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Only American Free Enterprise Can Meet Our Nation's Job Challenge

Only American Free Enterprise Can Meet Our Nation's Job Challenge

By Thomas Donohue - October 14, 2009

With the economy slowly returning to form, we must now focus on a new challenge--putting America back to work. It won't be easy--the economy has shed 7.2 million jobs since the beginning of the recession, and unemployment is at its highest level in more than 25 years. We must create 20 million new jobs over the next decade simply to put the unemployed back to work and to keep up with a growing population. There's only one system that's proven capable of meeting this goal--American free enterprise.

Economic renewal will begin where it always does, with entrepreneurs and America's 27 million small businesses. These everyday heroes are unparalleled in their ability to create jobs, spur local development, and bring new products and services to market. Over the last decade, small businesses created between 60%-80% of all new jobs and, given the right business environment, can deliver big for job seekers once again.

But American free enterprise is about more than just a small startup or the biggest corporation. It's a powerful idea that is inseparable from the American Dream. Free enterprise offers the opportunity to dream big--and to turn that dream into a reality. This dream may start in a garage, with money borrowed from friends and family members. But long hours, creativity, and perseverance can transform a humble startup into a Main Street storefront-and provide livelihoods for members of the community. The sky is the limit and free enterprise makes it possible.

We'll never claim that free enterprise is a perfect system. But while it has its faults, it is still the best system ever devised to generate opportunity, jobs, and economic growth. In fact, it has done more to improve the human condition than any other system ever devised. And with significant challenges ahead of us--including health care, energy, and the environment--we must take advantage of its power to harness human talent. Nothing less than our economic competitiveness is at stake.

That's why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is embarking on one of the most important initiatives in our nearly 100-year history. Today we are launching "American Free Enterprise: Dream Big," a comprehensive and sustained campaign to remind, educate, and persuade our fellow citizens and leaders that the free enterprise values of individual initiative, hard work, freedom of choice, and the free exchange of trade, capital, and ideas that built this great country can lead us back to prosperity.

Through a national advertising campaign, grassroots advocacy, and a broad program of community outreach and public education, we will make the case to the American people that a strong free enterprise system is the best way forward for good-paying jobs, solutions to national challenges, and unlimited opportunity.

When the Washington Post's own E.J. Dionne called our campaign "one of the year's most consequential political developments," he was right-but for the wrong reasons. This campaign isn't about partisan politics--it's about preserving the American Dream for this and future generations through low taxation, reasonable regulations, a doubling of American exports, and free and vibrant capital markets.

After all, there's no such thing as a Republican or Democratic job, or a Republican or Democratic innovation. Putting food on your family's table and finding work that lets you realize your potential are kitchen table issues that transcend any political party or ideology.

Washington, by taking the steps necessary to avoid a new Great Depression, has done its part. Now it's time for government to assume its traditional, limited role. Economic growth and recovery will come from the bottom up, not from Washington down. It's up to the American people--all 300 million of us--to outwork, outthink, and outdream our competitors. Today, our work begins anew.

Mr. Donohue is President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

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