With unemployment stubbornly stalled at 9.6 percent, the Obama administration is desperately looking for ways to get the economy moving again.
Recently, in a meeting with my manufacturing counterparts from around the country, President Obama’s representative read a speech about all the administration is doing to spur manufacturing in America. Specifically, she tried to enlist our help in convincing companies to invest the $1.8 trillion they’re holding in reserve in added production capacity and new products and services.
While we share the president’s goal, the fact is these are uncertain times in a fluid political environment. The one thing investors and companies need — from giants like Boeing to tiny Printcom Inc., in Burien — is certainty. They have to know that if they take their money out of savings and buy a new machine or hire new employees, they have a reasonable chance of recouping their investment.
Currently, that’s not the case.
Uncertainty about higher taxes, increasing regulations, health reform costs, cap-and-trade and lopsided pro-union policies have many employers and investors sitting on the sidelines. The Obama representative sincerely promised to take our concerns back to the White House. Did any of us believe it would make a dent in the president’s thinking?
Heck no! That’s the problem.
Employers fully expect Congress to come back in a lame duck session after the November elections and jam through anti-business legislation.
First on the agenda: card check legislation, which eliminates the secret ballot and allows union organizers to look over workers’ shoulders as they “vote” whether to form a union.
The unions call it the Employee Free Choice Act, but it is anything but free choice.
Even former U.S. Senator George McGovern, a liberal pro-union icon who was the 1972 Democrat presidential candidate, called card check fundamentally wrong. He wrote in The Wall Street Journal: “I spent some time running a hotel. It was an eye-opening introduction to something most business operators are all-too familiar with — the difficulty of controlling costs and setting prices in a weak economy. Despite my trust in government, I would have been alarmed by an outsider taking control of basic management decisions that determine success or failure in a business where I had invested my life savings.”
Also on the agenda may be some form of cap-and-trade legislation. This legislation would set emission limits for carbon dioxide and then charge a fee to manufacturers, utilities and others who exceed those limits. In Europe, this scheme has crippled competitiveness without improving air quality, yet Congress seems intent on implementing it anyway.
It seems today that in the president’s haste to set historic political landmarks, such as Obamacare, the impacts of those policies on employers are disregarded, even in the midst of a severe recession.
We asked the president’s representative to go back to Washington and tell Congress and the president to start listening rather than telling employers what’s best for them. Stop bashing business and stop all these new costly programs that the American people don’t want and can’t afford.
Rich Karlgaard, publisher of Forbes, said it best in his recent column, “The Forgotten Employer.” Wrote Karlgaard: “In a national debate about jobs and job creation hardly anyone is talking to the job creators about jobs. The forgotten man in this crisis is the employer. We forget him at our peril.”
About the Author
Don Brunell is the president of the Association of Washington Business. Formed in 1904, the Association of Washington Business is Washington’s oldest and largest statewide business association, and includes more than 7,000 members representing 650,000 employees. AWB serves as both the state’s chamber of commerce and the manufacturing and technology association. While its membership includes major employers like Boeing, Microsoft and Weyerhaeuser, 90 percent of AWB members employ fewer than 100 people. More than half of AWB’s members employ fewer than 10. For more about AWB, visit www.awb.org.