Jan 11, 2024 - Business

Chamber of Commerce calls for more "optimistic" message on economy

Illustration of a rocket made of money, on fire, shooting into the sky.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is making a full-throated defense of free enterprise, launching a counter-offensive against a "constant loop of pessimism" from businesses and politics that is undermining faith in the country's outlook.

Driving the news: CEO Suzanne Clark is expected to insist in a speech on Thursday that the virtues of American capitalism are being drowned out by a news cycle that amplifies "everything [that's] wrong, and bad, and dire about this country."

  • "And if the business community isn't out there telling the real story — the American story — of opportunity and progress in this country, then no one should be surprised when people believe it's as bad as the headlines and the political ads say it is," Clark argues.
  • She adds that "the state of American Business is optimistic. And this country, its citizens and leaders, and our partners around the world need to hear it."

Why it matters: Traditionally ardent defenders of private enterprise and erstwhile allies of business interests that the Chamber of Commerce represents, Republicans have steadily adopted a harder-edged populism.

  • Clark's remarks come just ahead of the GOP's Iowa Caucus — and during an election year where no major candidate has fully articulated a defense of free market capitalism.

What she's saying: "We've stopped talking about what it means to be pro-business as a country. That's a problem — and it's a shame," Clark says, in remarks shared exclusively with Axios. "There are plenty of critics who want to tell you everything that is wrong with capitalism."

  • "But the truth is, it's a good news story. It's a story of individual opportunity and agency. It's a story of collective hope and optimism. And more than a story, it's a lived reality that has improved life here and inspired people around the world."

Zoom out: Across a range of industries, big businesses are frequent targets of public ire and political pressure. Broadsides about "woke capitalism" have buffeted large and small companies alike in a charged and seemingly relentless culture war.

The bottom line: Clark's message appears to be a rallying cry for the business community — and those who support them — to reassert its role as a force for good in the economy.

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