Sep 29, 2020 - 8:00am

An Open Letter to Chris Wallace: The Most Important Debate Question to Ask


President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

To: Chris Wallace, Anchor of Fox News Sunday and Moderator of the Sept. 29 Presidential Debate 

Subject: The Most Important Debate Questions to Ask President Trump and Former VP Joe Biden  

Mr. Wallace, 

While the U.S. Chamber of Commerce does not get involved in presidential politics or endorse candidates for president, we are very engaged in presidential policies—particularly on the issues that impact our members and the economy. So we will be watching closely as you moderate one of the most anticipated presidential debates at one of the most consequential moments in recent history.  

With so many pressing issues on the minds of voters across America right now, narrowing down the list of questions will no doubt be difficult. But there’s one question we believe each candidate must answer.  

How will you target support to those businesses, workers, and communities that find themselves on the downward trajectory of the K-Shaped recovery that’s now unfolding? 

In recent months, the hope of a V-Shaped recovery (a sharp and widespread snapback) has faded, yielding instead to the reality of a K-Shaped recovery, in which some industries and some Americans will bounce back vigorously while others remain in freefall. For companies and workers on the wrong side of the equation—many in the travel, entertainment, leisure, hospitality, and food service industries, for example—there is no end in sight for the economic downturn.  

Though many have innovated and adapted to stay open and keep their employees on payrolls, companies can survive for only so long with enduringly diminished revenue. For many, as long as social distancing remains necessary and public health restrictions remain in effect, it will be next to impossible to get back on track and return to strength.  

Data reveal the stark divide. The financial services sector, for example, has recovered 94% of its pre-pandemic employment. Leisure and entertainment companies, on the other hand, have only brought back 74% of their workers. Meanwhile, the restaurant industry is expected to lose $240 billion by the end of 2020 if Congress doesn’t take further action, while U.S. airlines could be forced to furlough 75,000 pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, and other workers.  

Small businesses have been among the hardest hit. Currently, four in five small business owners rate the health of the economy as average or poor, according to the latest MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index, while other surveys show that a very small number expect to be able to maintain current payrolls without additional government assistance from Congress. 

These industries and companies and the families and communities that count on them need assistance, but right now, they’re not receiving it from Congress. We simply cannot allow millions of workers and broad swaths of our economy to be left behind in the recovery. 

In a K-shaped recovery like the one unfolding now, there are dual risks. One on hand, broad-based economic stimulus—appropriate in a normal, more even downturn—could expend money where it is not needed. On the other hand, providing no support at all threatens to push entire sectors, employers, and employees over the edge of the cliff, which could drive a larger recession. That’s why targeted, temporary support is so fundamentally imperative at this moment in the crisis.  

Congress may or may not step up and fulfill their role in this moment. Regardless, American voters should hear from each presidential candidate how his administration would chart the road to recovery ahead. Both candidates should be able to articulate how they would provide targeted support to those industries and businesses who need it most—and who will continue to need it for the foreseeable future.  

With this in mind, we encourage you to ask: In this K-Shaped recovery, how would your administration provide targeted support to those industries, companies, and workers most in need?  

We look forward to a lively and informative debate. 

Best of luck, 

Suzanne Clark 

More Articles On: 

About the Author

About the Author

Suzanne Clark
President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Suzanne Clark is President of the US Chamber of Commerce, the largest business federation in the world.