Private Sector Can Stimulate, too, with Help from Congress

With the American economy in crisis and the path to recovery far from clear, Congress is working overtime to give President Obama a stimulus package that he can sign as soon as possible.

We are now halfway there.

While congressional leaders continue to debate where to best inject hundreds of billions of federal dollars into the flagging economy to get the maximum effect, there is no debate that our economy needs a jolt to rebound as quickly as possible. Thus far, Washington has such a laser-like focus on effectively spending taxpayer dollars that some of the most powerful recovery tools in its arsenal are in danger of being left behind.

The private sector can lead this recovery and do it largely without using taxpayer cash. The fact is, many companies are sitting on sizeable balance sheets and simply trying to ride out the crisis. In uncertain times, it is risky to spend. And when companies don’t spend money, the economy doesn’t move. While the government can prop up the economy with temporary spending, this alone will not necessarily provide a sustainable stimulus for our country.

An infusion of private sector cash will create a chain of economic growth and bring jobs back to Main Street. That, coupled with federal spending on the infrastructure, will allow America to continue to be a great place to do business, and will put us back on the road to prosperity in the short term while enhancing our global competitiveness in the long term.

The CEOs, labor leaders, and university presidents who make up the Council on Competitiveness are urging three essentials to make this happen.

First, Congress needs to enact new tax provisions that allow corporations to expense 100 percent of capital investments made during a minimum of 12 months. This “accelerated depreciation” would enable companies to “expense” the full cost of needed new capital equipment on their taxes. Large and small businesses can buy the new equipment that they need, and that means they spend money which creates jobs.

There are untold billions of dollars sitting idle; it is time to unlock them.

Second, Congress needs to assist individuals and small businesses by enacting provision to deduct, the full purchase price of  products that are Energy Star certified or that have a recognized efficiency rating throughout the 2009 tax year. If we create incentives to invest in energy efficient technologies, we can lower energy bills for everyday Americans, promote a cleaner environment, and improve energy security for our nation. And as a bonus, sell new equipment that creates new jobs for all of us.

Third, 2009 needs to be the year of the CompeteBond. The fact is, the nation needs next generation infrastructure to be able to compete with our global competitors. Infrastructures for   everywhere broadband access, greener public transportation systems, and a national electric transmission superhighway are essential. All of these needs can be built and maintained by Americans. There are hundreds of thousands of high-paying jobs waiting to be created. And instead of borrowing the money from foreign banks and investors to make this happen, we can give Americans a chance to invest in their own future while increasing personal savings rates.

Necessity, it has been said, is the mother of invention. In tough times, it is critical to be creative and take advantage of every opportunity to move America forward. We are encouraged that the House of Representatives took a step in the right direction yesterday with the passage of its version of the stimulus package, and we urge the Senate to keep the ball rolling so America can rebound.

Charles O. Holliday, Jr., Chairman, DuPont, Deborah L .Wince-Smith, President, Council on Competitiveness, and Edward J. McElroy, President Emeritus, American Federation of Teachers