U.S. Chamber girds for 2009
The U.S. economy will post negative productivity of at least 5 percent for the fourth quarter and will contract by more than 3 percent in the first quarter of 2009, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce predicted Wednesday.
The economy should bottom out halfway through the year, but further problems in the credit markets or other external shocks could prolong the recession. The job market is also grim, with the unemployment rate expected to reach 8.5 percent to 9 percent later this year, the chamber said.
The world’s largest business federation outlined its agenda for getting the economy back on track in 2009 in its annual “State of American Business” report. It called for quick passage of a large government spending bill focused on ready-to-go infrastructure projects to jumpstart consumer spending and investment, ensuring that public and private safety nets are sufficient to help Americans in need through the recession, avoiding trade isolationism and tax increases, and enacting broad reforms to bolster U.S. competitiveness.
“Congress and the new administration should take great care in all the policies they consider. If a proposal would add to the burdens already facing employers — if it would pile on costs, regulations or lawsuits — then it should be delayed, changed or rejected,” chamber President Thomas J. Donahue cautioned, saying businesses are the ones that create jobs and wealth.
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The chamber repeated its support for action to open more foreign markets, completion of the multilateral Doha trade agreement and strengthening Trade Adjustment Assistance. Government should help small businesses become exporters by significantly boosting export promotion programs geared to small companies, Donahue said. The business organization also wants to open trade with Cuba and further reform of export controls to streamline licensing, especially to support defense and security cooperation with U.S. allies.
It said further infrastructure investment from the private sector could be unlocked by removing legal and regulatory impediments.
Donahue said the organization will work to enact the stimulus bill, infrastructure reinvestment, energy development legislation and other policies, but “will not hesitate to vigorously fight wrong-headed proposals when necessary,” such as the card check approach for making union organizing easier.
“We will oppose other union-backed measures to mandate paid sick leave, impose ergonomics rules, or have government arbitrators force contracts down the throats of employers. These ideas add up to one thing — the elimination of American jobs,” Donahue said.
“Based on the reports we have seen and the conversations we have had, the chamber is very encouraged by the direction the president-elect is taking with his recovery package. This includes not only tax cuts for workers and businesses, but also his strong emphasis on infrastructure,” Donahue said. ' Eric Kulisch