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The Same Old Story: Why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Needs a New Tune

689ae4aa96918309a85cd43843e2971aEvery January, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue gives a speech detailing the organization’s agenda.

Each year, he touches on the same tired arguments about how America needs more so-called free trade, greater investments in dirty energy, and less government oversight, and then  rattles off a laundry list of supposed unfair burdens to business.  One of his favorite targets is government oversight through regulation.

2011 – “In recent years, we have seen an unprecedented explosion of new regulatory activity. Furthermore, the administration is likely to turn increasingly to the regulatory agencies now that getting legislation out of Congress could be more difficult. The resulting regulatory tsunami poses, in our view, the single biggest challenge to jobs, our global competitiveness, and the future of American enterprise.”

2012 – “The regulatory avalanche confronting our job creators is unprecedented.”

2013 – “Here’s another big issue for us. We need to address the coming flood of new regulations that will discourage our job creators and damage our competitive edge in the global economy.”

And this year was no exception:

2014– “How will an avalanche of confusing and conflicting regulations on energy, the environment, capital markets, and workplaces impact business operations just as things are starting to hum?”

But bemoaning a purported regulatory attack on business was even less credible than usual following a year where both corporate profits and stock prices have hit all-time highs.

To counter Donohue’s over-the-top rhetoric, here are just a few examples of how smart regulations have helped the economy:

  • The Dodd-Frank financial bill helps to protect us from a repeat of the 2008 financial crash, which contributed to the loss of 8.8 million jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Regulations requiring better light bulbs helped create new growth opportunities by expanding research and manufacturing efforts in an otherwise static industry.
  • Regulations created by the Family Medical Leave Act (a measure opposed by the U.S. Chamber) had a positive impact on employee productivity. Two independent surveys, conducted in 1996 and the 2000, found that three times as many business owners thought the Act had a more positive impact on employee productivity, than did a negative one.

Donohue’s speech recycled old rhetoric which is easily debunked, but it didn’t get to the heart of the real problem: how do we make our economy work for all Americans?

That’s the question we should all be trying to answer.

Jake Parent is the coordinator of Public Citizen’s U.S. Chamber Watch. To learn more about U.S. Chamber Watch, follow @uschamberwatch on Twitter and sign up for email updates