What Obama Should Say to the U.S. Chamber

Stephen Herzenberg |

President Obama addresses the U.S. Chamber of Commerce today as part of his post-election effort to improve relations with U.S. business.

What part of U.S. business does the Chamber represent? Mostly big business and corporate CEOs — people who make many millions, often without risking any of their own money. That’s the only way to explain that the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the very rich was the top Chamber priority last year — even though this won’t benefit the vast majority of businesses.

According to Citizens for Tax Justice, only 5% of people who rely on active business income for more than half their income benefitted from the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. The same source also quotes the Congressional Budget Office finding that extending these tax cuts was the least effective way to create jobs of all the options then under consideration.

While the extension of the tax cuts doesn’t help the vast majority of businesspeople or the economy, it does put hundreds of thousands or millions in the pockets of the corporate chieftains who run the Chamber — Chamber CEO Tom Donahue himself pocketed an extra quarter million dollars per year.

Don Cohen and Peter Dreier have a great Huffington post today on the speech they wish Obama would give to the U.S. Chamber.

Looking forward, we need to document that recent U.S. economic growth — with enormous gains going to a sliver of executives — doesn’t help typical small business folks. Anyone know of a ratio of CEO to small-business income that goes back to the mid-1960s like the well-known ratios of CEO to worker pay?

Second, since the Chamber is not likely to change its stripes, it’s time to create or strengthen business organizations that will speak for the enlightened self-interest of smaller businesses that have a stake in their communities, their states, and their nations.