By Thomas J. Donohue, President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
December 19, 2006
How will 2006 go down in the history books? Here’s a quick look at the major business, political, economic, and social issues that dominated the year, and what they tell us about the way forward.
The Economy–The economy performed well, if not spectacularly, this year. Inflation and interest rates remained low, growth was relatively consistent, and the stock market reached a new high. Considering how significantly the economy has been tested recently by events–9/11, major hurricanes, fluctuating energy prices, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan–its solid performance is a tribute to the power of tax cuts and the ingenuity and hard work of entrepreneurs and small businesses. Those are important points to keep in mind going forward, especially for the new Congress.
Politics–Congress changed hands primarily because of the country’s dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq and various local scandals. A number of pro-business members got caught in this undertow and lost their races. Yet the business community should not change its agenda because Congress has changed hands–it’s full speed ahead, and we will solicit and welcome support from both sides of the aisle as we always have.
Business–Business remains a favorite target for ambitious politicians, overzealous government regulators, and ratings-hungry media. We need to remember that an unfair attack on any business–large, medium, or small–is an attack an all businesses. We must continue to support a strong effort to root out genuinely unethical behavior in business and all institutions, while ensuring that the government doesn’t over regulate the nation’s job-creating companies and the media doesn’t paint all businesses with the same broad brush.
Societal Issues–As a society, Americans have placed a heightened focus on two major trends that require honest analysis, debate, and action. The first is the recognition that America’s education system is fundamentally failing its students. The second is the growing disparity between the society’s wealthiest members and those who are at risk of being left behind. The issues are related. The lesson here is straightforward–the future of America’s ability to compete and prosper in a changing world begins with education–and a good education, followed by lifelong learning and effective training, is critical to ensuring that all citizens can participate and share in the American dream.
Finally, a note on Iraq and the brave young men and women of our armed forces. Regardless of one’s personal views on how we got there and how long we should stay, I know all Americans would join in applauding the sacrifice, honor, and commitment of those who wear our country’s uniform. Together, we mourn the loss of each and every one of them. This year–and every year–we should never forget how lucky we are to be Americans.