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An Open Letter to President Obama on the Jobs Summit

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"What I'm interested in is taking action right now to help businesses create jobs right now, in the near term. " - President Barack Obama, Jobs Summit, December 3, 2009

Dear President Obama,

Thank you for focusing on jobs. Your jobs summit yesterday helped bring our attention to policies that create jobs. We all agree that a jobless recovery is not sustainable. For those of us in business who have been calling for an end to massive government spending that will burden our children and grandchildren with unsustainable debt, it was encouraging to hear you say that, "We don't have enough public dollars to fill the hole of private dollars that was created as a consequence of the crisis."

I know you have received lots of ideas at this summit - many of which require even more government spending. As you head out to meet directly with small business owners in the coming days, you'll no doubt hear many new ideas for how the government can create jobs. Hopefully the message you'll hear loudest is that government doesn't create jobs - businesses do. And here are a few ideas that will create jobs so that more Americans with jobs can pay taxes and help reduce the deficit.

Get the trade agreements before Congress passed. Each of the agreements will cut tariffs for American exports thus allowing our companies to hire people. Ninety-five percent of the world's consumers live outside of the United States. Our companies need access to world markets, and the absence of free-trade agreements makes our products more expensive to global consumers. That forces American companies to compete with one hand tied back.

Take "Card Check" off the table. Entrepreneurial companies are less likely to hire people if they face a secret unionization movement. Unions are looking backward - rather than focusing on creating next-generation jobs. They are seeking to swell their ranks through anti-democratic and bureaucratic maneuvering. Union membership is falling because workers in an innovation economy need the flexibility to adapt their jobs to address market demands. Unions kill innovation.

Pass tort reform. The billions of dollars spent defending lawsuits comes off the bottom line and prevents investment in new employees and research and development. Whether it is a "loser pays" system or higher standards for liability - our nation's employers can no longer afford to subsidize the nation's more than one million lawyers. It is remarkable that opponents of tort reform could ensure that pending health-care legislation contains no tort-reform provisions. Don't let our entire economy be held for ransom by trial lawyers.

Stand by American's crown-jewel companies. We have great American companies that export. Our own antitrust regulators increasingly use vague definitions of monopolization, and this encourages Europeans to attack them. The record $1.5 billion fine against Intel is an example. Apple, Google, Qualcomm, Microsoft and others are all under attack. Defend them so they can hire more Americans. European governments stand up for their companies - we must too, particularly since our largest and best tech companies employ millions of Americans.

Encourage the best and brightest to come to the United States. This sounds counterintuitive, but every entrepreneurial immigrant in our country who creates a company and exports thereby creates additional American jobs. Many of our most successful tech companies were founded by immigrants and today employ millions. Where we once welcomed immigrants we now make it difficult for global entrepreneurs to take their ideas to America. Indeed, our convoluted visa process makes it nearly impossible even for business owners seeking to buy American goods and services to come to our country.

End talk of tax increases on job creators. As you noted in your remarks at the Jobs Summit, "many businesses are still skittish about hiring." There's a simple reason for that. For small business owners, tax increases take away not only the salaries they pay themselves, but also the money they would use to pay newly hired employees.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, stop runaway government spending. You understand that we cannot spend our way out of the economic downturn. As you said at the Jobs Summit, "while I believe that government has a critical role in creating the conditions for economic growth, ultimately true economic recovery is only going to come from the private sector."

Ironically, then, out of control government spending will stifle the ability of the private sector to spark the very recovery you seek. Why? Interest rates are at historic lows, which would be a huge stimulant to private-sector spending if (a) the private sector had capital to invest, and (b) credit markets were sufficiently open to small businesses. By the time these two impediments to private-sector investment have lifted, the government's spending orgy will have created a public debt so momentous that only a massive interest rate increase can pay the government's bills. And sky-high interest rates will kill nascent private-sector investment.

Mr. President, your Jobs Summit is a great sign that you recognize the vital importance of job growth to a sustainable economic recovery. Government can't make companies hire - but there are many things government can do to make hiring possible.

On behalf of technology businesses across the country, I urge you to take the necessary steps - outside of additional government spending - to create an environment that creates new jobs.

Gary Shapiro is the president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association.