Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Chamber of Commerce president denounces regulation before a friendly crowd in Minneapolis

Tom Donohue
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Tom Donohue

What, according to business, is the greatest impediment to economic and jobs recovery? As framed by Tom Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the answer is regulation.

 “We think this onslaught of new mandates and restrictions is the biggest opposition to creating jobs,” Donohue told a crowd of about 250 at a meeting in Minneapolis Tuesday afternoon of the Economic Club of Minnesota, a non-partisan group that tilts center-right.

Donohue, not one to overlook a good metaphor, described today’s regulatory climate in terms of a killer storm.  “We live in the middle of regulatory tsunami and we better do something about it or it’s just going to choke us to death,” he said.

While Donohue didn’t endorse a Reagan-era approach to regulation extinction (“we need  traffic regulation, we need air traffic regulation, we need food safety regulation”), he rejected the argument that regulatory reform could be pushed too far, with costly and undesirable consequences.     

Donohue’s outrage is directed at a trio he views as impediments to job recovery. Topping the list is health care reform. Overturning it is target number one for the U.S. Chamber. Donohue refers to it as the “Doc Deal” that requires and creates 185 new agencies, commissions, panels and other bodies. He promises that the Chamber will offer “six or seven ideas that will fix it.”

As for the financial reforms passed last year: “We have to go out and embarrass people about this bill,” which he says still does not address the cause of the housing collapse. He terms the new consumer protection agency “the most expensive and intrusive and strangling organization you ever saw in this business anywhere. I think it’s time to make a major change.”

Then there are the public employee unions, which he criticizes for “extraordinary” pensions and pay and which he sees as a major obstacle to international trade reform, one the U.S. Chamber’s top priorities.

 “Where the hell do public employee unions get [off] spending tens of millions of dollars to try and kill trade deals?” he asked.  Enact trade agreements with Korea, Panama and Columbia and get rid of European Union and U.S. tariffs on manufactured goods, and “you’ll hear heads snapping all around the world.”  

“Yes, we are against out-sourced jobs to China,” said Eliot Seide, executive director of AFSCME, a Minnesota public employees union, when asked about Donohue’s comments.  “Every time government cuts a public employee job, Main Street loses a customer.”   

But Donohue’s comments got no pushback from the Economic Club crowd.

David Olson, president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, says the agenda is “right in line” with the Chamber’s.

Teresa Bohnen, president of the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce, concurred: “I think he reflected a lot of what we’re hearing at chambers of commerce across Minnesota, particularly the regulation pieces.”
Seide, defending the role of public employees in an economic recovery, calls the U.S. Chamber agenda “a kill your customer approach.”
Donohue is unshakeable that it’s the other way around. “Overregulation can do the ultimate damage,” he told reporters after the speech, “which is to wreak so much havoc to the economy that all of the good things you want to do are overridden by people being out of jobs, out of their houses, and in desperate circumstances.”

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 01/19/2011 - 09:58 am.

    Yes, because businesses always will do the right thing, and never put profits over consumers. That is why regulation rollback can’t be “pushed too far.” Cadmium paint on kids toys: didn’t happen. Substandard cement and skipped procedures in the Gulf: didn’t happen. Banks rubber-stamping forclosure papers: didn’t happen. Military families being illegaly foreclosed on while on active duty: didn’t happen. Salmonella in peanut butter (and spinach, and red peppers…): didn’t happen.

    Life is very easy when one can just ignore facts and categorically state that over-regulation is the root of all evil. And please, lets not blame the over-streched regulators and say that they missed all these things. Somehow the fact that we can’t catch all of the rule-breaking is turned into an argument that we need less regulation, when the more rational answer would be: hmm, too much monkey-business happening, let’s increase our inspection/enforcement capabilities.

  2. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 01/19/2011 - 10:27 am.

    Sooooo….is Cyndy still doing work for the Chamber, outside of her shilling here?

  3. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 01/19/2011 - 11:02 am.

    Hey Tommy, ever stop to think that, had there been more effective regulation, there may not even be a need for an “economic and jobs recovery”? How does he even sleep at night?

  4. Submitted by Hénock Gugsa on 01/19/2011 - 12:13 pm.

    “We live in the middle of regulatory tsunami ….”
    But wasn’t it de-regulatory tsunami that nearly brought the country to its knees a couple years back?

    “Overregulation can do the ultimate damage.”
    Hahahaha …
    Are you really over-regulated, Mr. Donahue?!
    What’s that saying? Give them an inch, they want a foot; give them a foot, they want the whole nine yards and more!

  5. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 01/19/2011 - 01:37 pm.

    And so I wondered, who really is Tom Donahue?…..

    All I can say is, if Tom D. is considered a respectable mentor-speaker for the Chamber of C crowd even if he is still top C-man from D.C….one can only assume the like-minded audience arrived in appropriate style…like Armani-designed orange jumpsuits?

    Seems like Tom, the man, should be regulated?

  6. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 01/19/2011 - 01:53 pm.

    …He promises that the Chamber will offer “six or seven ideas that will fix it.”…

    More than a year after this round of health care reform and they still don’t have ideas to present?!?!

    Not to mention that it is almost 20 years after the Clinton-era reform was killed.

    What would be the MOST business friendly way of dealing with health-care?

    Remove it from the responsibility of employers. Make it a tax-based system–single payer. Cut the money wasted on the insurance process from the health-care system. Drive health-care costs toward what other industrialized pay per capita–literally half of what is now being paid by the US economy. Make the US economy more competitive in the world market as a result–savings equivalent to about $6/per hour per worker.

    Win for employer, win for employee, win for economy.

    What do they pay these guys for?

  7. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/19/2011 - 02:29 pm.

    I was about to launch into a tirade, but Neal (#6) says it as well as I could, especially in regard to health care. Really, Mr. Donohue must have failed every math class he ever took, since even a cursory look at health care numbers shows just what Neal says. Other countries get better health outcomes for their populations at about half of what it’s costing us here – and they’re not all government-run systems. As usual, corporate types want to socialize risk while privatizing profit.

    Is it possible to over-regulate? Sure, but not many fields of endeavor have dried up and blown away because of regulations. Big corporations have the public’s interest at heart only to the degree that it will enhance their quarterly bottom line.

  8. Submitted by William Pappas on 01/19/2011 - 07:21 pm.

    Hey Donohue, employee unions get off on spending money to kill trade deals the same way the chamber funnelled secret money into the election to support right wing candidates, the same way the chamber has funnelled money to over turn the health care bill (something that benefits the citizens of this country). Yes, Tom, unions have a perfect and legal right to exist and support their causes that happen to allign with most American workers. What they don’t do is secretly take money from foreign corporations and launder it to their pet issues that have nothing to do with small business or ordinary Anericans. The chamber is nothing more than a shrill for big manufacturing interests (most of which reside overseas) and multinational corporations. The idea that they can point to over regulation as the source of so many evils is puzzling in the wake of our most recent economic collapse caused by runaway deregulation. I would collapse right here if I ever witnessed a Chamber of Commerce action that actually benefited small business or Main street USA. Unbelievable.

Leave a Reply