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A Business Plan for Jobs

Monday, January 11, 2010 - 7:00pm

By Thomas Donohue

As published on RealClearPolitics.com, January 12, 2010.

Jobs, jobs, jobs. That's all everyone is talking about-and that's how it should be. Before the December jobs report was released last week, experts were expecting employment to inch upward. But instead of good news, Americans found more cause for concern-the economy lost 85,000 jobs last month.

As a nation, we face no greater or more immediate challenge than creating the 20 million jobs we'll need to replace those lost in the recession and to keep up with a growing population.

Talk alone can't create these jobs and, over the long term, neither can the government. As President Obama says, "Job creation will ultimately depend on the real job creators: businesses across America." We couldn't agree more.

So what's the business community's plan to create those jobs and get the economy back on track? Today at the U.S. Chamber's annual State of American Business address, I unveiled a realistic, achievable plan to create those 20 million jobs.

It starts with an acknowledgement that only with a strong and growing private sector-backed by sensible government policies with modest levels of regulation and taxation and a reasonable degree of certainty-can we reach this goal.

Americans are dealing with a tremendous amount of uncertainty right now-the economy is shaky at home and abroad, the terrorist threat is increasing, and markets are volatile. The degree of change and uncertainty is unprecedented-is it any wonder that many companies and other employers are sitting on their hands waiting to see how things work out? To know what their tax and regulatory obligations will be? To understand how new policies will impact their operations?

Uncertainty is the enemy of investment and hiring. Through smart, commonsense policies, lawmakers can help increase certainty, especially when it comes to health care, tax, and climate change policies. For example, the government can vow to maintain all federal income tax rates at their current levels, including on income, capital gains, and dividends. Congress and the administration can find more rational and affordable ways to address health care and climate change, curb frivolous lawsuits, and reject big labor's radical agenda, including the elimination of the secret ballot in unionization elections.

But there are other steps that Washington can take to get the ball rolling on job creation.

First, we need to double U.S. exports over the next five years. To do so, we must get off the sidelines and move back into the global trade arena. If we fail to approve pending deals with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama or amend Buy American rules, we will not only miss opportunities to create new jobs-we will lose existing jobs. We also need to help more small and medium-size businesses export

Second, policymakers should seize the moment and begin the modernization of our infrastructure systems. By expanding both private and public sector investments in our transportation, energy, water, and broadband systems, we can reemploy many jobless Americans. If we remove regulatory and legal obstacles, private sector investment, in particular, could play a critical role in rebuilding America.

Third, we must pursue the creation of green jobs through technological breakthroughs in the energy sector. We have long supported private and public investments in alternative and renewable energies, the development of technologies that allow us to use traditional fuels cleanly, and strong laws to improve efficiency. We also can't afford to overlook the importance of clean, safe nuclear energy. Government should take immediate action to facilitate expansion of this sector.

Finally, we must find ways to ensure that businesses, especially small enterprises, can get the credit they need to expand and create jobs. That's why the Chamber supports robust SBA lending programs. We also need to overhaul our financial markets with smarter, more efficient regulations and greater transparency to ensure the availability of affordable capital while taking great care not to overregulate our markets and eliminate legitimate risk taking.

To prevent a jobless recovery, Congress should take immediate steps to resolve uncertainty and spur job creation. It's time to empower private sector employers by creating an economic climate that's favorable to growth. Given the proper tools, America's job creators can usher in a new era of prosperity.

Mr. Donohue is President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce