The general public typically equates the Chamber of Commerce with local Mom and Pop businesses in their area which meet for networking and mutual support in local chapters across the country. This is erroneous. According to the Hill:
While local chambers cater to the needs of car dealers and restaurant owners, the national Chamber operates as the lobbying arm of large corporations that have never met a big government program they did not like.
They are weapons dealers pushing billion-dollar battleships and telecommunication lobbyists protecting slow Internet at the world’s highest prices. They are lobbyists for pharmaceutical companies, big banks, and Wall street traders who treat the American people as gullibles to be fleeced without mercy.
Even seasoned politicians are susceptible to having misconceptions about the Chamber. Former U.S. senator Jim Demint admits he naively thought it was lobbying for free enterprise and creating a better business environment for everybody. Now he says, “I pronounce them part of the swamp.” Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich), a conservative, adds, “I believe in free markets and am against cronyism and corporate welfare, and they [the U.S. Chamber of Commerce] support those things.”
So what is the USCC? It is a business lobbying group that represents 80% of the Fortune 100 companies and is by far the largest interest group in Washington. According the Wall Street Journal, the Chamber spent $125 million in lobbying in 2014 and $95 million last year. This dwarfs the spending of any other interest group. One tactic the Chamber uses to swell its revenue is to solicit money from big international companies to promote specific goals. Since donor names are not public, the Chamber can pursue controversial fights without identifying the firms behind the effort.
The Chamber of Commerce and its president Thomas Donohue came into conflict with Donald Trump and his America First platform very early on. For 18 months during the runup to the 2016 election, the Chamber spared no effort to demonize Trump. In doing so, the Chamber was carrying water for the Hillary Clinton campaign. Donohue and company figured they could better deal with Hillary than Trump in the Oval Office. In this, the Chamber was exactly right.
The big hangups the Chamber and its client base had against Donald Trump involved immigration, trade, and tariffs. Adhering to its corporate masters’ call for a continuous supply of cheap labor, the Chamber lobbies for more immigration and resists tight border controls. Trade is much the same. Past trade pacts have allowed Wall Street to grow obscenely rich in the outsourcing of American jobs to third-world countries for sake of the bottom line of the multinationals. In the process, over a million ordinary Americans were left holding the bag.
All this is still playing out today. The president is striving to adjust the unfair trading arrangements that the political class, in cahoots with the big money interests on Wall Street, have saddled the U.S. with. But Trump and his trade team of Robert Lighthizer, Wilbur Ross, Steven Mnuchin, and Larry Kudlow are fighting not just China, but what is effectively a Fifth Column here at home. It’s composed of the likes of the Chamber of Commerce and a sizable portion of the political establishment, which is used to dipping its beak in special-interest money.
As to this latter point, just look at the breaking news of the dealings of Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, with the Chinese government. Writing in the New York Post, Peter Schweizer outlines in detail the $1.5 private equity deal the younger Biden made with the Chinese while Biden was vice-president. And now, Joe Biden is out on the stump soft-peddling the damage China has done to the U.S. economy and downplaying its threat to us and pretending to be for the working man. You can’t make this up.
It’s important not to conflate Big Business (Wall Street) with small business (Main Street). Wall Street is the financial economy. It pushes paper around. For example, they write derivatives on real assets, say stocks, to the point where the value of derivatives traded is far greater than the assets they are based on. Investopedia says this: “The derivatives market is, in a word, gigantic — often estimated at more than $1.2 quadrillion on the high end.”
A quadrillion is 1,000 trillion. In dollar terms, a quadrillion is 15-times the GDP of the entire world.
Main Street actually makes and sells things. For over a generation or more, Big Biz has dominated Main Street. This is why the Midwest and other places across the U.S. are littered with closed factories and why middle-class wages stagnated. In many ways, the financial economy is parasitic on the real economy. In the 2016 election, Donald Trump represented Main Street while Clinton was in the pocket of the big money interests on Wall Street.
What this means is that what is good for Main Street will not be good for Wall Street and Big Biz, at least not in the short run. What benefits the American worker — fair trade policy and tight immigration control — will initially hurt Big Biz and Wall Street. And the hurt will continue until the financial economy is scaled back to its proper size and is no longer allowed to the tail that wags the American economic dog. Until then, MAGA is at war with Big Biz and the bought-and-paid-for political establishment. And this explains much of the resistance to Trump’s tariffs and trade position.
A closing observation says a lot. Thomas Donohue, the president of the Chamber of Commerce, is 80 years old. His board is pushing him to retire. The replacement they are looking at is former Congressman Paul Ryan. A perfect fit given the Chamber’s agenda.