Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Donohue said this week the expansion of oil and natural gas production will put thousands back to work, but thousands more could lost their jobs if Congress doesn’t pass transportation infrastructure legislation.
“We can say that the state of American business is improving—but it is doing so weakly, slowly, and insufficiently to put our nation back to work,” Donohue said in his annual State of American Business address on Thursday.
He said unemployment still is 8.5 percent, but the country still is down 6 million jobs since the recession ended, and 23 million Americans are still unemployed.
“Our nation’s highest priority must be to put these Americans back to work. To achieve this goal, our economy has to grow much faster than it is today,” Donohue said. “Unfortunately, we think the economy will actually slow down in the early months of the year.”
He said economic growth will about 2.5 percent in the first half of 2012, and then tick up to 3 percent in the second half. The chamber’s agenda for this year centers on developing domestic oil and gas production, and renewing transportation infrastructure.
Donohue called for President Obama to approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to transport oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast, which would employ 20,000 and create 250,000 jobs over the life of the project.
“Our nation is on the cusp of an energy boom that is already creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, revitalizing entire communities, and reinvigorating American manufacturing,” Donohue said. He said Congress also must pass a long-term surface transportation bill and reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration.
The nation should step up its efforts to expand trade because “95 percent of the people we want to sell to live outside the United States,” Donohue said. He praised the recent completion of free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, and the U.S. should push on with the Trans-Pacific Partnership and a pact with the European Union to eliminate tariffs.
Donohue said Congress should renew the president’s trade promotion authority, and the U.S. should pursue new trade agreements with Brazil, Egypt, India and Indonesia. The U.S. also should support Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization.
American enterprise is being smothered by an avalanche of new regulations. Donohue called for regulatory and financial reform, as well as reform of entitlement programs.
“Let me be clear. The Chamber supports necessary, sensible and forward-looking regulations,” Donohue said. “But when we see regulatory activism that is based on bad data, dubious authority, or pure politics, we will oppose it.”