11/17/2010 09:18 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Road Ahead for a Nation at Risk

Election Day is now two weeks behind us. The analyses and recriminations were many, and the "What does it mean?" debates will likely continue until the next election, when they will begin anew. Such is life for those whose job it is to analyze and propound on such things. But for us, as the voice of business and free enterprise, we don't have the luxury of analysis and navel-gazing, for on so many fronts we are a nation at risk and we must be about the business of moving forward.

When we say we are a nation at risk -- borrowing a phrase famously used to describe the deplorable condition of our nation's schools -- we mean that our economy remains in a damaged state. We know how fragile this economy is because we are in touch with our members, business large and small across the country, every day. Today, our economy is simply not expanding fast enough to reduce unemployment and create 20 million jobs -- the growth we need to get us back to where we were before we plunged into the deepest recession in the post-war era. It would be all too easy to backslide. We have many ills to confront at once. We must stem the rising tide of regulations, address our faltering schools, modernize our crumbling infrastructure, and rein in skyrocketing deficits. We need a sensible trade policy that will spur exports and create jobs here at home.

The American people don't want status quo, they want their problems solved. To that end, we will be focused on the following areas going forward:

  • Supporting sensible regulations -- The chamber is adding resources, including a regulatory economist and greater activism in our two legal organizations, to support sensible regulations and oppose regulations that unnecessarily stifle job creation.
  • Doubling exports -- Launching a major education and advocacy initiative to change the debate on trade, highlighting the benefits, opportunities, and competitive realities to expanding trade.
  • Addressing the debt crisis -- Undertaking an "economic risk assessment" to identify threats and vulnerabilities to the explosion of government debt, and act on these risks through tax and entitlement reform and deficit reduction measures.
  • Rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure -- The chamber is releasing a series of annual performance indexes covering the major components of our nation's infrastructure -- transportation, energy, water, and broadband -- to document our needs and build the case for investments.
  • Creating an innovation society -- By launching the U.S. Forum for Policy Innovation, the chamber will drive serious education and worker training reform, expand corporate social responsibility across the globe, and preserve, protect, and advance the free enterprise system.
  • Empowering small businesses -- For small business leaders' voices to be heard, the chamber will leverage its federation to establish a team of small business advocates who will travel the country and speak to organizations and the media on the challenges facing entrepreneurs. This includes deepening our engagement with local chambers, young entrepreneurs, Hispanic and African-American businesses, while also highlighting the interdependence between small and large companies.
  • Defending free speech for businesses -- The chamber will redouble its efforts to defend our First Amendment rights to lobby, communicate with voters, communicate with employees, and do so without harassment or undue restrictions.

Internally, we plan to secure the chamber's fiscal future, completing a capital campaign with the goal of having $100 million in working capital in time for our 100th anniversary in April 2012. This will allow the chamber -- one of America's most highly-rated and positively-viewed brands -- to be protected and strengthened.

We were vigorous and active participants in the election which has now passed us. But now that the election is over, the time for governing, for problem solving, has come. We have said before that we intend to work with any party that will stand with us on our agenda. We can help our nation solve its problems -- beginning with the overriding challenge of putting America back to work. We intend to begin that important work today. It can't wait.