July 14, 2010
The Wall Street Journal
By: Elizabeth Williamson
Washington’s major business groups plan a united front Wednesday in their confrontation with the Obama administration over economic policy, calling on the White House to cut taxes and curb its regulatory agenda.
Business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and the National Federation of Independent Businesses will air a list of concerns about government policy at a “Jobs for America Summit” at the Chamber’s offices Wednesday.
The Chamber will issue an open letter to President Barack Obama asking that the administration cut taxes, act on pledges to expand export markets, and streamline government rules, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Wall Street Journal.
Summit participants include legislators with leadership roles on business-related congressional committees, including Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.); Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.); Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.); and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
Also attending from the administration side are Erskine Bowles, President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff and former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson (R)—the two men co-chair Mr. Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.
“There’s a lot more unanimity than you may have seen over the past year” among business leaders, particularly in their opposition to tax and regulatory policy, said Stan Anderson, executive director of the chamber’s Campaign for Free Enterprise, which promotes its job-creation policies.
“We are not going to engage in a debate over whether the White House is pro- or anti-business. We really want to talk about policy.”
The White House will issue a written response to the chamber’s concerns, an administration official said Tuesday.
The Obama administration, struggling with a 9.5% unemployment rate in a congressional election year, has made a series of economic announcements in recent weeks that have so far failed to quell business groups’ furor.
Mr. Obama last month pledged to renew efforts to move a South Korea free trade agreement through Congress, and to work on treaties with Panama and Colombia. This week, administration officials said they’ve asked business leaders to submit specific regulations that inhibit economic growth, and are open to a broad regulatory review.
In the letter, which was sent to the White House Tuesday, the chamber says this Congress has passed $700 billion in tax increases, and demands that all tax cuts passed in the previous decade be extended, including those to individual, estate, capital gains and alternative minimum taxes. “In one bold, swift move, this would substantially boost investor, business, and consumer confidence,” the letter reads.
To reduce the deficit, the chamber urges the government to trim entitlement spending, expand logging in national forests, and revive inactive leases on oil, gas, and shale reserves.
It urges passage of free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, estimating that 380,000 existing U.S. jobs will be lost to Canada and the European Union should they conclude agreements with the three nations before the U.S. does.
On the regulatory front, “What we’re looking at here is a tsunami of regulations coming online slowly because of legislation that has either been enacted or legislation that people expect in some form will be enacted,” said Bruce Josten, the chamber’s chief lobbyist.
The letter points out that the Environmental Protection Agency is moving forward with 29 major economic rules (a major rule would have an impact on the economy of at least $100 million) and 173 major policy rules.
Legislation overhauling financial-markets regulation now nearing passage in Congress would create more than 350 rule makings, 47 studies and 74 reports.
“You can find in these numbers a principal reason why businesses are so reluctant to make investments,” the letter reads.
The nation’s biggest business groups have become increasingly vocal in recent weeks, issuing public demands that the administration trim rules, speed trade deals and limit its intervention in private industry.
“I think the concerns have always been aligned but it’s really just a matter of tone and tenor,” said John Castellani, president of the Business Roundtable, which encompasses the nations’ biggest multinationals. Last month the roundtable, usually more friendly to the administration than the chamber, gave the White House a 54-page report detailing policies that it said are inhibiting growth.
Some in the White House express frustration with growing demands from businesses that it do immediately what takes months to accomplish in Congress.
“This economy is in a transitional phase and transitions engender uncertainty,” said Jared Bernstein, chief economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden.
“Addressing the long-term fiscal challenges, as well as the excesses of the financial sector, was essential.”