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Former US Senator Bob Corker has said US capitalism has built the world’s largest economy, but he fears anti-business sentiment threatens to undermine a key force in America.

Corker, a former real estate developer who amassed a multi-million dollar fortune before helping start the nonprofit Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprises and then pursuing a political career, said the free market competition produced much more wealth and philanthropy than it enjoys in socialist countries. visited like Venezuela, Russia or China where he went as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“We must continually work to raise the standard of living for everyone here in Chattanooga and nothing does better than a vibrant economy or a good job,” Corker said Thursday in a speech at the Chattanooga Rotary Club. “People who have taken the risk of starting businesses in our community give us the water we swim in. This work must be supported and treated with respect and we must celebrate business success.

Corker said that while serving on the Senate Banking Committee, he heard many criticisms from the business community and many who spoke out against the profits and wealth being made by other people. Despite his differences with former President Donald Trump, Corker has supported most of Trump’s economic agendas for deregulation and lower taxes which could be canceled, at least in part, by President Biden who is proposing an increase in the corporate income tax, wealthy tax rates and limits on polluters and certain financial industries.

“The regulatory environment is certainly changing in a way that I think could be very counterproductive for our country,” Corker said. “You can also definitely see more class envy and anti-business sentiment, so I think the CEOs and leaders of our companies need to talk about the strengths of the free enterprise system and the benefits it offers in their communities. and for their employees and customers. “

A 2019 survey by Pew Research found that about a third of Americans viewed capitalism negatively and 42% viewed socialism positively. Support for socialist programs tended to be stronger among young Americans.

A majority of Americans still had a negative view of socialism and a positive view of capitalism, according to Pew polls. But Corker said he was concerned that even CEOs of large companies were too often critical, or at least silent, about what he said were the benefits of a free market economy.

Corker, who served as mayor of Chattanooga from 2001 to 2005, said one of his greatest accomplishments while working in government was to bring one of the world’s largest private companies, Volkswagen, into its hometown. When he learned that VW had chosen Chattanooga as the site of its only assembly plant in the United States, Corker was so suffocated that he had to recall the German automaker. Over the past decade, VW and its suppliers have invested more than $ 2 billion in new factories and collectively hired or helped support more than 10,000 jobs in the Chattanooga area.

As mayor, Corker also helped raise $ 120 million for the 21st Century Waterfront Plan, which built a new waterfront in downtown Chattanooga and helped expand the Tennessee Aquarium, the Hunter Museum. of Art and the Children’s Discovery Museum. Most of that money came from companies or their owners who were successful in the capitalist system, Corker said.

Corker said he was happy that even most Democrats were not pushing to lower corporate tax rates to the 35% levels of a decade ago, when U.S. rates were higher than many others. industrialized countries. Under President Trump, Republicans cut the corporate tax rate to 21%. Biden is offering a 28% higher corporate rate, but Corker said he expects it to likely end at around 25%.

“It’s still much better than the 35% rate we had before,” he said. “I am glad that we live in a country where opportunities have no limit.”

Contact Dave Flessner at [email protected] or 423-757-6340.

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