Jan 14, 2016 - 1:00pm

The State of American Business 2016: More Work Ahead


Photo by Ian Wagreich / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce

In his State of American Business address Thursday, Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue offered a lens on the economy – through the eyes of American business.

“The reality they see is a little different than the picture portrayed by our political leaders in Washington, D.C.,” Donohue said. "They see an economy with some strengths but many weaknesses. They see a country with a huge upside potential but with many downside risks. They see an America that is stuck in the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression, with little forward momentum or dynamism. And they know we could be doing much, much better than we are today."

The key to getting the economy moving again: We must remove the impediments that are holding it back while unlocking the tremendous potential America has been blessed with in so many areas.

"The state of the American economy may be risky and uncertain, but our future is not. It’s bright—if we pursue the right priorities and policies," Donohue said. "In the coming year and beyond, we’re going to do everything we possibly can to win the policies that will create jobs, foster growth, and expand opportunity for every community and every American."

Here’s a closer look at the Chamber agenda for 2016 and what else Donohue had to say.

Regulatory Reform

“I can tell you that businesspeople at companies large and small wake up each morning and wonder what the government is going to do to them today. The current administration is on a regulatory tear—and this will continue until the day the moving van backs up to the door of the White House next January.”

-- Tom Donohue

  • The Chamber will continue to highlight the $2 trillion annual price tag businesses pay to comply with hundreds of thousands of regulations.
  • We are already challenging the so-called Clean Power Plan (CPP), the Waters of the U.S. rule (WOTUS), and the administration’s new ozone rule.
  • The Regulatory Accountability Act is a major priority this year. It would ensure that the few regulations costing over a billion dollars — and having nationwide impact — would be narrowly tailored, supported by credible data and evidence, and impose the least possible burden while still implementing congressional intent.

Entitlement Reform

“Now let me dare to go where most politicians fear to tread: The Chamber is going to bang the drum loudly throughout 2016 and beyond on the urgent need for entitlement reform.”

-- Tom Donohue

  • Programs like Social Security and Medicare will become insolvent sooner than you might think. Commonsense reforms now can ensure that the nation’s social safety net remains intact and that we have money for other important national priorities like education and national defense.
  • There can be no solution to the nation’s long-term fiscal imbalances and our exploding national debt that does not involve reforming Social Security and Medicare, and for state budgets, Medicaid.

Capital Markets

  • So many new regulators have been turned loose on our financial sector that banks have been distracted and deterred from their critical primary purpose—to provide the credit and financial products that enable our businesses to grow and our entrepreneurs to thrive.
  • We’ll continue to fix the provisions in Dodd-Frank that the law got wrong, add the provisions that the law left out, and replace the provisions that just don’t work.
  • We’re going to support reforms to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau while insisting that they go through normal processes to make rules, not backdoor enforcement or regulation by press release.

Legal Reforms and Advocacy in the Courts

  • The Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) and U.S. Chamber Litigation Center will work to remove barriers to growth by pursuing legal reform at the state and federal levels and representing the business community in the courts.


  • The Chamber will continue to make the case for comprehensive tax reform to lower corporate and personal tax rates, broaden the base, and simplify compliance.
  • We will work to end double taxation of foreign source income and prevent one-off tax increases on businesses, either to pay for unrelated spending initiatives or as punitive measures.
  • The Chamber will work to fully and permanently repeal the Cadillac tax, the health insurance tax, and the medical device tax.

Workforce Reforms

  • One of the most significant barriers to the long-term success, growth, and competitiveness of the United States is our broken immigration system, problems in our K-12 schools, and our often ineffective worker training programs.
  • Immigration reform is an economic and social necessity – and a reflection of who we are as a nation. We will never give up on this front because we must have talent and workers to keep up with the demands of an innovative economy and the costs of an aging society.
  • We applaud the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act and are already working to ensure it is successfully implemented — especially its accountability provisions. Additionally, we’re encouraging more students to study in the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
  • We’re working to ensure that reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education bill reflects business needs and train students for jobs that are available now—and in the future. 


"Given the weakness in global demand, we must do everything possible to remove trade barriers, form new commercial partnerships, and aggressively market American goods and services in traditional and nontraditional markets."

-- Tom Donohue

  • The Chamber has announced its support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. As we build support for the agreement, we are also strongly encouraging the‎ administration to work with Congress to address legitimate concerns expressed by industry and legislators.
  • We are leading the business community’s efforts in support of a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the EU. Both economies need the lift that such an agreement would provide.
  • We’re working on a Trade in Services Agreement, and pursuing bilateral investment treaties with China and India.


“Expanding America’s energy supply is another priority where progress can and must be made. We can and should be developing all kinds of energy and discriminating against none."

-- Tom Donohue

  • When it comes to energy, we should be developing all kinds and discriminating against none. The long-term need for energy is dramatically increasing.
  • Responsibly expanding production on federal lands can help put folks back to work in the hard-hit energy industry and those that rely on it.
  • The Chamber wants to expand emission-free sources like nuclear and renewables and press for greater gains in energy efficiency. We also are calling for an end to the regulatory assault on coal, an integral part of America’s energy mix.


  • With the right policies and public-private cooperation, technology can continue to be a major opportunity and a competitive advantage for the United States. Our Center for Advanced Technology and Innovation will marshal the many assets of the Chamber to help make sure our country remains the world’s undisputed technology leader.
  • For American technology to thrive, our tech entrepreneurs must be able to access talent and capital. They need strong IP protections and need to be treated fairly and sensibly by domestic, European, and other regulators on issues of data flow and privacy.

Infrastructure and Cybersecurity

“Then there are the many threats to our cybersecurity, which have the potential to shut down companies, our critical infrastructure, and our way of life. Businesses and governments are already spending billions of dollars to try to shore up the defenses of our cyber systems.”

-- Tom Donohue

  • While the passage of Chamber-backed cybersecurity information sharing legislation was critical, it is only the beginning. Our Chamber experts will work throughout the year to educate companies on the threats they face and work with them to protect their data systems.
  • The Chamber’s 2016 infrastructure priorities include reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration — which expires in March — and the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, which expires in September.

Moving Forward

Donohue noted the lessons that can be taken from 2015, when many said D.C. was too divided to get much done.

“Working with others, we successfully advocated for Trade Promotion Authority, an end to the outmoded oil export ban, a multiyear transportation bill, reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank, the permanent extension of several tax provisions and multiyear extensions of many others, historic permitting reform to speed up projects, and critical cybersecurity legislation,” Donohue said, adding that “these victories enjoyed strong bipartisan support—and that’s been a long time coming.”

The Chamber will continue to make its push in 2016 for jobs, growth and opportunity.

“Winston Churchill—who seemed to understand America better than many of our own citizens—once said: ‘Some regard private enterprise as if it were a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look upon it as a cow that they can milk. Only a handful see it for what it really is—the strong horse that pulls the whole cart.’ Ladies and gentlemen, private enterprise has been shot at enough. And it has been milked unmercifully. It’s time to recognize that business can be that sturdy horse pulling the whole cart forward. Just give us a chance to show America what we can do.”

-- Tom Donohue

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