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Chamber Supports Some of Biden’s “Social Justice” Agenda, Because Equity Is Good for the Economy

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is catching heat from Republicans for behaving pragmatically and supporting some of President Joe Biden’s actions:

Over the past month, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has taken a series of steps that have enraged its traditional Republican allies. It applauded much of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan to Covid relief bill; cheered Biden’s decision to rejoin the Paris climate agreement; backed the former leader of the liberal Center of American Progress, Neera Tanden, for Office of Management and Budget director; and expressed openness to raising the minimum wage, though not to $15 an hour.

…The Chamber insists it’s taking the same approach to the Biden administration that it did with the Trump administration: working with them on the issues of agreement and fighting on areas where they don’t. The group has never pledged to support Republicans, said Neil Bradley, the Chamber’s executive vice president and chief policy officer [Theodoric Meyer and Caitlin Oprysko, “The Chamber Embraces Biden. And Republicans Are Livid,” Politico, 2021.02.12].

One Republican Congressman accuses the Chamber of betraying its business constituency:

Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.), who publicly bashed the Chamber’s endorsement of Tanden, said in an interview that the Chamber “has forgotten Main Street America” and would have to decide what it wanted to be in Biden’s Washington.

“Do they really care about the bottom line of companies and small businesses and growth, or do they care more about social justice?” Smith asked [Meyer and Oprysko, 2021.02.12].

Wait: is that really an either-or? Do the bottom line and business growth really stand in opposition to social justice? Does promoting inclusion and fairness really threaten Main Street America?

A new coronavirus relief and stimulus package can support Main Street and give special attention to businesses owned by women and minorities who face systemic discrimination that hinders equal access to government assistance. Women and minorities have suffered more from the coronavirus recession, so spending more to help them recover makes sense.

Rejoining the Paris Agreement gives us a chance to participate in a necessary economic revolution and create millions of new sustainable jobs and budget-saving new tax revenue. It also helps save the planet and civilization, without which we would enjoy neither human rights nor stable economic growth.

As we’ve seen in South Dakota, raising the minimum wage doesn’t kill jobs. Every dollar closer to a living wage that we pay to low-income workers (who include higher proportions of women and minorities) comes right back out of their pockets and into Main Street businesses selling groceries and other basic goods, boosting bottom lines and business growth. Amazon raised its minimum wage and increased profits; so can other businesses. Put more wealth in more people’s pockets, and we can all end up richer.

The Chamber of Commerce here in South Dakota has spoken up against the culture war certain Republicans are waging in an effort to protect our Main Streets from the economic harm that ensues when right-wing extremists hijack the Legislature to grandstand against people they want to make feel unwelcome in our community.

The Chamber suffers from its own pro-business blinkerism on several issues. But its support for some of President Biden’s agenda reflects a pragmatic recognition that saving the planet and helping people are not anti-business policies. Quite the contrary: an equitable economy is a healthy economy.


  1. Bill 2021-02-13

    Perhaps even at times the Chamber supports what is right for the common good instead of what might be right for another win by the Republicans.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-02-13

    Bill, we would all do well to follow that example and focus on choosing moral and effective policies, not casting votes to align with a party brand.

    But lest I be accused of slipping into lazy both-sidesism, I will note that the Biden Administration proposes a lot more moral and evidence-based effective policies for both social justice and business than the preceding Administration.

  3. Mark Anderson 2021-02-13

    Mr. Jason Smith should look at how many jobs are created under Democratic Presidents. Two to one better than the pubs, anyone can look it up.

  4. Matt 2021-02-13

    Let’s not confuse equity with equality … People should be treated equally. To treat them with ‘equity’ requires that you treat them unequally.

  5. Joe 2021-02-14

    Matt: People come to the table with different needs and histories and resource levels. What you’re saying is that a millionaire and a single mom working at Casey’s should get the same level of assistance. That makes zero sense.

  6. mike from iowa 2021-03-09

    interesting fact:
    On 3/20 all Senate Dems voted for drumpf’s stimulus. On 12/20 most senate Dems voted for drumpf’s second stimulus. No magat senators voted for Biden’s stimulus, recertly.

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