize the economy. Led by businesses and aided by government, effective vaccines were developed and deployed in less than a year. The pharmaceutical companies who led these efforts held 1,224 clinical trials in all 50 states—making their approval and deployment a truly nationwide achievement. Today, 27.2% of our population is fully vaccinated. Shots are widely available to those who want them.
This unprecedented achievement may have happened within a year, but it was built on many years of advocating for a policy framework that rewards investment and innovation. When our nation needed the ingenuity and industriousness of the private sector more than ever, American businesses were ready to answer the call.
Moreover, thanks to the resilience, adaptability, and innovation of American businesses and their employees throughout the pandemic, our economy is poised to come roaring back—as high as 8.2% GDP!—in the second quarter. As more restrictions are lifted and in-person gatherings continue to become safer, more displaced workers from industries on the bottom of the K-Shape recovery will feel the effects of a stronger economy.
Keeping up the Momentum
We can expect President Biden to hit on many of these positive macro-trends when he addresses the nation on Wednesday night. What business will be most interested in hearing is how he will work with partners in government and business to usher in a new era of economic growth.
The U.S. Chamber has worked closely with the administration to advance shared priorities on a bipartisan basis, while also forcefully opposing policies that would undermine a widespread recovery and future growth. As the president charts the next 100 days of his presidency, we urge his administration to focus on these three priorities to keep up the momentum:
1. Lead bipartisan progress on infrastructure.
The current debate over an infrastructure package gives President Biden the opportunity for a big achievement that will help our economy today and into future—if it’s done on a bipartisan basis.
As someone who spent more than 35 years in the Senate, President Biden knows that bipartisanship and consensus is the only way to get big, important, difficult things done in a meaningful and durable way. If you don’t get the buy-in of the other party, any change in power puts the policy at risk of reversal or repeal.
Perhaps that’s why not a single significant infrastructure package has been passed along party lines since 1991. In fact, six major pieces of legislation were enacted with the strong support of both parties.
Republicans and Democrats alike are eager to engage in today’s infrastructure debate and have put forward proposals. The only way to turn talk into action is to begin serious-minded bipartisan negotiations. There is common ground to be found.
The perennial stumbling block for progress on infrastructure is how to pay for it. Lawmakers must be realistic that investing in infrastructure requires revenue. But not all revenue is created equal. The Chamber believes in maintaining America’s traditional user-financed model of funding infrastructure and paying for new investment over time. We strongly oppose the general tax increases proposed by the administration, which make American employers uncompetitive and cost America jobs.
We must seize this opportunity for bipartisan progress and set a tone for progress with other priorities.
2. Reject job-killing tax hikes that would undermine the recovery.
A major reason our economy is poised for such a quick and vigorous recovery is that it was in a place of strength before the shock of the pandemic — thanks in no small part to the historic tax reform of 2017. Now, the administration is pursuing the biggest tax hike in 30 years to fund an ambitious agenda to massively expand the role and reach of government paid for by American job creators.
Raising taxes on corporations would sap growth and stall job creation just as it’s picking up speed. And it’s important to note that many small businesses would find themselves in the crosshairs of a higher corporate tax rate. Under the federal tax code, 1.4 million small businesses that together employ 13 million Americans file their taxes as C-Corps. Raising their taxes would put them at a competitive disadvantage, suppress wage growth, and undo the progress of lowering the rate to 21%.
On top of that, raising the tax code would harm America’s competitiveness in a global economy and make it a less attractive place to invest profits, locate corporate headquarters, and create American jobs. And, no, we should not expect other nations to hold back their economies because the U.S. has chosen to disadvantage its own.
Lower taxes and smarter regulations remain key building blocks of a growing economy.
3. Prioritize workforce in order to keep the economic momentum going.
I hear every day, from leaders of businesses large and small, that they struggle to find qualified workers for open jobs. It was the number-one challenge they cited before the pandemic, and it remains a critical concern heading into this recovery. And the recovery will actually stall if we don’t have the workers to drive it.
The most immediate way to address our current challenge is to reopen schools and daycares. This is not only an education issue, it’s a workforce issue. Parents are struggling to hold jobs without childcare or while working from home while directing remote learning. The end of the pandemic may be in sight, but uncertainty still looms over countless American families and employers.
We also must begin to phase out the unprecedented financial assistance that was necessary to support displaced workers at the height of the pandemic. Particularly for the hardest hit industries, as mandates continue to be lifted and businesses are able to resume pre-pandemic operations and capacity, workers will be able to return to their steady paychecks so they can rebuild their lives.
Finally, we need immigration policies that provide employers the skilled talent they need to fill open jobs. We appreciate the administration’s early steps to raise caps for H1-B visas, but more needs to be done to reform our system. Fortunately, there are lawmakers on both sides of the aisle eager to help get this done. Earlier this month, the Chamber’s Common Grounds series convened a bipartisan conversation with two members of Congress to discuss how we can move our nation forward after years of gridlock. Like us, they are determined to seize the opportunity and update our immigration policies to meet the needs of our modern economy. The answer should be legislation that addresses immigration reform and border security.
Working Together for a Bright Future
The Chamber is committed to creating a brighter future for our country through a widespread recovery and inclusive growth driven by American business. To achieve that, we will work with the administration—and when needed, we will stand up to the administration. We urge President Biden to work with both parties and the business community to take the right steps to advance our economy—and to exercise the prudence to reject proposals that will hold it back, such as excessive tax hikes, the PRO Act, anti-arbitration efforts, and more.
Ahead of us lies a period of growth, opportunity, prosperity, and innovation that will improve everyone’s lives. Let’s seize it.www.uschamber.com