U.S. Chamber of Commerce Unveils Job-Creation Plan

Chamber lays out action steps that can be taken now 'without increasing the deficit.'

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said it will present a job-creation plan next week to President Obama and Congress that tackles high unemployment without deepening the public deficit.

The chamber is finalizing a letter with specific steps that can be taken now "without increasing the deficit," said Thomas Donohue, chamber president and CEO.

"We need action now," Donohue said.

About 25 million workers are unemployed, underemployed or are new entrants to the workforce, he said, as the world's largest economy struggles more than two years after the Great Recession officially ended.

"We're losing some of our traction," he warned.

The annual press briefing ahead of the Labor Day holiday came against the backdrop of persistently high unemployment and slower than expected economic growth that has put jobs creation at the crux of Washington's agenda.

President Obama requested a joint session of Congress on Sept. 7 to unveil his keenly awaited new jobs plan in a primetime televised speech.

"It is my intention to lay out a series of bipartisan proposals that the Congress can take immediately to continue to rebuild the American economy," said Obama in a letter to congressional leaders.

Any proposal that would require new outlays is likely to run into opposition from Republican lawmakers, who refuse to spend more or raise taxes to reduce the country's bulging deficit. But a nagging jobless rate near 9% for more than two years is hampering the recovery; the economy grew less than 1% in the first half of the year.

The Labor Department on Sept. 1 is expected to report that the unemployment rate remained stuck at 9.1% in August for the second straight month as employers appear reluctant to hire in the face of tepid demand for goods and services.

The chamber outlined six areas where steps could be taken to increase employment:

  • Trade -- Passage of three long-pending free-trade agreements -- with Colombia, Panama and South Korea -- would save 380,000 U.S. jobs, according to the chamber.
  • Energy -- Develop resources, principally oil and gas, on federal and private lands, and offshore. Donohue hailed the Obama administration's backing of a controversial proposed pipeline to bring oil from Canada's tar sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast, criticized by some environmentalists. The massive Keystone XL project "is a sure thing" that will create 250,000 jobs "in a big hurry," Donohue said.
  • Infrastructure -- Approve a highway bill that is paid for primarily from user fees. "We support an infrastructure bank" that would not require much federal spending, "if any," he said. Global private-investment firms have an estimated $250 billion that could be invested in U.S. infrastructure, according to the chamber. Unlocking this capital would create up to 2 million jobs.
  • Travel and tourism -- Do more to promote visitors, especially at a time when a weaker dollar should make the United States a prime destination. Heightened security after 9/11 and the State Department's slow visa process are making some feel visitors feel unwelcome. "People are going other places," Donohue said. If the number of visitors could return to the 2000 level, it would add 1.3 million jobs, according to the chamber.
  • Regulatory relief -- Halt a stream of new regulations. Obama should issue an executive order telling government not to issue any discretionary order until the economy improves.
  • Taxes -- Grant businesses a tax holiday on money repatriated from overseas, which would bring back up to $1 trillion and create 2.9 million jobs over two years, according to the chamber.

Donohue acknowledged that the business organization has been lobbying government for some of the proposals for a while.

"The reason you're hearing them again is they haven't done a damn thing about them," he said.

Donohue said the chamber looks forward to seeing other plans, but that "this one doesn't cost."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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