Business Leaders are Optimistic Fiscal Woes Can be Fixed
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At a panel discussion on the top political and policy issues affecting the business environment, business leaders expressed unanimous optimism that U.S. economic competitiveness can be restored—because lawmakers have no choice but to tackle challenges like the fiscal cliff, tax reform, and energy.
Representing a broad swath of America’s employers and job creators, the panel was comprised of Tom Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; John Engler, president of the Business Roundtable; Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers; and Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation. They pointed to the looming fiscal cliff as a major source of uncertainty for businesses of every size and sector. Businesses are bracing for the largest tax hike in history and a slew of job-crushing budget cuts that will hit the economy if U.S. lawmakers don’t act by January 1, 2013.
The business leaders on the panel also reported that, on top of the immediate crisis, an uncompetitive tax code, and systemic overregulation are stifling business expansion, economic growth, and ultimately job creation.
With the national election less than a month away, Donohue said that negotiations to avert the fiscal cliff would begin in earnest on November 7th and could lay the groundwork for the “Big Deal” to tackle longer term threats to U.S. economic competitiveness and security. He argued that energy should be part of the negotiations for fiscal reform, a debate that has primarily centered around taxes and spending only.
“A stool with two legs usually falls over. We can [address] spending, taxes, and energy—which is our ‘cash cow’—and get a real deal.”
The panelists echoed Donohue’s call for ramping up North American energy production, which would generate government revenues to help tackle the debt and deficits and economic growth to drive job creation.
Commentator Katty Kay pressed the panelists on whether meaningful negotiations and necessary reforms are possible if political gridlock prevails after the November elections.
Donohue said that “circumstances in America and around the world are such that whoever is in authority or power [after the election] will have to act—or pay the price.”
Engler pledged “enormous pressure from the business community” for lawmakers to do what he believes is fundamentally possible. He added that “2013 could determine the first half of the 21st century in terms of economic growth and opportunity in this country. This could be a very good time for America if we make decisions.”
All of America’s problems are “imminently solvable,” according to Shay.
Timmons said he was optimistic because the American people won’t accept anything short of success. “As business leaders, our job is to ensure that the business community is involved…politicians will eventually do the right thing.”
Restoring America’s economic strength and competitiveness comes down to leadership, according to Donohue. “We can fix this. We only need one thing—leadership. We need leadership in the White House, leadership in the Congress, and leadership in the business community.”
An important way business can lead, Donohue argued, is through political engagement, and he defended the voice of business in the public discourse in no uncertain terms.
“There has been a major effort to force business to back away from participating in both the election process and the process of governing, which loses sight of the fact that the constitution fundamentally guarantees us the right to petition government and the Supreme Court continues to support that right … American businesses know that if they don’t play in the game, someone is going to steal their lunch,” Donohue said.