Anheuser-Busch Briefing Center, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
1615 H St NW, Washington, D.C.
Registration and Breakfast: 8:00 a.m.-8:30 a.m.
The United States is encountering one of the toughest economic times in decades. A rocky economy and divisive political and media bickering have spurred many voices to publically promote their own take on fiscal reform, political ideology and the path forward for America. Part of this has been vocal objections to how companies in this country do business, and for better or worse, when a company faces public outcry, it is the CEO who sometimes takes the heat. Yet, even as big companies take punches from the left and right, it seems not all CEOs are created equal. Indeed, why is it that the public views some CEOs negatively and others with admiration? In a time when many Americans are decrying big business and capitalism, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ death drew mourners to impromptu memorials and caused many prominent individuals to offer lavish praise on Jobs’ work. On top of that his authorized biography has become a worldwide best seller. From this outpouring of admiration for a man whose work changed the way we interact and access the digital world, it seems clear that Americans do not reject businesses and their CEOs because they operate in a capitalist market.
The National Chamber Foundation recently hosted New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, US Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas, and a set of esteemed panelists to discuss high-skilled immigration and American competitiveness. One of those panelists was Dr. Pia M. Orrenius, a labor economist at the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas. Dr. Orrenius is an expert on immigration policy and the noted co-author of Beside the Golden Door, a book that "proposes a radical overhaul of current immigration policy designed to strengthen economic competitiveness and long-run growth."
Michael Hendrix does a nice job outlining some of the problems we face with a global population that is aging rapidly. And I can’t say enough good things about the work of NCF fellows Ted Fishman and Joel Kotkin on aging and demographic shifts.
But let me suggest some potential upside in our aging world.
One important dynamic not sufficiently appreciated is that we are not just aging, but we are, as demographer Nick Eberstadt puts it, “healthy aging.” In other words, we are getting older and living longer, but our elderly are quite healthy, too (certainly relative to the elderly of several generations ago). Since our older men and women have sound minds in sound bodies, they can be tremendous workplace assets, capable today of being productive workers contributing to economic growth.
But today it is not unusual for older, healthy men and women to abandon the workforce. In Europe, for example, it is common for perfectly healthy men to leave the workforce at age 55. They devote their later years to leisure and consumption as opposed to work and production. This is not surprising given current policy in Europe taxes work too heavily and has built rigidities into the labor market that penalize hiring and firing, raising the costs to employers.
Somewhere in India or China on Halloween Day, the world witnessed the birth of its 7 billionth child. When author Ted Fishman woke up on that day, he likely saw a world that in just a few decades more will have 7x the number of those living past the age of 100. Just last year he wrote a book called Shock of Gray which looks at the “economic and political ramifications of an aging world.” For you see, more people will mean even more old people. While we trumpet the news of another birth, it’s the quiet stretching of years that will form a world far different than the one we know today.
Every year the World Bank releases its Doing Business report, a collection of rankings aimed at putting a number to every factor a business must take into account when trying to “do business” and comparing that figure across countries. Increasingly, with the release of every new report America has found itself lower and lower on some portion of the list. Lest we panic too quickly, America is still a tremendous place to start and run a company. Barring only three – Singapore, Hong Kong, and New Zealand – the US sits at the top of the overall country list.