WASHINGTON—The nation’s largest business organization has slammed socialism and far-left policies that have become popular among members of Democratic Party.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Donohue raised concerns about the growing disregard of the free enterprise system.
“Failed ideas like socialism or government-managed economies are steadily creeping into the political mainstream,” he said in his annual State of American Business address on Jan. 10.
“Here’s all you need to know,” he continued. “When a centralized government tries to plan everything for everyone, it provides inferior service for all. Even with its occasional flaws and excesses, no one has ever devised a better system than free enterprise.”
Founded in 1912, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce represents the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes. The chamber advocates for pro-business policies that create economic growth and jobs such as smart tax policy and regulatory relief. Its members range from mom-and-pop shops and local chambers to industry associations and large corporations.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m going to stick with the entrepreneurs, the innovators, and the dreamers,” Donohue said.
Donohue’s remarks came in response to growing support for far-left socialist ideas among Democrats. The suddenly prominent socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), for example, drew a lot of attention recently for suggesting tax rates as high as 70 percent to fund the “Green New Deal,” an ambitious new environmental agenda.
The freshly seated Democratic congresswoman told CBS that she supported a progressive tax rate system where a lower income group pays a lower federal income tax rate.
“But once you get to the tippy tops, on your 10 millionth dollar, sometimes you see tax rates as high as 60 percent or 70 percent,” she said.
Ocasio-Cortez also compared herself to Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt during the interview.
“It only has ever been radicals that have changed this country,” she said. “Abraham Lincoln made the radical decision to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. Franklin Delano Roosevelt made the radical decision to embark on establishing programs like Social Security.
“If that’s what radical means, call me a radical.”
‘Threat to Free Enterprise’
According to critics, the Democratic Party is moving further to the left, supporting proposals like rolling back Trump’s tax cuts and more government regulations.
Business leaders, however, have rejected this strong government approach, which is anti-free market. They have welcomed the tax cuts and deregulation efforts of the Trump administration. Business confidence and optimism have reached record high levels last year as a result of these pro-business policies.
Rising business optimism has also fueled job growth. Job openings surged to record-high levels last year and the unemployment rate fell to 3.7 percent for the first time in nearly 50 years.
In 2012, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce called Elizabeth Warren, who was then the Democratic Senate candidate, a “threat to free enterprise.”
Warren came under fire because of her opposition to the Keystone oil pipeline, her support for Obamacare, and her proposal to raise taxes on upper-income earners.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has also received criticism from small business owners recently after proposing a plan to force employers with five or more workers to provide two weeks of paid vacation.
New York City also hiked its minimum wage for the third time in three years. New York City’s minimum wage is now at $15 an hour.
Some economists, however, claim that government mandated pay hikes create pressure on business owners, leading to increased prices of goods and job losses.
During his State of the City Address, de Blasio also announced a new effort to protect renters, going as far as seizing properties from landlords.
According to critics, all these proposals represent a significant shift toward socialism and the centralization of power.
‘Optimism Is Consistently High’
During his address, Donohue also talked about the economic outlook.
“Our own surveys find that optimism is consistently high,” he said.
“Business owners tell us they have been encouraged by stronger economic growth. We have achieved a growth rate in the last year that many ‘experts’ claimed was out of reach. And it was driven in no small part by deregulation and tax reform.”
The chamber is also confident in the U.S. economy’s resilience and hence rejects any recession fears.
“Now, there are some who seem determined to talk us into a downturn. But rumblings of a recession just don’t match up with reality,” Donohue said.
“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.”
Donohue laid out the business community’s top policy priorities for 2019. Tackling workforce challenges such as the skills gap—the lack of needed skills among the workforce—was labeled by Donohue as a key priority for 2019. He also called on the president and Congress to fix the country’s broken immigration system.