Very often, local chambers of commerce support principles of crony capitalism instead of pro-growth policies that allow free enterprise and genuine capitalism to flourish.
We may soon have an example of this in Wichita, where business leaders are tossing about ideas for tax increases. I distinguish between “business leaders” and “capitalists.”
Most people probably think that local chambers of commerce, since their membership is mostly business firms, support pro-growth policies that embrace limited government and free markets. But that’s not always the case. Here, in an excerpt from his article “Tax Chambers” Stephen Moore explains:
The Chamber of Commerce, long a supporter of limited government and low taxes, was part of the coalition backing the Reagan revolution in the 1980s. On the national level, the organization still follows a pro-growth agenda — but thanks to an astonishing political transformation, many chambers of commerce on the state and local level have been abandoning these goals. They’re becoming, in effect, lobbyists for big government.
In as many as half the states, state taxpayer organizations, free market think tanks and small business leaders now complain bitterly that, on a wide range of issues, chambers of commerce deploy their financial resources and lobbying clout to expand the taxing, spending and regulatory authorities of government. This behavior, they note, erodes the very pro-growth climate necessary for businesses — at least those not connected at the hip with government — to prosper. Journalist Tim Carney agrees: All too often, he notes in his recent book, “Rip-Off,” “state and local chambers have become corrupted by the lure of big dollar corporate welfare schemes.”
“I used to think that public employee unions like the NEA were the main enemy in the struggle for limited government, competition and private sector solutions,” says Mr. Caldera of the Independence Institute. “I was wrong. Our biggest adversary is the special interest business cartel that labels itself ‘the business community’ and its political machine run by chambers and other industry associations.”
From Stephen Moore in the article “Tax Chambers” published in The Wall Street Journal February 10, 2007. The full article can be found here.
The Wichita Chamber of Commerce receives contributions from corporations, consequently, the bigger the contribution the more say that company has on the Chamber’s agenda. In Wichita, there has always been a corporate rift between those members of the WCC that are in the manufacturing sector and those in the service and banking industry. For example, not long ago there was a feud between Intrust Bank and Boeing because the banking sectors wanted more high paying manufacturing jobs being recruited to Wichita, but Boeing opposed it because they did not want to have to compete with the higher payroll that new and additional manufacturing will bring to Wichita. You see, if we recruit more manufacturing there will be a skilled worker job shortage which means the Boeing, Spirit, Cessna, etc would have to pay higher wages to keep their employees which they did not want to do. Intrust, on the other hand, wanted people with higher wages, putting more money in their bank and applying for more loans to purchase goods. Boeing won that round when they gave the Chamber a check for $500,000 to see their point of view….Intrust did not match it!