U.S. Chamber calls for legal reforms, cautions against expanding government

Chris Rizo Jan. 7, 2009, 11:54am

Thomas Donohue

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- Reforming the nation's plaintiff-favored legal system could help jumpstart the beleaguered American economy, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said Wednesday in a report.

Releasing the annual State of American Business report, U.S. Chamber President Thomas Donohue called on leaders in Washington to take swift action to help put the nation's economy back on track.

"While there is every reason for concern, there is no cause for despair. Americans have an opportunity to emerge from these difficulties with a more prosperous economy, a stronger nation, and a renewed reputation as a global leader," he said. "We can do this by pragmatically and sensibly fixing what is broken and by not mindlessly breaking what already works."

Donohue, a former longtime president and CEO of American Trucking Associations, called on policymakers to enact an economic stimulus package and legal reforms and make major investments in infrastructure, energy and technology.

To help bring fairness to the nation's legal system, the Chamber report says the organization will vigorously oppose efforts by trial lawyers to eliminate binding arbitration clauses in contracts and other legislation that would create more lawsuits.

"We have two choices," Donohue said. "We can bemoan our fate and keep telling each other how bad things are. Or, we can get right down to the business of reviving the economy, restoring growth and job creation, and putting Americans back to work."

At the same time, Donohue cautioned President-elect Barack Obama's administration against significantly expanding government.

"The nation must avoid a big and permanent expansion of government payrolls and powers," Donohue said. "We don't need and can't afford another New Deal. The 2008 election was all about change. It's not change if you go backwards to the policies and approaches of the 1930s."

If government becomes too big it could "smother the spirit of enterprise or stamp out the risk-taking that powers the American dream," he said.

Donohue also told reporters that the U.S. Chamber, the world's largest business federation, expects the U.S. economy to sputter well into 2009, with a decrease in the gross domestic product.

"The chamber expects the fourth quarter of 2008 to show a GDP decline of at least 5 percent," he said. "GDP in the first quarter of 2009 will likely shrink by more than 3 percent. The economy should reach its low point around the middle of the year, but further problems in credit markets or other external shocks may prolong the recession into the second half of 2009."

Legal Newsline is owned by an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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