U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue today delivered his annual State of American Business address. As he paints a fantastical picture of the unfair burdens imposed on Big Business, Donohue neglects to mention a few things, most importantly, that corporate profits are at record highs.
Of course, there’s nothing surprising here, since he gives pretty much the same speech every year. Still, a few comments are in order.
First, isn’t it a bit much for the rich and powerful to endlessly call for cutbacks in the nation’s leading anti-poverty programs, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid? If Tom Donohue is concerned about the government’s fiscal situation, perhaps he should acknowledge the unreasonably low effective tax rate on corporations. Or declare that it’s outrageous for two dozen profitable Fortune 500 companies to pay zero in federal income tax in the past four years.
Second, he whines about a “coming flood of new regulations,” even as we still suffer from the Great Recession, a direct outgrowth of too little regulation and enforcement. This complaint comes despite no evidence that regulation meaningfully impedes job growth and despite lots of evidence that regulation protects and creates new jobs (not to mention making jobs safer, better paid and equitability available).
Third, he urges more NAFTA-style trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a NAFTA-on-steroids that would encumber every country on the Pacific Rim. This call will come despite an abundance of evidence that this trade model has cost jobs, lowered living standards and undermined our sovereign ability to set our own safety and health protections.
Fourth, when Donohue says that “we’ve foolishly locked away too much of our resources on land and off our coasts,” and calls for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, he’s not only calling for massive corporate giveaways, he’s urging a speed-up of catastrophic climate change.
Last, when he says that the Chamber will continue to fight against “frivolous litigation,” he means that he aims to further restrict rights for victims of corporate wrongdoing.
Voters rejected the U.S. Chamber of Commerce agenda at the ballot box in 2012. Now it’s time for our elected officials to follow suit.
Robert Weissman is Public Citizen’s president.