Every year when we conduct our Salary Survey, we ask readers to tell us their biggest job challenge. During the height of the recession, for instance, the economy was the biggest challenge, and for the past couple years the top answer has been costs, whether it's fuel costs, material costs, containing costs, reducing costs, or just plain costs.
The second-biggest challenge, though, based on the number of times it was mentioned, is government. Of course, everybody at one time or another grumbles about the government, especially around April 15, but this year the comments were more specific… and more pointed. It's not just government itself that's roiling material handling and logistics executives, but government's intervention into their operations. There's a very real sense in the world outside the Beltway that Washington (the Obama Administration, Congress, the courts, or all of the above) is on a mission to remake the U.S. supply chain. What that supply chain might look like, it's hard to say exactly, but respondents to the Salary Survey think they have an idea. Here are some of their comments:
"The current and coming regulations from our Government are having a greater negative impact than many Americans know."
"The Fed's increased money supply has decreased the value of the dollar. Infrastructure will be expensive to maintain and replace, especially with low growth. Costs can only be maintained for a period of time, and then either business increases or prices rise."
"Investigating and maintaining regulatory compliance is a significant challenge in a small company." "Our biggest challenge is costs and a horrible economy without any leadership in our President (U.S.)." "Ongoing deterioration of infrastructure exacerbated by all levels of government, and their inability to get their fiscal affairs in order."
One can be excused for being cynical about the intentions of our lawmakers when the evidence so clearly points to "protecting their own self interests" is their top—and perhaps only—priority. How else to explain the mind-numbing lack of enthusiasm amongst Washington politicos to negotiate in good faith with those of the opposition party? One popular myth still being taught in schools today is that politicians seek office to improve the lives of their constituents. In the real-world, though, politicians are just as likely to seek office to improve their own lives (and when necessary, the lives of their most prominent supporters).
Another myth that is still prevalent in some circles is that politicians are working hard every day to ensure their constituents are not taken advantage of. The irony, of course, is that in far too many instances, it's government itself that's taking advantage of the very people who are funding its existence.
But here's another irony: People complain as much about what the government doesn't do as they do about what it does. For every complaint about OSHA (or EPA, FDA, FMCSA, TSA, or any other acronymed agency) overstepping its bounds with onerous regulations, there is a corresponding complaint that the government is run by "a bunch of do-nothings." Sometimes things get worse before they get better, and sometimes they get worse and stay lousy. That puts the burden right back on us to be informed and realistic about those we vote for.
Let's close with one more comment from the Salary Survey: "I work for a good company and have a vested interest in seeing it succeed." Substitute the word "country" for "company," and I'm pretty sure everybody in the material handling and logistics field would agree with that sentiment. Let's just hope our elected officials in Washington agree, too.
Follow me on Twitter @supplychaindave.