This column originally appeared in the The Columbus Dispatch.
By Thomas J. Donohue
It seems like every politician in Washington has a jobs plan these days — or is at least promising one. While the focus is welcome, Americans are right to question whether the ideas are sound and whether all the talk will translate into action. At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, we believe the time for rhetoric has come and gone. Twenty-five million Americans are unemployed, underemployed, have given up looking for work or are brand new in the workforce and can’t find jobs. They deserve to hear detailed, common-sense ideas that will at least jump-start job creation. What they aren’t interested in are empty promises or temporary, artificial government jobs that won’t last but will add to the deficit.
There are some practical, private-sector ideas that can be quickly turned into action. We’ve put them together into a plan we’re sending to the president and every member of Congress:
• Expand trade and global commerce. Congress has the tools to open new markets and create new American jobs by passing the pending free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. Doing so would save 380,000 jobs and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. The administration can immediately modernize export controls, allowing U.S. businesses to expand trade to the tune of 340,000 new jobs. We must also complete a Trans-Pacific Partnership and initiate trade talks with the European Union to spur U.S. exports to global economies. Congress can take immediate steps to safeguard 19 million intellectual-property-related jobs and create new ones by passing a patent-reform bill, along with legislation to shut down rogue websites.
• Produce more American energy. Let American energy workers responsibly develop all sources of domestic energy. By opening up offshore resources, we could create almost 250,000 new jobs. Expanding access to federal lands for oil and gas exploration would add 530,000 new jobs. Development of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale, as well as other resource-rich shale reserves, could generate 116,000 new jobs in Pennsylvania alone by 2020. And approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, connecting Canadian oil fields to refineries in Texas, would support 250,000 energy jobs.
• Speed up infrastructure projects. Passing a multiyear highway bill with adequate funding would enable states and communities to plan projects, hire employees and prevent layoffs. Removing regulatory and permitting obstacles to 351 stalled energy projects would create 1.9 million jobs annually. Eliminating impediments to $250 billion in global private capital for infrastructure projects here at home could create 1.9 million jobs in 10 years.
• Welcome tourists and business visitors. The travel and tourism sector already accounts for $700 billion in revenues and 7.4 million American jobs. We can create 1.3 million more jobs by 2020 just by restoring the U.S. share of the travel market to its 2000 level. We can do so by removing the hassle factor of visiting the United States, expanding the visa waiver program, promoting America as a premier travel destination and reforming the visa application process to ensure consistent, fair and timely procedures without compromising security.
• Streamline permits and provide regulatory certainty and relief. America’s economy and job creators need relief from a staggering amount of new regulations and mandates. The president should issue an executive order prohibiting agencies from issuing discretionary regulations that would have a substantial economic impact — until the economy improves.
• Pass job-creating tax incentives. Congress should swiftly enact pro-growth tax measures that stimulate business expansion without adding to the deficit. A repatriation holiday — reducing taxes on profits earned overseas — could bring at least $1 trillion back to America, creating 2.9 million jobs over two years of implementation. Congress should also temporarily reduce the capital-gains tax rate to help companies restore their balance sheets and free up cash for investment and hiring.
Timely action could significantly ease uncertainty, get existing capital off the sidelines, spur business and consumer activity and create American jobs — without adding to the deficit.
Now that Congress and the president are back in Washington, they must get to work so the 25 million Americans who are unemployed or underemployed can find work. Join us — and our network of three million businesses — in urging lawmakers to act now.
Thomas J. Donohue is the president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.