As he outlined objectives for 2021, Thomas Donohue, CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, called this week for working toward growth and opportunity in the business sector while rallying for recovery and a successful future.
Speaking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s State of American Business virtual presentation on Tuesday, Jan. 12, he emphasized the importance of recovering and rebuilding.
“We can fix what is broken … and we can renew the American promise for equal opportunity for all. I firmly believe our nation will pull together, will come through and will emerge together,” he said.
Donohue said national security is essential, as is cybersecurity.
“Breaches by foreign actors were pervasive and sophisticated, and can pose a far more sinister threat to our economy and our infrastructure. The Chamber will continue to push for intelligence sharing to identify, to mitigate, these threats, at home and abroad,” he said.
“We will have the courage to take tough stands on tough issues and the fortitude to see them through … and the wisdom to stand our ground when we must,” he said.
He denounced the violence at the U.S. Capitol last week and said it has “no place in our democracy, no matter where it comes from, who perpetuates it,” and added that, after order was restored, senators and representatives went back to work and labored well into the night.
“They finished their job, affirming the clear agenda of President-Elect Joseph Biden and Vice President Harris,” he said.
Concerning the economy, he said, “We have work to do, and it begins with recovery.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused entire industries to be decimated because fewer people are traveling and going out as they used to. He said 10 million people who had jobs last January don’t have jobs today.
“We have people without jobs and massive numbers of jobs without people. Even if we successfully employed every American willing and able to work, we would still face a significant lack of workforce,” he said.
Before the pandemic, the economy was strong, he said.
“Now is exactly the wrong time to further test the resiliency of businesses by hiking taxes or heaping on more regulations that do more harm than good,” he asserted.
Although the pandemic is far from over, if Congress supports the economy with relief efforts, there could be a rebound by the third quarter of this year, Donohue said.
Economic stimulation can result from rebuilding infrastructure, including roads and bridges, and upgrading and expanding technology, such as broadband internet, “to create jobs and drive up the economy in a hurry,” he said.
In 2021, “We are focused on reigniting our economy, and reasserting our leadership and competitiveness.”
“That will hinge on the resiliency of business and the partnership of government. It will take thoughtful action by our leadership, prioritizing the right actions at the right time … and the courage and collaboration needed to govern with the country’s s interest and our collective future at heart,” he said.
The Chamber event also featured speakers including Suzanne Clark, president of the U.S. Chamber; Neil Bradley, executive vice president; Marlene Colucci, executive director of the Business Council; economics experts; elected officials; and business owners.
Bradley announced the new Common Grounds Virtual Event Series, designed to bring together two members of Congress, a Republican and Democrat, and asking them to discuss ways to address problems businesses are facing.
Gregori Lebedev, chairman of the Center for International Private Enterprise, said too many Americans “don’t really know what democracy means.”
Andrew Wilson, executive director for the Center of International Private Enterprise, said business and democracy need each other.
“Business does better in democracy,” he said, because democracy gives business the best possible environment of freedom and offers the opportunity for partnership.
Democracy needs business, he said, because democracy offers a better life, jobs and prosperity, and because democracy requires leadership, which business provides.
Colucci said business — a powerful platform — can bring calm during crisis, as business owners did last week, after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, reminding the public of the importance of collaboration.
Virginia Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger emphasized the importance of upgrading and expanding Internet access.
Some employees can’t work from home because they don’t have Internet there, so they are forced to sit in their cars for full workdays, tele-communicating from places such as grocery store parking lots.
“Since COVID, this investment in infrastructure is going to be so vitally important,” she said.