U.S. Chamber of Commerce Calls for Large Stimulus With Steep Tax Breaks

The business group backs tax portions of Obama's plan but criticizes labor and environmental proposals.

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Leaders of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce emphasized their support for a stimulus package totaling upwards of $700 billion today, particularly applauding the tax breaks that are expected to make up to as much as 40 percent of Obama's plan.

But they came out against some of the other items being pushed by the Democrats, such as top-down regulation of carbon dioxide emissions, and they warned against trying to repeat the New Deal of the 1930s.

"What we're talking about is a defibrillator," says Tom Donohue, the chamber's president and CEO. "For us, we're looking at a short-term system where we inject the capital, remove the obstructions, and shock this economy into moving forward."

For a $14 trillion economy, that means a stimulus of minimally 3.5 percent—but more favorably at least 5 percent—of the country's GDP, says Bruce Josten, the chamber's executive vice president for government affairs.

But the officials of the world's largest business federation say that what the stimulus contains will be crucial to jump-starting the economy. Tax cuts, in particular, are essential, they argue.

Specific tax breaks the chamber recommends include providing temporary tax relief for companies that buy their own debt at a discount, reducing the corporate capital gains rate to 15 percent, and issuing tax rebate checks—something they say has increased consumption, albeit temporarily, in the past.

While the chamber is "very encouraged" by reports that Obama's package will include $300 billion in tax cuts, its officials don't agree with other proposals expected from the Democrats.

Donohue says they'll particularly fight the inclusion of some of the unions' proposals, which include replacing the private ballot with a card-check system, mandating paid sick leave, and having government officials arbitrate contracts, which he says would eliminate American jobs.

And the proposal to regulate C02 emissions, which makes up a key part of Obama's energy agenda, "would strangle economic recovery in its infancy," Donohue says.

"We are clearly going to deal with the C02 issues," he says, but the debate is whether those issues should be managed by Congress, which he says is more attuned to the pulse of American economy and society, or by environmental regulators.

"A regulatory system, run by regulators, top down, cramming down requirements that could in itself stop any economic recovery in its tracks, is not something this country needs," Donohue says.

The economic downturn, meanwhile, shouldn't lead to a permanent enlargement of the government, he warns.

But chamber officials emphasize that action is still needed—and quickly.

"We're trying to shock this economy back into moving in the direction it needs to go," Donohue says. "And that is to take risks, to make investment, to trade around the globe, and to be a leader, not somebody that's sitting in the corner bemoaning their circumstances—which get worse and worse all the time."