The top lobbyist in Washington for American business warned in unusually stark terms on Wednesday that younger Americans will face diminished economic prospects in coming years unless the United States reins in spending on the elderly and improves its education system.
“I worry that for the first time in history, we’re in a situation where America is taking from the young in order to support the old,” Thomas Donohue, the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a speech that laid out the powerful business group’s agenda.
Donohue’s remarks reflect the bitter residue of a years-long budget battle that has largely failed to tackle the nation’s long-term fiscal problems, as well as a new focus on inequality in Washington.
As in other areas, the business group is likely to clash with the Obama administration on some of its efforts to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor, even as it supports other approaches. The Chamber will back the administration’s push to impose common academic standards on a primary education system that is largely administered at the state and local level, Donohue said.
“If our nation doesn’t get damn serious about the millions of young people who drop out of school, or who graduate unable to master the most basic skills and work habits, nothing else we do or try is going to work,” he said.