What Happened to the Chamber I Once Knew?
I remember a time when the Chamber of Commerce worked to bring new businesses and good jobs to American communities. These days, however, the national organization seems more interested in blocking ingenuity than fostering it.
The National Chamber of Commerce recently kicked off an ad campaign tied to 21 Congressional races. Many of the ads address health care reform, but several focus on energy. The ads assail candidates who support renewable power, cars that go father on less gasoline, and other clean energy solutions. And they applaud candidates who favor the same fossil fuels that have dirtied our air for centuries.
Just to be clear: Every single one of the attack ads targets Democrats, and all the positive ads back Republicans.
Positioning America as the leader of the 21st century clean energy market should be a shared national goal, but the Chamber of Commerce has revealed once again it views clean energy as a partisan lightening rod.
For the sake of politics—or the fossil fuel sector—they are rejecting the enormous economic opportunity presented by clean energy. The U.S market invested $55.9 billion in clean energy technologies last year according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. You would think that kind of growth in the midst of a recession would earn some respect within the chamber.
Instead, chamber leaders ignore it and discount the jobs that come with this investment. It’s as if they were saying that the more than 100,000 Americans working in the solar industry or the more than 80,000 in the wind industry don’t embody the values of entrepreneurialism, prosperity, and growth that the Chamber of Commerce used to represent.
This may come as no surprise to those who know the chamber for refusing to accept climate science, but I knew the chamber in a different light.
My father was active in the Chamber of Commerce in the small, conservative town where I grew up. Like local chambers everywhere, it was dedicated to making our community grow and prosper. It wasn’t interested in blocking national energy policy or pretending to know more about science than scientists. It simply worked to support existing businesses in the area and attract new ones.
In those days, the chamber helped make the American Dream happen for people. Now its representatives in Washington act like a shadow group dedicated to obstructing innovation and progress. This makes them blind to real advances happening in communities across the country. More than 150,000 Americans, for instance, have jobs manufacturing clean cars. They work for 300 different companies at facilities in 43 different states. Most of them are building cars and using technologies that weren’t even available 10 years ago.
That’s the kind of opportunity my dad would have welcomed in our town. But these days, the national Chamber of Commerce wants to undermine it and any policies that would encourage it.
It seems committed to turning clean energy into the third rail of politics for this cycle. It has promised to be more involved in this election cycle than they were in 2010, when it spent more than $33 million on federal races.
Money like that gives the chamber real power, but I believe the American Dream is more powerful. I think most voters will see that real jobs, real growth, and real innovation will do more for their communities than the chamber’s obstruction.