SEMA News—November 2012
FROM THE HILL
By Dan Sadowski
Elections Have Consequences
Critical Decisions Will Have Lasting Effects on Small-Business Community
As the 2012 SEMA Show opens its doors, the world’s eyes will be focused on the final days of this year’s contentious election campaign. Candidates across the country are making their closing arguments to attract any undecided voters who may still have a chance of affecting the final outcome.
For the presidential campaign, President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney have offered two distinct visions for the future of the United States. At the national level, the question remains: Will the election yield a mandate that will allow the administration to implement a vision?
Whether or not he is elected, Governor Mitt Romney may have played a crucial role in setting the stage for a mandate when he selected Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate. As the chairman of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Ryan drafted the Republican budget with plans for addressing the growing budget deficit, to include unsustainable entitlement programs and convoluted tax policies.
Although both parties have engaged in political attacks on the other side’s positions on Medicare, Social Security, income tax rates and other necessary reforms, it may still be possible for those elected to Congress and the White House to claim a mandate. It is obvious to all that the country is already beyond the time when those issues should have been addressed. Even with a divided government, voters still want leadership, a vision for the future and a concise message on how to get there.
While the newly elected politicians will take office in January, the nation can’t wait. The previous Congress failed to address crucial financial issues, such as renewing a variety of tax credits and small-business relief measures set to expire on December 31. This Congress will return for several weeks after the November 6 elections to make crucial decisions or once again be enveloped in quagmire. This is a “lame-duck” session of Congress in which retiring, defeated and outgoing members have one last opportunity to make a valuable contribution to the nation’s economic well-being.
With respect to the next Congress, the question is whether it will remain paralyzed by partisan gridlock. In the eyes of the electorate, responsibility for the lack of progress will fall on members of both parties in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. It also will fall on the electorate itself if voters are unwilling to demand that lawmakers seek reasonable compromise in a divided government.
In terms of party control, there are several likely scenarios following the November election. The Republicans currently control the House of Representatives and Democrats control the Senate. While the Republicans are expected to lose some House seats, they are expected to remain in control. Depending on the outcome of some highly publicized statewide battles, there is a chance that the Democrats could lose the Senate or that it will be a 50-50 split, in which case the vice president becomes the tie breaker. In this instance, the consequences of the presidential election loom even larger.
A more likely outcome is that the Senate remains controlled by Democrats and the House by Republicans, albeit both with smaller majorities. If this occurs, President Obama or President Romney will be required to establish a tone of bipartisanship and cooperation early in his term to ensure any hope of legislative progress.
American voters claim to be upset with the current state of gridlock in Washington and have demanded accountability from their legislators. However, should the House and Senate remain divided after this year’s election, partisan division may actually increase. As we have learned over the past several years, this rancor will have a lasting negative impact on job creators and business owners.
As the saying goes, “elections have consequences.” This phrase means not only that ineffective elected officials are voted out, but that the agenda for at least two years following the election is determined by the results. Important economic incentives, such as the Research and Development Tax Credit, have expired due to Congressional inaction. The new Congress must act quickly to avert two more years of limited progress.
At this critical time, voters must also be reminded of what is at stake and which candidates have the best plan to restore America’s economic health. For small-business owners, this election may prove to be one of the most important in recent memory. Employers and job creators have waited long enough for elected officials to implement policies that allow opportunities to grow and prosper.