The Chamber Wants Infrastructure Prove It

Bill Scher

Last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a joint statement with the AFL-CIO supporting President Obama’s call for increased public investment in infrastructure, which read:

Whether it is building roads, bridges, high-speed broadband, energy systems and schools, these projects not only create jobs and demand for businesses, they are an investment in building the modern infrastructure our country needs to compete in a global economy.

That’s great. Now it’s time for the Chamber to tell it to all those Tea Partiers it helped get elected to Congress.

No outside group spent more to help Republicans take over Congress than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, dropping $31 million funneled from undisclosed donors on ads that attacked supporters of economic stimulus for spending recklessly and failing to create jobs.

Funny thing about that is: a major supporter of President Obama’s stimulus law was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. But instead of backing lawmakers who helped the member companies of the Chamber from suffering a full-blown Great Depression, the Chamber decided to punish them because many also backed reform of health care and Wall Street.

The Chamber’s 2010 political investment paid off. It got the right-wing anti-government Congress it paid for, putting at risk implementation of the President’s signature reform efforts.

But will the Chamber regret it in 2011 if Congress is unable to accelerate economic recovery, thanks to the folks the Chamber helped elect?

If the Chamber doesn’t want to suffer buyers’ remorse, here’s a two-step strategy it might consider.

1. Spend another $31 million to rally support for public investment in infrastructure, in the congressional districts and states of the lawmakers the Chamber helped elect.

2. Visit those lawmakers personally, and tell them if they don’t get serious about jobs and infrastructure, the Chamber will yank their support for them in 2012.

This would not be an unprecedented act. The Chamber spent $86 million to try to kill health reform. What’s stopping the Chamber from taking its own support for infrastructure investment just as seriously?

Furthermore, a serious campaign from Chamber in support of the President’s call would do far more to shake up the debate than its failed health reform opposition campaign. Everyone expects the Chamber to oppose proposed government action. An effort in support of government to create jobs would turn heads, if not snap necks.

We know the Chamber is able. The question is: is it willing?

Is it simply offering a perfunctory statement of support to curry favor with the White House, or appease member businesses angry with the Chamber for its scurrilous 2010 ad campaign?

Or is it serious about winning funds for infrastructure investment and sparking a robust economic recovery?

Show us the money, and we’ll know the answer.

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