tv Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas Donohue Delivers State of American Business... CSPAN January 14, 2019 2:35am-3:22am EST
the longest in u.s. history. watch the house monday live at noon eastern on c-span. the senate live at 3:00 p.m. eastern on c-span 2. on thursday, u.s. chamber of ommerce president and c.e.o. thomas donahue provided and assessment of the economy and business environment. this is about 45 minutes. [indiscernible voices] [applause] [video clip]
>> the american dream. >> the american dream. >> the american dream. >> the truth is there's never been one american dream. >> my american dream was to create a company that remembers, employees and empowers. a company that can help, a company that remembers how we became the greatest country in the world. >> coming from el salvador to this country, becoming a citizen and starting my own business and creating jobs for all citizens is my american dream. >> my american dream is to see people reach their full potential. that's what the american dream is about. >> we may have different american dreams, but business is how we reach for them. >> it combines opportunity, prosperity, and success. >> our company is the perfect example of when a company thrives, so does the community. everybody wins. >> every time i hear that one of my employees is buying a new house or sending their first child off to college, that a dream come true. >> the american dream is many american dreams come all linked by common ideals.
>> ideals like ambition and perseverance. >> innovation. >> courage and creativity. a part of my american dream is making sure we continue to be a nation that nurtures free enterprise and entrepreneurship, a nation that creates opportunity for those bold and brave enough to pursue it. >> i believe in american business. i believe in the american dream. >> i feel that i have accomplished my dream. ♪ >> ladies and gentlemen, mark wilson, ceo of chime solutions.
[applause] mark: good morning. >> good morning. mark: i am mark wilson, ceo of chime solutions. i'm proud to be a member of the u.s. chamber of commerce. i am someone who's been fortunate to continue to pursue my dreams and fulfill them. like so many others i come from odest means. my first big break was getting the opportunity to attend our nations first private istorically black college. that set me up for my first job, which paved the way for me to start my first company in the business outsourcing arena. i started that business with the idea that i would grow it over
time and have it be where it is that we could create jobs in the country. we grew that business substantially the first couple of years, and in 2015, we sold that company. i reassembled my team today, and we have started our current company, which also provides outsourced customer service. my proudest business accomplishment has been the creation of more than 4000 jobs between those two companies. [applause] mark: as 4000 individuals and families have depended upon me and my team, we have taken that responsibility very seriously. from the beginning, we have been intentional about creating jobs in the community. we wanted to create value for
our customers while providing opportunities for people. at times made a point of establishing our first fist in atlanta in a high employment area where jobs were needed the most. as you saw in the video, we repurposed an old jcpenney's and turned it into a state-of-the-art call center. we chose the location because it may great business sense. the mall had ample parking, food court, and eventually we were able to bring public transportation. most importantly, we had people ready to work, eager to ork. all that was needed was a belief in the community, some creative thinking about when and where an old shopping mall could be, and someone to invest in it. we have been proud to see how that investment has demonstrated high potential for all employees and helped restore economic
fiber and see to the community while attracting other businesses there as well. our dreams don't stop there. we have a vision for replicating this modeling creating more than 10,000 jobs in the u.s. and nine u.s. cities over the next two years. if you'd asked me why had been successful, i would tell you a number of things, but for sure i would tell you i've had to work hard. i have tried to take advantage of the opportunities that have come before me. i've gotten a few breaks along the way, but most importantly, i would tell you i believe my success is tied to my fervent belief that people matter. and the i have been willing to invest in them. i'm a member of the chamber because this organization shares my view that everyone should get a shot at success. the chamber understands the challenges that businesses and
individuals face, including those in minority communities. they have the reach and the solutions to do something about it. that is why i am proud to be the first member partner of the new institute the chamber will soon launch that focuses on diversity and inclusion in corporate america and amongst emerging businesses. this initiative will cover a number of core business issues, such as entrepreneurship, access to capital, supplier diversity, and more. it will build on the great work already underway at the chamber, which includes the next generation business partnership with historical black colleges and other minority-serving institutions. is designed to put more young people of color to work on a path to promising business careers. i'm excited to be a part of the new initiative and support the chamber's broader mission of
helping businesses and people to succeed. it's now my privilege to welcome the person who's led the mission for more than 20 years. tom donahue needs no introduction, but i want to take the time to thank him. so, tom, on behalf of all of the ob creators everywhere, i want to thank you for what you've done to continue to speak for business, to fight for business, and to help dreams like mine come possible. please join me in welcoming the president and ceo of the u.s. chamber, tom donahue. [applause] tom: thank you very much, mark. we are honored to have you with us today.
i'm very impressed with your business development plans. i know a lot of people have been trying to figure out what to do with the vacant shopping centers, and have at it. as we traditionally do, i will start by today at the 20th state of the union in america address. i'll start by giving you a little look at what we think about the economy. our own surveys find that optimism is consistently high. business owners tell us that we've been encouraged and they've been encouraged by tronger economic growth. we've achieved growth rate in the last year that many experts claim was way out of reach, and it was driven in no small part by deregulation and tax reform. the chamber now projects
continued growth of about 2.6% minimum for 2019. we expect that unemployment will remain low, that wages will keep expanding, and that inflation will be in the range of the fed arget of 2%. now, there are some seem to be determined to talk us into a downturn. but rumblings of a recession just don't match up with reality right now. even with all of the challenges in washington, uncertainties in the world, and fluctuations in the markets, strong economic conditions are expected to hold steady for the foreseeable future. these numbers are important. continued economic growth sets the table for almost everything else we want to achieve as a
country. but growth is not an end in itself. our economy is and always has been about people. so, today i want to discuss something more enduring than a set of numbers from a moment in time. and that is the role of the american dream, or more accurately the countless american dreams that together have propelled our nation forward for more than 240 years. you might say that the original american dreamers were the founders of our government who conceived a more perfect union, who led the grand experiment of a new republic anchored in religious, personal, and economic freedom. american dreamers took that freedom and ran with it. they applied their ideas, their
talent and toil to great american feats. the transcontinental railroad, the assembly line, the interstate highway system, the personal computer, the world wide web, and the internet of things. these and other innovations have allowed generations of americans o pursue their dreams. we talk about the american dream as a singular concept, but it comes to life in countless ays. we saw a small sample in the video this morning. without all of these dreamers, we could not have built the most dynamic and resilient economy on earth. our challenge today is to preserve it, to strengthen and
xpand the american dream and put it within the reach of every child, every family, every worker, and every ntrepreneur. that is how we in our time build a more perfect union and leave a country to our children and grandchildren that is even better than we have been blessed to know. the chamber's agenda for 2019 and beyond is built around the simple idea that we must harness her newfound economic strength to do everything we can to keep it going. and, to put it to work on behalf of americans who hope for a shot at their own, unique american dream. now, if i tried to spell out every part of this agenda, we would be here all day and all
night, and none of us want to do that. instead, i will highlight five priorities, tell you about a few other important pro-growth issues, and raise several long-term concerns that i believe is well worth careful thought and attention. the first thing we will talk about his workforce and immigration. orkforce is one of the two fundamental issues for economic growth. the other is investment capital. we must have a steady supply of talented, hard-working people to do the work of a modern economy so our nation can compete and ead.
we need the right policies, systems, and opportunities in place to prepare the people so that they can compete and succeed. it's no secret that our nation is currently falling short on both of these imperatives. we have people without jobs who lack the skills or education to fill open positions, and we clearly have jobs without people. employers tell us that positions are sitting vacant because they can't find workers they need when and where they need them. the chamber is at the center of that complex challenge. we are working to strengthen the foundation of opportunity by focusing on early child learning and k-12 education. we are promoting smart choices in postsecondary training so
students can get a return on their investment and earn credentials of value to the market. we believe that the future requires lifelong learning, so we must change the way that we think about a post-secondary education. businesses can help by training and retraining employers so that their skills remain sharp, current, and relevant. the chambers foundation is greeting business-led solutions, like talent pipeline management programs. and we have launched academies in 26 states to help businesses ource and train workers. we must not overlook those who
are on the sidelines, veterans and military spouses. they should have new opportunities to transition into the civilian workforce. older american should have incentives to work well past 65. i will say it again if you didn't hear it. [laughter] tom: the formerly incarcerated should have a second chance at building a productive life and starting with a stable job. and it is critical that we work together to tackle big challenges, including addiction and the inability of many americans to move where the jobs are. getting these people back into our economy will not only expand our talent pool, but it will expand and extend opportunity to those who perhaps have given up on their own american dreams. i'd like now to talk about
another critical piece of this challenge. it's a sensitive issue, but we have no choice but address it, and that's immigration. the fact is that employers don't have the workers they need at every skill level and in key industries such as healthcare, agricultural, manufacturing, and transportation. our nation must continue to attract and welcome industrious and innovative people from all over the world and finally fix our broken immigration ystem. tom: and as you know, this is a politically fraught issue. with passion running high ambleside's or on both sides, this is vexed our nation for many years.
compromise will be necessary, but it's possible because each side has something it wants and each side has been to give. so today, we are calling on the president and congress to come together to support a reasonable solution, protection for the dreamers and long-term temporary protected status beneficiaries, that's a mouthful. and the resources necessary to secure the border. the chamber will continue to fight for these and other reforms. the next thing i want to talk about is our infrastructure. you may have sensed it on your trip here today, your head bouncing against the top of the car. you may not think of infrastructure as integral to opportunity, but our highways,
bridges, ports and waterways have long stood as monuments to america's achievement, and they have literally moved the american dream. we want to keep it that way, which means we face the critical task of modernizing the physical platform of our economy, much of which has already outlived its ifespan. nearly everyone agrees that investing in our infrastructure is a major national priority. what is missing is a sense of urgency. things are only going to get worse, which is why were calling on our leaders to pass a significant infrastructure package this year. as everyone knows, the challenge is going to be how to pay for it. you have heard me say for years that a modest increase in the motor vehicle will fuel tax or
fee, but it is a tax and is a fee, which hasn't been adjusted or more than 25 years at the federal level can be a big part of the solution. i have also said that the chamber is open to viable lternatives. we have not heard too many other ideas since last year. so we are going to put some money on the table. the chamber will be offering cash prizes totaling $25,000 to those who can come up with the best most viable ideas for long-term sustainable funding for infrastructure. we want to hear from everyone students, academics, and business leaders, and the people out there that are doing the uilding. everyone. e will consolidate and publish
all of those ideas, and we will have a big debate starting on february 5 at our annual infrastructure summit. we will also talk about the chamber's other infrastructure priorities, including the urgent eed for permitting reform. we don't get that done, there won't be an infrastructure bill. and getting a whole army of people ready to do the work. today, if we were to go out and start an infrastructure project, we don't have the people to do the work. i have in dealing with these issues for more than 30 years, and it is my hope that the public and private sector leaders of this country and others will finally come
together and help build the next generation of u.s. infrastructure, a modern, safe, and efficient system that history will regard as one of the great american feats of the 21st century. is that too ambitious? good. let's do it anyway. now, the third issue that we are very sensitive and concerned about is trade. the modern trading system is america's great triumph. selling what is made in america, goods and services to the 95% of the world customers who live outside of the u.s. is absolutely fundamental to our growth and prosperity as a nation. in fact, 49 of every 50 u.s. companies that sell goods overseas are small businesses. many of them could not survive without trade, especially those in the american heartland. trade also supports more than 35 illion american jobs, a number that could dramatically grow or shrink based on our nation's
rade policies. to preserve and expand the robust trade that benefits so many americans our leaders should focus on several priorities. irst, we must advance strong new trade deals starting with the u.s./mexico/canada agreement. the usmca, i keep thinking u.s. marine corps, is a good deal and must be approved to maintain the relationship with their top two export markets. it must be approved by congress.
now that we have struck the deal with canada and mexico, the administration must also make good on its repeated promise to remove the steel and aluminum tariffs that were imposed in the heat of the negotiations. this would be an encouraging sign to all of our other partners, including those that we are currently pursuing new marketing openings with, like japan, the eu, and the u.k. hat about china? the chamber supports the administration negotiation to address china's theft of ntellectual property, forced technology transfer practices, and other unfair trade and industrial policy. what we don't support is the development of a trade war, which is being developed and waged through mounting tariffs. let me be very clear.
tariffs are taxes paid by american families and american businesses, not by foreigners. instead of undermining our own economy, let's work with our allies to apply pressure on china and use the tools provided by the u.s. and international laws that we helped to reate. [applause] tom: a final thought about trade. limiting trade is self-defeating. leveraging trade is essential to success in the global economy to creating jobs and keeping those growth numbers that people are concerned about. our fourth priority is restoring
responsible governing. progress on these priorities require responsible action by our nation's leaders and lawmakers. given the rocky start to this year, it's understandable that there are questions about what can be accomplished under a sharply divided government. the divisions are not just between the parties, they are also divisions within the parties. governing by crisis is no way to do the nation's business. our leaders must responsibly fulfill their duties, and not just because it's their job to do so, but because this function saps confidence, threatens growth, and consequently poses a threat to opportunity in this country.
for many years the chamber has rated and endorsed senators and members of congress based on their votes that they cast for or against business priorities. we did this in preparation for the elections. oday, we are announcing that for the first time in 40 years we are fundamentally changing the way that we measure lawmakers contribution to the economy and revamping our congressional scorecard. tarting with this congress, we we were not base our support for individual candidates solely on casting the right votes, though that remains essential. we will give lawmakers giving forward credit for showing leadership on good legislation. even if it doesn't pass or come for a vote. and we are going to take bipartisanship into account.
lawmakers should be rewarded for reaching across the aisle, not punished. you can get a copy of the new scorecard when you leave today, so do me a favor, share this with every senator and member of congress that you know. we want their feedback. either way, we want yours. e will make adjustments on the scorecard when we have the benefit of others' advice. ell them this, we gonna change the way we do business and we need their support to make it work. this new approach reflects our belief that many of washington's troubles, including dysfunctional division and instability, could be helped by rebuilding the political senate and restoring more responsible government.
[applause] our fifth priority is very important. it is protecting business. government is an important partner in creating the conditions for growth, but it is business that makes dream possible by spreading opportunity, creating jobs, and generating wealth. when businesses thrive, communities thrive, successful companies do a whole lot of good things through philanthropy and corporate citizenship. and is like the chamber is focused on defending the profoundly positive role of business in our economy and our society, and fighting back
against the tax and especially those on public companies. i am talking about a growing assault on companies who are being silenced, pressured or intimidated into advancing a narrow special interest. often at the expense of the company itself, their shareholders and their employees. and i would add, their customers. these attacks are coming from some activist investors. proxy advisory firms, mass-action and class-action trial lawyers, as well as political activists and politicians. they are a disincentive for companies to grow or to go and state public. and fewer public companies means
fewer opportunities for americans to build wealth through shared ownership. so, today, we are announcing that the chamber is launching an aggressive and comprehensive new campaign to meet these coordinated attacks head-on. we are pursuing regulatory and legislative changes that make it easier for businesses to go and state public, and that allows companies to focus on long-term growth. we are working with the sec and congress to bring real transparency and oversight to the proxy advisory firms and to reform the shareholder voting process. we are educating directors so that they are better armed to deal with public policy battles that are waged against and within boardrooms. we are vigorously opposing proposed legislation to federalize large private and public companies through the
requirement of a federal charter. that is one of the worst ideas i've heard in this town that knows no end to worst ideas. [laughter] tom: and we will work for a meaningful esg reporting that is grounded in reality and reflects the diversity of american business across the geography of this country. what we won't do is stand by and allow americans from all walks of life to be robbed of the opportunities to invest and take risk that is so essential to our prosperity and to the american dream. let me turn to several other important issues that i will
focus on very quickly. one is health care, which, as you know, makes up 18% of our economy. the chamber is focused on reforming the current system to reward value and quality, while continuing to work innovation and access. that means keep america the pharmaceutical innovation lab of the world and opposing price ontrols. it means finding the right policy mix so people get the quality care they need, while hospitals, insurers, and er's are able to keep operating. businesses can and will help make those numbers work. and it means giving workers and families the tools to take greater charge of their own health through innovative programs and products like health savings accounts.
we also have to respond to calls or government-run, single-payer healthcare, because it just doesn't work. we will use all of our resources to make sure that we are careful there. another key issue is energy. new and innovative ways to produce more american energy has lowered costs, improved efficiency, greatly benefiting businesses and families alike. but powerful forces want to reverse this progress. the chamber is intensifying its efforts to combat the keep it in the ground movement. we want to eliminate delays to permitting and promote new energy infrastructure to keep our resources and our economy moving. maintaining a dynamic and growing economy also requires
prudent regulation and legal reform. we will continue to seize opportunities in the agencies and in the courts to restore common sense to rulemaking, building on the progress of the last two years. america's court system drains hundreds of billions of dollars from our current economy every year and undermines the system of justice. the chamber will keep up its 20-year fight for commonsense legal reform at the federal and state levels, including fixing broken mass-action and class-action system, stopping asbestos litigation abuse, and pushing back hard against over enforcement.
we are also focused on robust cyber security. malicious cyber attacks cost our economy more than 100 billion dollars a year, and it is growing. cyber challenges such as protecting critical infrastructure, addressing liability concerns, require a coordinated effort by business and government, and the chamber is helping lead that partnership. we also continue to help businesses of all sizes understand, anticipate, and mitigate cyber attacks. finally, we can't overlook the reality that america's powerhouse economy has been fueled by advanced technology and intellectual property. he chamber advocates for rational policy solutions to capitalize on the promise of technology.
for example, the chamber is leading a multi-industry push for a federal data privacy law that will protect consumer privacy and promote innovation, and do it in a way that we have one good rule, not 50 separate rules. and we continue to lead the worldwide effort to safeguard intellectual property. which is essential to driving growth, creating jobs, saving lives, and solving big challenges at home and abroad. all of those issues, and others, that are important but too numerous to mention here today will help form our agenda in 2019. as you leave here today, you will receive a packet that includes our full policy
agenda. take a closer look at it. let us know what you think. i would be remiss if i didn't close by raising some of the bigger issues that transcend an annual agenda. whether we move forward on the big policy issues i address today will depend in part on the national and international environment in which we live and do business. plans, agendas, and indeed, economic forecasts can be easily sidelined by events we didn't anticipate, think about, or prepare for. so let me send you on your way today with a few things that are on my mind, and my list of concerns. and i would be interested to know what is on your list. you can drop me a note at any time.
first, authoritarian regimes are on the rise all across the globe. the u.s. and our allies spent the last 70 years working to expand democracy and freedom, which has played a large role in global growth and progress ever since. today, we face the task of ebuilding domestic consensus for supporting democracy abroad, and the chamber is poised to participate in that leadership. our center for international private enterprise shows how democracy can be advanced around the globe through private enterprise and market oriented reforms. and our international division made up of dozens and dozens of policy experts, numerous bilateral business councils, and
a network of more than 100 amcham partners helped form that policy. we must also reaffirm and modernize multinational, multilateral, and regional organizations, and cooperative arrangements such as the wto, nato, the eu, and many others. let's not lose sight of the extraordinary prosperity and peace they have helped provide for three quarters of a century. second, and closely related, free speech is under assault at home and abroad. when governments move from regulating conduct to regulating, or even suppressing, opinion, a dangerous line has been crossed. there is an answer to speech you
don't like. it is more speech. not less. the same is true in politics. we need more voices participating in the process, not fewer. and we must guard against any effort to silence the voice of business, or any other voice through threats, intimidation, or excessive regulation. thirdly, we have all marveled at the benefit from rapid technology advancement. but the misuse of technology and data by even a few bad actors is dangerous and invites the very thing i warned about last year, a tech lash. and then you risk strangling the goose that laid the golden eggs with overregulation. fourth, anyone who thought i wasn't going to mention the looming insolvency of our
entitlement programs doesn't know me very well. if we fail to act, it will be a one-two punch for the american dream. the most vulnerable will be left with a fraying safety net, and future generations will be left with a mountain of debt that makes today's debt look like the proverbial molehill. fifth and finally, there is a lack of appreciation for free enterprise and the system that helped create all our dreams. failed ideas, like socialism or government-managed economies, are steadily creeping into the political mainstream. here is all you need to know. when a centralized government tries to plan everything for
everyone, it provides inferior service to all. even with its occasional flaws and excesses, no one has ever devised a better system than free enterprise. i don't know about you, but i am going to stick with the entrepreneurs, the innovators, and the dreamers. ladies and gentlemen, american business is the product of merican dreamers, and is a conduit for american dreams. we are working to forge the world's most competitive workforce so businesses have a deep well of talent to draw from and people have broad opportunities to work and succeed. we are urging modernization of our nation's infrastructure because it is the foundation on which dreams are built. we are advocating for trade deals and not trade wars,
because continued growth requires global engagement. remember, 95% of our customers are outside this country. we are pushing our leaders to restore responsible governing and rebuild the political center so that washington and the states can be a help and not a hindrance. and we are advancing an agenda for growth now, and anticipating the challenges that threaten our prosperity later. and we are confronting a tax on companies and assaults on free enterprise, so that business can continue to do what they do best, create opportunity and fuel the dreams of all americans. we are on a mission of dreamers, even better, we are a nation where dreams can be
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