Bloomberg reporter challenges Commerce Chamber pres. over attacks on Obama

By David Edwards and Daniel Tencer
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 19:01 EDT
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The US Chamber of Commerce launched a political broadside against Democrats and the Obama administration Wednesday, accusing the administration of harming the economy through its health care reform and financial reform agendas.

“Instead of continuing their partnership with the business community and embracing proven ideas for job creation, they vilified industries while embarking on an ill-advised course of government expansion, major tax increases, massive deficits, and job-destroying regulations,” the Chamber said in an open letter (PDF) to the president.

“Through their legislative and regulatory proposals … the congressional majority and the administration have injected tremendous uncertainty into economic decision making and business planning,” the letter continued. “We call upon policymakers of all parties and philosophies to end the finger-pointing and work constructively with the job creators to reduce uncertainty, restore confidence, and restart the recovery.”

Many of the Chamber’s talking points are so similar to ones used by Republicans that it prompted The Hill to report that “the chamber … is now casting its lot with Republicans.”

The letter to the president coincided with a Chamber-sponsored “jobs summit,” currently taking place in Washington, DC.

Among the Chamber’s proposals to stimulate job growth was a call for the Bush-era tax cuts, set to expire at the end of this year, to be extended.

“In one bold, swift move, this would substantially boost investor, business, and consumer confidence and would infuse our economy with fresh momentum,” the Chamber said in its letter.

But that is an assertion that is hotly contested among lawmakers and economists. Many economic theorists say that, far from stimulating sustained economic growth, the Bush tax cuts widened the gap between rich and poor and created the strain on consumers that ended in the real estate market collapse of recent years.

The Congressional Budget Office has released reports showing that the tax cuts, enacted in 2001 and 2003, have contributed significantly to the US’s budget deficit. In at least one year since the cuts were enacted, the federal government would have run a surplus had the tax cuts not existed.

Extending the tax cuts for all earners would cost the federal government an estimated $2.2 trillion over 10 years; extending only the portion on people earning more than $250,000 would cost an estimated $678 billion over the same time period.

In a surprisingly confrontational interview, Betty Liu of Bloomberg TV grilled Chamber President Tom Donohue over the increasingly bitter, partisan tone of his chamber’s communiques.

“Is this [jobs] summit just to air what you think has gone wrong, or is there really going to be anything solid coming out of this?” Liu asked.

“We’re not airing any grievances with the White House,” Donohue said, arguing that his chamber wants to bring attention to job-creation policies.

“Did you invite White House officials to speak at this summit?” Liu asked.

“No, we didn’t,” Donohue replied. “We regularly invite White House officials to participate in our activities, often they don’t come. The cabinet secretaries come. Although the president was over the other day when the the president of Russia was here….”

Pressed again by Liu to explain why the Chamber wouldn’t want White House officials at their jobs summit, Donohue said the Chamber has “a very full agenda” and needs to concentrate on activities like “giving awards to job creators throughout the country.”

This video is from Bloomberg’s In the Loop, broadcast July 14, 2010.

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