U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue. Pool/Getty Images
If one of new White House Chief of Staff William Daley's most urgent jobs is to get big-business types to see the Obama Administration as an ally and not a foe, he apparently has much work cut out for him.
President Obama has, rightly or wrongly, been pegged by corporate chieftain types for much of his presidency as bad for business.
And the sense that his administration remained more a hindrance than help to U.S. businesses was a major theme in a speech Tuesday by Tom Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and one of Washington's most important lobbyists.
Donohue criticized the Obama administration on a number of fronts which mostly added up to the creation of regulatory drag and uncertainties which were keeping U.S. captains of industry from marching boldly into the future with new investments and hiring.
Thus, Donohue said the chamber would work with congressional Republicans to repeal the new health care law.
Workers who have been banking on employer-based coverage when they retire are being told not to count on it. And as premiums rise, thanks in part to the law’s new mandates, many companies are thinking about ending their employer-based plans, and moving workers into government-run exchanges.
By mid-December, HHS had already granted 222 waivers to the law—a revealing acknowledgement that the law is unworkable. And, with key provisions under challenge in the courts by states and others, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
The new financial regulatory overhaul law came in for special criticism, too.
We are particularly concerned that the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau does not use its broad authority in ways that deny small businesses and consumers the credit and financial products they need.
We want to make sure that Main Street end-users are still able to use derivatives in an effective way to manage their legitimate business risk—without sidelining billions of dollars in productive capital and costing tens of thousands of jobs.
And although our pending litigation against the SEC over its proxy access rule has delayed its implementation, that battle is far from over...
He blasted the Labor Department for a wider away of worker pay and safety initiatives and the Environmental Protection Agency of efforts to regulate greenhouse gases.
Even the Obama Education Department came in for criticism because of its efforts to crack down on for-profit colleges for leaving some students with huge financial aid burdens and uncertain job prospects.
To be fair, Donohue's criticisms extended beyond the Obama Administration. China was criticized for boosting its domestic industries at the expense of U.S. businesses and its failure to curb intellectual property theft.
Donohue also took a shot at trial lawyers who he accused of taking advantage of all the new regulations by filing lawsuits.
The chamber did find some a few areas of agreement where it could work with administration. For instance, Donohue said it would help Obama win passage for trade agreements.
And in the areas of creating jobs and fiscal responsibility, he allowed how as the chamber could support measures even some it found disagreeable, because of the urgent need to spur the economy and narrow deficits and the national debt.
National Journal interpreted this as Donohue signaling congressional Republicans that his group might not support all their proposals for deep spending cuts.
Donohue’s comments recognize a growing consensus in Washington that budget cuts of even $50 to $60 billion—let alone the $100 billion outlined in the House GOP's "Pledge to America"—will be a tough lift for House Republicans during a weak economy. The speech also offers an opening for policymakers seeking a grand fiscal bargain combining spending cuts, revenue increases, and some form of entitlement reform.
As to any failings of Big Business that might be counterproductive to the U.S. economy's growth and job creation, Donohue didn't offer much on that score.
He did say, however, that the chamber had launched a study to examine where not just federal policy but business practices were interfering with the creation of U.S. jobs and growth.
We are examining, in a factual and objective way, the actions by our government and the actions by the business community that are either moving us forward in the global economy or holding us back. We’ll then compare it to what our competitors are doing. Our goal is to identify the major factors that shape the decisions of job creators, innovators and investors—to pinpoint our strengths so we can build on them and our weaknesses so we can fix them.