USA TODAY SPC column page
President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
November 17, 2023
This column first appeared in USA Today Opinion on Nov. 6, 2023.
In my meetings with heads of state and foreign leaders from around the world I hear a common question: Will the United States disengage from the world?
When I talk to CEOs and small businesses they all want to know: How much more geopolitical uncertainty will we face?
All have good reason to be concerned. The lessons of history remind us that isolationism and neglect of international affairs can have far-reaching and long-lasting consequences that are not limited to foreign shores but have a direct impact on American society and prosperity.
This is why the U.S. Chamber is endorsing the effort to provide emergency supplemental funding to secure the southern border of the United States and to support Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. Not only is it in our own economic and national security interests; it is essential to safeguarding the principles of democracy and free markets that the Chamber has stood up for 111 years.
Free markets and democracy are rooted in the same fundamental belief: The inherent worth and agency of every person requires respect for their individual and collective choices whether expressed at the ballot box or in the marketplace. Adherence to these principles have made the United States the strongest country and economy in the history of the world. But these principles are not unique to us. They are, as stated in our Declaration of Independence, universal truths.
Since World War II, the U.S. has played the leading role in helping people in other nations who wish to secure their own democracy and free markets. We have been repaid the monetary costs of our efforts many times over by the enhancements to our own prosperity and security.
Today, democracies and free markets are under attack abroad. Perhaps the most painful lesson of the 20th century is that what happens in Europe and Asia impacts America directly, and we ignore it at our peril. These threats exact a toll on the U.S. that will only grow if we avert our eyes, threatening our own national and economic security.
Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine and the heinous terror attacks on Israel and the loss of innocent life argue powerfully for additional security assistance from the U.S., continued close coordination with our allies, and sustained American leadership on the world stage. The U.S. also should continue to uphold its decades-long commitment to provide security assistance to Taiwan, which is consistent with the longstanding U.S. “One China” policy.
Here at home, another essential principle is under threat. The rule of law is being undermined by the failure of our federal government to fulfill one of its most basic functions: securing our border. The myriad shortcomings of our legal immigration system and the historic crises on our southern border and in cities around the country cannot continue to go unaddressed. Much needs to be done beyond this emergency border funding to confront our nation’s immigration challenges, but providing these additional resources is a critical first step on the path toward securing our borders, preventing further human suffering, and meeting America’s economic needs.
We applaud Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell for calling for American leadership and pledging action in the Senate and President Biden for putting forward an emergency supplemental to address these challenges. Scrutiny, debate, and amendment by members of the House and Senate is important and will improve the President’s proposal, but it must lead to decisive bipartisan, bicameral action on a meaningful package.
Most of the funds will end up being spent right here in the United States. It is manufacturers here—across 38 states—who are building the supplies used by our allies. President Roosevelt dubbed the efforts of American business and workers the “arsenal of democracy.” In a world of ever-growing threats these investments in our expanded domestic capacity will improve America’s future security.
We will continue to work with Congress to find ways to tackle the debt and deficit. But to be clear, the expenses associated with securing our border and defending democracies are not the root cause of our problems—and if we fail to make these investments now, it will cost us far more in the future.
The U.S. is a strong and capable nation. We can address the domestic challenges that require the attention of our elected leaders and support and defend those who share our commitment to democracy, free markets, and the rule of law. And in this moment, we must do both to secure our strength at home and our standing in the world.
On the budget:
On the border and legal immigration: