What Biden’s Speech To Congress Means For Business Leaders – Forbes

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In a speech to a joint session of Congress Wednesday night, President Joe Biden called for passage of his American Jobs Plan that would be paid for by increasing corporate taxes, the raising of the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and approving legislation that supports equal pay and the right to unionize.

Speaking to a House chamber that was sparsely filled because of Covid safety restrictions, Biden laid out a pro-labor, pro-worker agenda that seeks to fulfill the promises and pledges he made in his campaign for the White House.

A Mixed Bag For Business Leaders

Dr. Aleksandar (Sasha) Tomic is an associate dean and director of the Masters degree in applied economics program at Boston College. Summing up Biden’s speech he said, “All in all, this is a mixed bag for business leaders.”

He said Biden, “… laid out an ambitious agenda that will definitely keep business leaders on their toes. He announced strong investment in infrastructure, and not only in green energy, but also in traditional transport, power, water, and high-speed internet access infrastructure needs.

“If these come to fruition they would improve businesses’ ability to actually do business as we are witnessing the stress on the existing infrastructure. He is also emphasizing [a] ‘buy American’ approach for tax-dollar spending which can benefit local businesses and is arguing for [a] more strenuous approach to exemption-granting.

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Focus On Job Creation

Tomic said Biden, “… focused on job creation, which must come from increased business, even if it is with the federal government. He also emphasized that most of the jobs he envisions creating will not require a college degree, nor even [an] associate’s degree, but he omitted to mention or to address vocational/technical training and education that is desperately needed as there is already a shortage of trained trades people.”

Strengthening Unions

“On the other hand,” according to Tomic, Biden “… is also proposing strengthening the unions, raising the minimum wage, and expanding leave policies, all of which must be giving pause to the business leaders.”

“In addition, he is proposing not only tax increases on corporations and those making over $400,000, but also a more aggressive approach to tax enforcement with enhanced audit capabilities for [the] IRS and more attention paid to tax acrobatics involving off-shore subsidiaries, tax havens, etc.”

Some Benefits For Business

“While it is difficult to see the benefit of higher taxes and [a] higher minimum wage, some initiatives, such as with child and elder care as well as expanded education opportunities can be beneficial to businesses as these are factors that can increase turnover and make recruitment more difficult,” Tomic concluded.

An Electric Jolt

Kasey Lynn Thompson is an associate professor of business ethics, business, and strategy at Ferris State University. She said Biden’s speech, “… delivered an electric jolt of immediate action to American business leaders. The President’s message was transparent by acknowledging the nation’s current crisis while simultaneously being inspiring with signals of hope now that ‘we’re on the move again.’”

“The President focused on delivering a message of encouragement and optimism for economic recovery that can only be accomplished through unity and by ‘competing more strenuously.’ He gave a repetitive call to action with reminders to “never stay down” and turn ‘setbacks into strengths,’ thus invoking a no-quit attitude during this stage of economic regeneration.”

From Crisis To Opportunity

Thompson noted that the phrase, “America is moving forward, was repeated by Biden throughout his speech “… indicating a need for business leaders to direct future endeavors that create innovation and technological growth within American businesses.

“The President inferred that one of the intents of the American Jobs Plan was to help remove obstacles for businesses to flourish. Removing barriers is a reassuring signal to all business leaders because it encourages and supports taking risks vital to the innovation needed for American companies to win the 21st Century.”

Biden’s Dose Of Hope

Donald Tobin is the dean of the University of Maryland’s Francis King Carey School of Law and a tax law professor. He said,” Business leaders should be pleased with President Biden’s speech. Business leaders know you cannot lead without confidence, hope, and investment in infrastructure and people. Businesses succeed when people succeed. Biden’s dose of hope will be a shot in the arm for businesses, jobs, and employment.”

Tobin observed that Biden’s American Jobs Plan “… is a business plan—it invests in infrastructure, people, and education. These are the kinds of investments that provide support for economic growth. Other proposals like equal pay, paid family and medical leave, promotion of day care, and increasing the minimum wage will require businesses to invest more in its people, but businesses will see a return on investment with [a] healthier, more satisfied, and more motivated workforce.”

Small Business’ Perspective

John Arensmeyer is the founder and CEO of Small Business Majority, a network of 85,000 small business owners and the former owner of a small business. He said that, “Contrary to popular belief, small businesses are not reflexively anti-government, which is why entrepreneurs will welcome President Biden’s focus on bolstering infrastructure, job creation and benefits that small businesses and their employees struggle to access.

Important Benefits

“Although much work is yet to be done to support small businesses’ recovery, the fact that President Biden has proposed to offer benefits not normally available to small businesses, like child care, paid family leave and improved affordable access to health care, shows that he understands what small businesses and their employees need to succeed, and that his administration is here to offer them a lifeline.”

Arensmeyer said, “There is some concern that this lifeline comes at a cost, and that corporate America will foot the bill. But where costs may go up in terms of higher taxes, the hope is that those expenses will be offset by the fact that infrastructure improvements will make it easier for everyone to bring products to market.

Help Ensure Recovery From Pandemic

“This important investment would ensure that entrepreneurs can recover from the pandemic and be better positioned to withstand the next crisis. After all, small businesses rely on public infrastructure even more than large businesses because they do not have their own infrastructure capabilities. Moreover, this much-needed work will require the efforts of countless small enterprises, and will provide high-quality jobs for small business employees and independent contractors.”

He observed that, “Government support can in fact boost entrepreneurship and job creation, and President Biden’s speech is another example of his administration’s commitment to reinforcing the foundation upon which small businesses rely.”

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