January 08, 2008
What Does Business Want in This Election Year
Posted by Daniel Sokol

The US Chamber of Commerce, the group that represents "3 million businesses, nearly 3,000 state and local chambers, 830 associations, and over 90 American Chambers of Commerce abroad" has released its priorities for 2008 in terms of legislation and regulation that should and should not be supported.

Legislation that the US Chamber supports:

  • Education and the Workforce- strengthen and reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act, Workforce Investment Act, and the Higher Education Act.
  • Transportation- reauthorize the FAA and the Airport and Airway Trust Fund.
  • Trade-support US free trade agreements.
  • Energy-expand exploration and push for full implementation of the innovative technology provisions contained in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
  • Intellectual Property-pass the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act.
  • Health Care-encourages widespread adoption of Health IT and Small Business Health Plans to expand employer-based coverage.
  • Capital Markets-secure a one-year delay in Section 404 compliance for smaller public companies and oppose proposals to increase shareholder activism.
  • Due Process Rights-push for passage of the Attorney-Client Privilege Protection Act.
  • Visa Reform-expand both temporary and permanent visa programs.
  • Small Business- lobby to allow small businesses to be reimbursed for attorneys' fees when successfully challenging the government's regulatory actions; work to pass the Small Business Liability Reform Act; and support a Small Business Administration reauthorization bill that includes strong and stable SBA 7(a) and 504 lending programs.

Of these, a number make sense.  On immigration (disclosure: I am a naturalized US citizen and first member of my family to become a US citizen) there are two types of immigration issues, neither of which are currently being adequately addressed.  The first problem is that of the lack of sufficient H1B visa for high skilled workers.  This should be the easier one to solve politically.  Highly skilled foreign workers in the US = increased innovation, more growth and more jobs.  I have yet to see any academic study that comes out with a conclusion that high skilled immigration is bad for the US.  Undocumented immigration is politically more divisive, as the Iowa caucuses reminded us.  The fact is that the US economy relies on undocumented workers in a number of industries, particularly in agriculture.  I wonder what exactly the US Chamber will lobby for to address the issue of undocumented immigrants.  I am a bit surprised that education aims does not include reforms to promote more higher education.  On trade, the US Chamber has been a big supporter of free trade agreements.  The number of free trade Democrats left in Congress perhaps may be counted on both hands.  This is a big change since Clinton got NAFTA passed.  The US Chamber (among others) needs to be more effective in explaining the benefits to the US economy of increased trade liberalization.  I think that the current administration has not been as effective on this as it needed to be.  On transportation issues, why doesn't the US Chamber focus on domestic infrastructure improvement for roads, rail and bridges (but not bridges to nowhere).  Sure, this is not sexy but a well functioning infrastructure is important  to economic growth and development.  Though the US Chamber does not endorse specific candidates, you get a sense from the list of which candidates business would want to support in the upcoming Presidential and Congressional elections.

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