What's At Stake in the November Elections

“The real outcome of most lobbying is … nothing. Until the right party or person comes to power.”
— Frank R. Baumgartner, et al, Lobbying and Policy Change: Who Wins, Who Loses, and Why

Elections drive public policy and the impact of elections determines the policy of regulators on supply chains. If I am successful in making this case here, I'm hoping you'll start thinking about your role in establishing a pro-supply-chain regulatory environment.

Recently released research provides the foundation of my argument. A comprehensive 10-year study examining the impact of lobbying and changes in public policy concluded that 60 percent of the time lobbying has no impact. This doesn't mean that lobbying never works; it means that public policy changes occur primarily when the electorate decides which party has the right economic policy for the country.

The important news from this study is that elections matter more than any other event in determining the economic and public policy of this nation. Electing candidates who promote economic growth and supply chain efficiency is far more important than lobbying already elected officials who have staked out positions that undermine those goals.

If a candidate supports U.S. protectionism versus free trade, or believes that business management has too much power with respect to the workforce, you can expect them to act on those beliefs no matter how hard you try to persuade them otherwise.

Those who work in the supply chain need to look deeper than the “R” or “D” label. They should consider the candidates' positions on trade and commerce. I tell my members: “IWLA is for trade and commerce, and we evaluate our positions based on that yardstick.”

When discussing the upcoming election with fellow employees, it is important to use a measurement that they can view as fair and directly related to job and wealth creation with respect to the supply chain. IWLA has adopted the following questions to evaluate a candidate's position with respect to trade and commerce:

  1. Does this candidate support adoption of the Korean, Colombian and Panama Free Trade Agreements?

  2. When it comes to union organizing, does this candidate oppose the Employee Free Choice Act, including card check and binding contract arbitration, and does the candidate support an individual's right to a federally-supervised, private ballot?

  3. Does this candidate support extending the Bush tax cuts that encourage investment and consumer spending?

  4. Does this candidate support targeting stimulus money for infrastructure investment instead of directing it to temporarily salvaging state budget deficits and/or promoting one industry over another?

  5. What is this candidate's position on climate change? Does this candidate oppose a carbon tax and cap and trade? Does he or she oppose EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions?

  6. Can we expect this candidate to have a continuing relationship with our industry, and be open to the reality of the need for an efficient supply chain to promote the competitive position of the U.S.?

Open your conversation with the importance of the election and the policy impact on jobs. Never tell anyone how to vote, but share with them what you know, along with credible sources of information on how candidates answer this six-question survey. Such facts allow people to make informed decisions.

Many supply chains experienced tremendous growth, increased consumer choices and reduced consumer prices with the opening of trade barriers and the creation of free trade agreements. These benefits came as a result of an unbroken U.S. trading policy pursued by Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. But these benefits can be reversed by electing candidates who see trade protectionism as the cure to our country's unemployment.

Evidence from the last few election cycles proves that elections drive public policy. Although IWLA will continue to forcefully represent the industry's interests in Washington and state capitals, after this November, we won't get another chance to substantially change policy direction for another two years.

As a member of the supply chain business community, you have an opportunity to review where candidates stand on trade and commerce issues using the six questions listed here. Once you know, spread the word to as many associates as you can. There is much truth in the old saying that, when it comes to politics, “You are either at the table or on the menu.”

Joel Anderson is president of the International Warehouse Logistics Association and a member of MH&L's Editorial Advisory Board.

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