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Transcript: Thomas Donohue on 'FNS'
Written by Chris Wallace / Published June 14, 2009 / Fox News Sunday
The following is a rush transcript of the June 14, 2009, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: This week the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched the Campaign for Free Enterprise, a $100 million effort to fight what it calls an avalanche of new rules, restrictions, mandates and taxes under President Obama.
We're joined now by the chamber's president, Thomas Donahue. And, Mr. Donahue, welcome to "FOX News Sunday."
First question: why this campaign? Do you really think that the free enterprise system is jeopardized by the Obama administration?
THOMAS DONOHUE, PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: Well, first of all, this is a positive campaign. It's the cornerstone of what we believed for 100 years. And we believe it's time to go out and remind our own members, many of whom are lining up for stimulus money, and remind the Congress and remind people across this country that what creates the wealth, what creates the jobs in this country, is a free enterprise system with free capital markets, with free trade, and with the ability to fail or succeed beyond your wildest imagination.
And we think it's time to go and do this.
WALLACE: But you obviously think there is some threat from the administration. To go back to your quote, "avalanche of new rules, restrictions, mandates and taxes under President Obama."
DONOHUE: Well, I'm not sure that I said under President Obama. I think that's your add. What we believe — our biggest worry — our biggest worry is the issue of what the Congress and then the follow-on regulations are doing.
Follow this. We supported the efforts on stimulus. We supported the TARP funds. We supported issues to clear up the issues on General Motors, because this is a most extraordinary time.
But now it is a moment to say, "OK, we've gone there. Now let's stop." You can't try and run these companies from the Congress or from the administration. You've got to tell people where's the back door. We did our extraordinary issue, and now it's time to get people back to work. That's how you create jobs.
WALLACE: But, Mr. Donahue, people will say — and you're quite right; you admitted it — "You supported billions in bailouts to financial companies, you supported billions for the car companies, you supported billions for economic stimulus, and now you're saying shut the door?" Some even say it's too late.
DONOHUE: No, I think — I think that would be a — not a very good conclusion. Everybody had to come to church on those issues when we are on the edge of going into a depression.
WALLACE: There are an awful lot of conservatives who didn't come to church on those issues, sir.
DONOHUE: Well, everybody that understood what was at stake, let me say. And we did what we thought was right. And now what we're saying — having done that, it's time for all of us — the chamber, our members, our government, our Congress — to take a breath and bring us back to the system that creates the wealth, that creates the jobs, and is going to enable us to put this economy back to work.
You know, we're very, very lucky that we live in a land that has an enterprise system that protects us as we go to put this — put us back in business of creating jobs — 25 million small companies. Critical. We've got to get them some money.
WALLACE: All right. Well, let's talk about some of the big issues that are out there. We just spent time talking about the president's health care reform plan.
Are there parts of that plan — these huge cuts in spending, mandates on business, a government — public health insurance plan — are you going to support that?
DONOHUE: No. We believe there ought to be a plan to improve the health care system in this country. It's a $2.3 trillion business. It's most of the new jobs and innovation in this country. And we believe we ought to do things to improve it.
The president has found extraordinary amount of money he wants to take out of Medicare and Medicaid, and yet Senator Kennedy's bill is talking about putting everybody over 55 into Medicaid.
Now, Kennedy is a giant in this country and in the Senate, and we want to listen to what he has to say, and Max Baucus is the guy who — he's got two parts. He helps with the bill, but he has to find the money, and he's a pro at this.
But what we're saying — there should be a bill that does wellness. There should be a bill that helps us perhaps have a mandate on individuals. There should not be a mandate on companies. We now cover 170 million Americans.
We — and by the way, if you're going to do a federal plan, I think you've got a real problem, because you're going to have more opposition to what we're trying to do here than you can imagine, because you're going to put everybody else in a very difficult position and a non-competitive position.
WALLACE: The administration appointed a pay czar this week. When the government, with your support, saves companies from going under, don't taxpayers deserve some protection from these companies paying executives huge salaries and huge bonuses?
DONOHUE: You know, Chris, they appointed a czar. The Securities and Exchange Commission is talking about a major program to control compensation. The Federal Reserve is talking about this.
I think it's time to stop and remember something. Those companies that are in some distress — if they don't have good people to run them, if they can't attract extraordinary people, many of whom are going elsewhere to work, they're in trouble.
And the government ought to stay out of the business of trying to set compensation in the private sector. It's wrong. It won't work. And thinking about all these people that are trying it — we're going to be on the other side of this.
WALLACE: So are you saying if AIG wants to give million-dollar bonuses, so be it?
DONOHUE: I'm saying if — AIG is in a lot of trouble, but I'm saying if it took the right people to fix AIG, you're going to have to pay them. Same thing right here in this network. You know, if you lost your — you couldn't pay your very best people, I'm not sure they'd stay. They'd probably go to another network.
WALLACE: We're also not taking a huge bailout from the federal government.
DONOHUE: But I'm not particularly worried about those few companies that took the bailout. That will work out. I'm worried that when you put all these people in the compensation business, they'll get bored in a hurry and start going after every other company they think they should influence.
WALLACE: What about the auto industry? I mean, again, with your support, the — General Motors has been put into Chapter 11 and the U.S. government now has a 60 percent ownership stake. You own 60 percent of the company.
You're going to have — you're going to have members of Congress saying, "Don't close the dealership in my state."
DONOHUE: I went to the Detroit Economic Club long before that happened and said the only way out of this is a bankruptcy, tried to give them the cover to do it. I didn't know that they would take some of the steps they did.
I understand why they gave the union pension and welfare fund some ownership. They'll sell that in a hurry. But the government's got to get out of this business in a hurry.
I told some people at the White House the other day, "You own it now, and you better get some people that can run it, and you better attract the best, because this is a serious problem." I suggest it's all about people. If you don't have the people, you don't win.
And I'm not out having a big fight about compensation. I just think the government should do its part. Government should go out and get some more really good business people and bring them into the White House and into Treasury and other where. You look around — there aren't any.
And I think it's very, very important to understand that if you don't have the horses, you don't have much of a circus.
WALLACE: Finally, what about the status of labor's top priority, union card check, which would take away the secret ballot in union organizing? Has that been pushed off 'til next year?
DONOHUE: I believe it's been pushed off for some time because they don't have the votes.
And if you think about taking away the secret ballot, and then having a mandatory arbitration that says that somebody who knows nothing about your business are going to set the conditions of work and pay in your company, I think the people up on the Hill, particularly the people in the Senate, are beginning to think that's a pretty weak idea.
WALLACE: How would you respond — we've got less than a minute left, Mr. Donahue — to people who would say — and I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who would say — "Hey, wait a minute, this guy didn't sit there and fight when we put billions in the financial sector, into General Motors, into stimulus, and now he wants to sit there and say, 'Well, you know, we took the — we allowed the government to get involved in these industries, but now we don't want them to run them?'"
DONOHUE: I would say we did the responsible thing. I would say do we know enough about the economy. We knew about — enough about the very serious position this country was in, that we went and we did the exception.
And now that we have done it and supported it, and we're proud we did it, we believe it's time for all of us, including the American business community, to go back to basics and say, "We've done our thing. Where is the back door?"
It's time to get government out of business and get business back to work creating jobs for workers and for companies.
WALLACE: Mr. Donahue, we want to thank you so much for coming in. Please come back, sir.
DONOHUE: Oh, thank you very much.
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