Business advocates Thomas Donohue and Bruce Josten are president and executive vice president, respectively, of the US Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Donohue and Mr. Josten were guest speakers at the April 8 Monitor breakfast in Washington.
The business community's improving relations with the Obama administration:
Donohue: "We appreciate some of the things that the president has done to change his song.... What we are having is a maturing of the president.... He is figuring out what he can do.... I don't think he has made a philosophical shift in what he believes and who he is.... He is accommodating himself to the most challenging job in the world."
The economic outlook:
Donohue: Japan's post-tsunami challenges "are going to have some effect on the economy because of what it is going to do to the automobile industry.... Still ... we have the potential of being in the first half of the year with 3.0 to 3.5 [percent] economic growth and the second half up a little bit, and hopefully we will create 2.5 million jobs this year...."
The possibility of the end of the era of cheap money, as European interest rates rise:
Donohue: "The real challenge for us as we see these massive increases in deficits in the United States ... is what happens when the interest rates go up a couple of points or more. Now you've got a multiplication of deficits beyond what we would even be thinking about on a bad day."
Josten: "Demographics are destiny. And you've got [an entitlement] system that was built upon the facts of demography 40 and 60 and 70 years ago. And demographic facts today are inverted compared to that model.... So we think [the Ryan proposal] is exactly the pathway to a trajectory to get the federal budget, spending, deficit, and debt issues under control."
Changing the tax code to reduce federal deficits:
Josten: "Broadening the base has got to be a part of this. One of the challenges that you can't overlook is you've got 47 percent of all tax filers [who] don't pay a penny in taxes.... It is not healthy ... for any democracy when half of the people in the system aren't contributing to the cost of the services...."
The US Chamber of Commerce's role in the 2012 elections:
Donohue: "There are a lot of vacancies going to take place in the Senate.... The Democrats have 2-1/2 seats at risk for every Republican seat [in play]. There are Democrats we will support. Second, one has to be almost paranoid about the House. The independent Republicans and the independent Democrats sort of shifted gear in a big hurry [in 2010]. And you know what pendulums do: They move back and forth.... You will find us significantly involved."