An Impatient Electorate Seeks Certainty

SEMA News—August 2012

LEGISLATIVE AND TECHNICAL AFFAIRS
By Dan Sadowski

An Impatient Electorate Seeks Certainty

Upcoming Election Is Yet Another Chance to End Partisan Gridlock

 


With the critical 2012 election only a few months away, lawmakers have produced few results. The blame falls on both sides of the aisle.

 


 


In 2008 and 2010, voters sent a clear signal that “business as usual” in Washington—partisan gridlock, stagnant growth and increased spending—would no longer be tolerated. The American public vowed to remove from office those lawmakers who refused to accept the demands of the electorate. Despite this clear ultimatum, deep political divisions and gamesmanship rule Congress. As business owners struggle to create jobs and lead our economic recovery, lawmakers have squandered opportunities to provide a stable climate for growth.

With the critical 2012 election only a few months away, lawmakers have produced few results. The blame falls on both sides of the aisle. For example, the U.S. Senate has not passed a budget since April 29, 2009. While scores of crucial tax-relief measures expire, including the estate tax and research and development tax credit, the House of Representatives has chosen to delay consideration until after the November election.

Lawmakers are avoiding tough decisions on tax and spending issues before voters go to the polls. Instead, they intend to hold a lame-duck session after the election but before the new Congress is seated in January. Many important decisions can’t wait until 2013, but the current atmosphere on Capitol Hill is too divisive to enact legislation. The lame-duck session may permit a compromise to temporarily extend some tax cuts and set in motion the process for overhauling the tax code.

Instead of dealing with those important issues now, Congress has purposely engaged in partisan standoffs over the 2008 health care law, the Keystone XL pipeline project and infrastructure funding, among many other issues. The debates have been shallow on substance and served as wedge issues to rile up voters rather than enact laws. Meanwhile, Congressional leaders from both sides have postponed action on legislative initiatives designed to stimulate the economy and put Americans back to work.

The evidence of gridlock is clear. Unemployment in the United States has remained above 8%. Economic growth remains sluggish. Given the uncertainties about taxes, regulatory burdens and future product sales, businesses throughout the nation are still hesitant to hire new workers. Throughout the first half of 2012, small-business owners have repeatedly called for clarity from Washington. Congress and the White House have not responded.

This economic uncertainty has resulted in frustration and anger from the American public. Voters first made a statement in 2008 that “change” was necessary to bring a new approach to Washington. In 2010, Americans issued a strong declaration that the change they had voted for only two years prior was not meeting their demands. Now, with control of both houses of Congress and the White House at stake, we find ourselves yet again at a historic crossroads.

While demanding change, the American electorate also needs to hold itself accountable for the people it puts into office. A large segment of the public automatically votes with its party affiliation, leaving independent voters to sway the results. These are swing voters that have no allegiance to a particular party. They also symbolize the nation’s impatience with gridlock. Given the growing divide between electoral demands and partisan rhetoric, the 2012 election may serve as the strongest rebuke of partisan politics in years.

Voters are looking for leadership, a vision for the future and a concise message on how to get there. Addressing tax reform, spending cuts, entitlement reforms, regulatory relief, investments in infrastructure and other issues that shape a strong economy requires leadership at all levels of government. Debating these topics and articulating legislative solutions during the campaign season allows lawmakers to claim a mandate once elected. Of course, voters also need to accept the fact that restoring the nation’s economy will require some tough medicine, and the leaders who prescribe the appropriate remedy should be supported.

In this divided environment, it is important that SEMA remain a leading voice for its membership. While legislative leaders continue to express empty rhetoric on Capitol Hill and in the media, SEMA continues to advocate strongly for the future of the industry. SEMA is working to hold elected officials accountable by calling for tax and entitlement reform, regulatory relief for small businesses and economic incentives to ensure that member businesses continue to drive the recovery of the American economy.

As Election Day draws closer, SEMA remains engaged in protecting our industry and providing the strongest opportunities for growth, expansion and success.

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