Leaders of the business community gathered at Washington, D.C.’s Newseum on Oct. 9 to discuss what actions are necessary to break the gridlock in the nation’s capital and get the U.S. economy moving again.
The panel was moderated by BBC America anchor Katty Kay and consisted of Tom Donohue, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Former Gov. John Engler (R-Mich.), President and CEO of the Business Roundtable; Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers; and Matt Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation.
When asked if the wave of economic malaise that has hit the United States is the “new normal,” all of the panelists agreed it was not. “It should not be,” Gov. Engler said. “The U.S. could lead the world to a recovery if the government would just get out of the way.”
Referencing the recent decline of U.S. unemployment to 7.8 percent, Donahue said he was “glad unemployment was going down,” but that “we need to look at the broader number… unemployment remains at 14, 15, or 16 percent if you account for all those who have given up looking for work.”
Turning to taxes and their effect on economic growth, Gov. Engler said that the whole tax code needs to be rewritten to give businesses more certainty that taxes will remain relatively consistent. “We haven’t had a comprehensive rewrite of the tax code since 1986,” he said. “We’ve created most of these problems ourselves.”
“Fear of the worst scenario” is what’s driving the slow rate of recovery, Timmons said. “The government needs to stop being a barrier.”
When asked about what the “worst scenario” is, Timmons cited the impending fiscal cliff.
“I put the odds at 50/50 that we’re going to go over the fiscal cliff,” Gov. Engler said.
The panel briefly delved into energy policy and the role of politics in the process.
“Politics only get in the way of comprehensive energy policy,” Timmons said. “We need to embrace an all of the above approach, that includes solar and nuclear.”
The panel concluded by discussing the role of business in government.
“Government guarantees business involvement… businesses started to see that if they don’t get involved, someone is going to eat their lunch,” Donahue said.
“If people understand our positions, they’ll make the right decision,” Shay said.
At the conclusion, all of the panelists agreed that they were optimistic that businesses will pressure politicians to do what’s right for the country, and that our problems are solvable.
“Circumstances will create a position where power will have to do the right thing or pay the price,” Donahue said.