Increased infrastructure investment will be critical to resuscitating the national economy in the midst of the novel coronavirus global pandemic, Thomas Donohue told an online international audience of business leaders, business owners and elected officials.
Donohue, CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, was the keynote speaker Tuesday during a chamber-hosted webinar, “The 2021 State of American Business.”
“We've been working on this for more than 20 years,” he said of investments in roads, bridges and broadband connections. “Let's find a way to pay for it and get it done.”
Donohue described the American business community as resilient, saying businesses have adapted to survive during the pandemic. Even so, he said, many small businesses are on the brink of closing and 10 million Americans who were employed in January 2020 are out of work.
Economic growth is possible by the second half of this year, he said, if elected officials and the business community work together. He supports rapid training programs to prepare the unemployed for job openings at companies in emerging sectors.
He also advocated for immigration reforms and an end to race-based systemic inequality in education, entrepreneurship and the criminal justice system.
Donohue cautioned incoming federal officials against making some moves, however, saying they would slow the recovery.
“Now is exactly the wrong time to hike taxes or pile on new regulations that do more harm than good,” he said.
Donohue stressed the need for elected officials and business leaders to find common ground.
Businesses and the economy were booming before the pandemic, so elected officials shouldn't undo the progress made under the Trump administration, he said.
Donohue doesn't support President Donald Trump's trade tariffs, however. He wants those lifted. And he doesn't support Trump's efforts to overturn results of November's presidential election.
“The president's conduct last week was absolutely unacceptable and completely inexcusable. By his words and actions, he has undermined our democratic institutions and ideals,” he said.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is launching two initiatives. One will bring together two legislators of different political parties to discuss one topic in a public forum. The other is a new center focused on civics, democracy and capitalism.