Executive Vice President, Chief Policy Officer, and Head of Strategic Advocacy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
August 25, 2023
August 22, 2023
Across America today, business is working. In the first seven months of this year, private sector employers have added one million individuals to their payrolls. Existing businesses are booming, and the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well. New business starts – the ones that are most likely to add new employees – have totaled 1,021,221 so far this year. At the current pace, 2023 is on track to be the second-best year on record for the formation of new employer businesses.
Even with this success, America could be doing much, much better if our elected leaders focused more on putting wind at the backs of small, medium and large American businesses.
With the presidential debates of the 2024 election season underway, here are a few of the issues candidates should be talking about over the coming months to strengthen America’s economy and global leadership:
The Worker Shortage
American employers are trying to fill 9.6 million open jobs, but for every 100 vacancies there are only 61 people looking for work. The labor shortage that began before the pandemic has only gotten worse. With Baby Boomers retiring and fewer younger people to take their place, this is likely the new normal. By 2031, labor force participation is expected to fall to over 60%, meaning more consumers and fewer workers, which will lead to more shortages and higher prices. What plans do the candidates have to ensure that we have a workforce big enough to meet consumer demand and keep our economy growing?
More than 40 million U.S. jobs depend on trade. Trade allows U.S. businesses to sell things to the 95% of the world’s consumers who live outside our borders and gives American consumers access to more choices and lower prices. Trade is important to large and small businesses alike: small businesses represent 97% of all exporters and about one-third of U.S. goods exports. Yet it has been more than a decade since we have signed a trade agreement with a new partner—leaving the number of U.S. trade deals in force stuck at 20. While we stood still, other countries raced forward, signing 100 new deals. Increasingly, this leaves American manufacturers, farmers and service providers at a disadvantage. Which of the candidates has plans to restart the trade agenda that expands opportunities for American job creators, workers, and families?
Government Policy Chaos
Perhaps the fastest-growing risk to businesses, whether large companies or new start-ups, is government policy chaos. According to research compiled by the Chamber, among companies that are required to publicly disclose risks that could impact their business, an astonishing trend has emerged over the past decade. The number of references to government policy has increased by 27% while references to normal business risks – changing consumer demands, reputational risk, financial risks – has remained essentially flat. It isn’t just overregulation – though that is an extremely concerning problem today. It is the fact that every couple of years, the government fundamentally changes its approach. How can businesses plan and invest for the long-term if the tax system, labor rules, energy requirements, and so on, are constantly changing every two to four years? How can candidates provide more certainty to small and large businesses by working with Congress (regardless of party affiliation) to provide smart, pro-growth policies that will last longer than the two to four years until the next election and secure American economic strength well into future?
Candidates focused on how we grow the economy and raise income and living standards for all Americans would also do well to avoid the divisiveness encouraged by some partisan activists on the far right and far left today.
As polling just released by the Chamber illustrates, it turns out voters aren’t interested in government dragging business into the culture wars or micromanaging business decisions. Letting consumers decide and the market work isn’t just good business sense, it is good political advice.
And for those who hope to have it both ways by standing up for small businesses while attacking big businesses or “big tech” companies: not so fast. Millions of small businesses rely on big businesses as customers and suppliers. Many of the new businesses created today exist only because of the platforms built by tech companies to reach customers. Candidates should take caution – political attacks against big business also undermine small business and harm the dynamism that makes America’s free enterprise system the envy of the world.
Business is working in America. This election season, we want to hear from candidates about their plans on how to make government work better.
About the authors
Neil Bradley is executive vice president, chief policy officer, and head of strategic advocacy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He has spent two decades working directly with congressional committee chairpersons and other high-ranking policymakers to achieve solutions.