State of American Business 2024: Suzanne Clark’s Keynote Address
The State of American Business event is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s biggest annual event, virtually attended by thousands of people from around the world. It’s an event that promotes and recognizes American businesses and their impact across the board. And this year is not any different.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO and President, Suzanne Clark, delivered the event’s keynote address to a virtual audience on January 11. This year, she made the case for free enterprise, including what it does and has the potential to do for both American and global economic growth. She also highlights the importance of giving free enterprise the protection and nurture it needs to grow, plus the critical roles we all play in making this happen.
The realities of the new year
Clark starts her speech by highlighting the significance of the new year being a presidential election year. She also recognizes that the year didn’t get off to a good start, especially based on the headlines focusing on almost everything that’s wrong with the country and the dire situation it’s in. “They feed this constant loop of pessimism,” she says about the stories being told.
However, Clark chose not to hop on the train of bad news and pessimism and instead focused on the opposite: optimism. America, like the rest of the world, has its challenges, but Clark and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce remain optimistic in the face of such roadblocks.
Free enterprise drives economic growth
Businesses, whether small or large, offer value to the economy and society. Furthering free enterprise means generating more tax revenues and stimulating economic activity.
Entrepreneurship also contributes to job creation. Clark shares that about 134 million workers are expected to find employment opportunities in the private sector in 2024. These jobs will help people earn money that they can use to pursue their personal goals and take care of loved ones.
Free enterprise improves lives
Quality of life has seen significant improvements, thanks to modern business. Consumers have more choices than ever, whether it’s what to eat or where to go. The internet has become more and more accessible, allowing people to stay connected despite the distance.
In addition, almost all consumers, regardless of their economic status, are able to buy products that can help improve their quality of life because of what free enterprise can do, namely boosting the American consumer’s buying power by creating job opportunities, expanding choices, and scaling technologies. A quick look back at recent history will show that only a small percentage of American households would’ve had access to things we may think are basic necessities today, like air conditioning systems and smartphones.
Of course, the issue of the current system generating more wealth for a select few still stands. And this is where the importance of business growth comes in. The more we push for a stronger economy, the more we can empower those in the bottom quintile who are trying to move up and work towards a better life.
Free enterprise helps address global issues
While the State of the American Business targets U.S. businesses, it also affects global issues. Free enterprise in the U.S. creates astonishing ripples across the world. Continuous efforts towards establishing fair trading systems, fostering competition, and market liberalization equal positive results across the board. Free enterprise has helped reduce extreme global poverty, increase life expectancy from 64 years to 73, and lower illiteracy rates. The enormous global impact, as well as the country’s status as a global leader, only add to the case as to why American free enterprise must be protected.
The government is a key player
Clark then goes on to identify the government as an important player in defending free enterprise and the U.S. economy as a whole. The government has the power to make or break the American business system. Overregulating the industry by imposing unsustainable barriers or trade tariffs and blocking trade deals will result in failure. This failure will inflict harm not only on the U.S. economy but, ultimately, on every American consumer.
Lawmakers and leaders have the crucial role of enabling and empowering the American business ecosystem. Allowing free enterprise to work and limit unnecessary government intrusion lets it do what it’s supposed to do: serve people, address problems, and build a strong society.
It also means supporting businesses of every size and industry. And it should be done not because of political reasons but primarily because defending, protecting, and promoting free enterprise is in everyone’s best interest. Promoting trade and commerce at home and internationally helps enable the free market to flourish and sustain its positive impact not just in the U.S. but across the world. The success of other nations can equate to stability, making other countries potential valuable partners and allies against authoritarianism.
Defending free enterprise means protecting American innovation and opportunity
The system isn’t perfect. The American business ecosystem did plenty of adapting and problem-solving to get to where it is today. And this determination and optimism of American free enterprise is something that should be protected at all costs.
“Opportunity and innovation shouldn’t whither—especially not on American soil,” stresses Clark. There’s powerful opposition from policymakers and other institutions that threaten free enterprise, stifle economic growth, and endanger our future. But it’s crucial to not let them win. America is and should always be a home for progress, innovation, and optimism.
Towards the end of her address, Clark encourages those who believe in and have been lifted by American free enterprise to speak up. “If each of us stands up—in big ways and in small,” she says. “We can send a message that counters the cynics and pessimists.”
People can do it in big ways by igniting their local communities and engaging in public discourse where their voices are respected and heard. It can also be done in small ways. Planting the seed of hope that a strong and resilient American business ecosystem offers. Talking about free enterprise at a party, around the dinner table, and other informal discussions where most may speak against the system without offering actual solutions. Whether big or small, it’s crucial to counter doubts and pessimism with optimism and opportunity, especially if it means securing the future of the country.