By Gary Shapiro
March 16, 2016 at 5:00 am ET
Compare the stump speeches of the 2016 presidential candidates, and you get the sense of an attack — from the left and the right — on business.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) demonizes business and wants to take money from successful Americans. His chief rival, Hillary Clinton, pushes hard for programs that would overregulate business. Donald Trump wants economic engines such as Apple to manufacture everything in the U.S.
That’s an absurd level of regulation that even Sanders doesn’t suggest.
Before he suspended his campaign, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) highlighted the economic benefits of entrepreneurs, new business models, such as the sharing economy, and an immigrant culture reliant on hard work and entrepreneurship.
But none of the candidates are leveraging the national spotlight to really talk about how business, innovation, creativity and free trade are bettering our world and are creating jobs.
As head of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), I represent more than 2,000 technology companies, and I’m passionate that business is the bedrock of jobs and our economy. American tech companies such as Adobe, Airbnb, Amazon, AT&T, Apple, Cisco, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, IBM, Intel, LinkedIn, Lyft, Netflix, Pandora, Qualcomm, Trip Advisor, Twitter, Uber, Verizon and WebMD are changing our world for the better. Moreover, the U.S. boasts huge exporting companies, such as Caterpillar, John Deere, Domino’s, FedEx, Ford, GM, McDonald’s, Starbucks and Xerox, which employ millions of Americans and help spread U.S. innovation overseas.
Then there are American movie studios, music businesses and hospitality companies. We have world-class companies reliant on America attracting the best and brightest from across the globe, as well as the creativity and skill of the American people.
Yet the White House hopefuls are silent about the benefits of business. No one is defending these job-creating, innovation-inducing companies.
President Obama has demonized business for more than seven years now. He has raised taxes on successful companies and people. His administration has put forth hundreds of thousands of pages of new rules and regulations. He has banned or burdened the hiring of interns, eased how unions can organize and proposed to require overtime for anyone making up to $50,000 — a huge blow to American startups.
And on Jan. 20 — a year to the day before he leaves office, perhaps in an indication that there would be no letup before then — the administration said it would do its best to consider contractors “joint employers” with the companies hiring the contractors, putting new burdens on businesses that increasingly outsource non-core competencies.
With all of these regulatory burdens and attacks — tactics that will eventually hurt workers, consumers and innovators — where’s the pushback?
The Chamber of Commerce, theoretically businesses’ number one champion, seems more focused on an administration proposal protecting Americans from investment advisers getting secret kickbacks to push specific investment vehicles.
With politicians attacking business, it’s time business responds and defends how companies create jobs and boost the economy.
The business community should embrace reasonable disclosure proposals, instead of protecting shady business practices. Business groups have a reputation for only seeking favors from government, and they too often fund political front groups to hide their positions.
Whether it’s defending unethical investment advisers, protecting patent trolls or overcharging Americans for prescription drugs, American businesses too often have not been fully candid with their advocacy positions or with respect to how they create and fund research favorable to their cause.
To reverse the attacks on, and negative view of, business, we can no longer keep promoting a self-serving agenda reliant on secrecy, special tax breaks and a narrow view of our obligations as Americans. This means welcoming disclosure — disclosure of funding and disclosure of conflicts. It means considering and promoting self-regulation so government is not compelled to act.
It also means focusing on what’s best for our country. Businesses have the power to propose reasonable solutions to real problems. Several years ago, CTA’s board agreed to support bipartisan efforts to confront the gap between spending and taxes in order to address our growing federal debt. As an association, we embraced the bipartisan deficit-reduction commission’s recommendations.
Furthermore, it is our long-standing principle that we do not seek or support federal spending aimed at our industry. Sadly, few other trade groups or business leaders have stood with us.
America’s business community needs to change. As we fight for feathers, we are killing the golden goose. We are so blessed to be Americans, part of an incredible free market and democracy experiment. We benefit from a fundamentally sound economic structure. We have the most creative workplace in the world, and our nation’s economy is poised for growth. As Americans, we should all take part in making our nation stronger and better.
Unless and until we mend our ways and present strong, clear solutions on big issues, business will continue to be unfairly attacked as the scapegoat for all that is wrong in America.
Update: This column was updated to reflect the suspension of Rubio’s presidential campaign.