With the busy fall season, this may be the last column of mine you read before November 4, so here are my thoughts about the importance of this election. I know you have heard for the last several elections that "this election is one of the most important ones in your lifetime." It was all true. And the performance of our economy, the blizzard of regulations and our disastrous foreign policy has certainly borne out those concerns. The very fact that many on the political left are finally coming around to doubt this administration's policies is telling.
Yet many in the administration and the political left still concentrate their efforts on manmade climate change, the "war on women," regulations "needed" to punish the energy industry, saving our water (not for agriculture), saving our species and saving our planet. They refuse to recognize that not all the world's problems can be settled by lawyers at the conference table.
The great news is, just as demand for beef has held up so well under pressure from price increases no one expected, our economy has held its own, even though most of us have not felt it. The tremendous resilience of the free market capitalist system, the adaptability of companies and industries if left alone to figure out new solutions to new problems, has at least kept the overall economy afloat, even if most Americans still feel like they are in a recession. It has been a difficult time but we are lucky to be producing something everyone needs and wants in some form – food.
I still fear for the piles of regulations – including those restricting financial institutions – that have not yet taken effect or been written. Long-term, if leadership ever arrives that will allow economic growth again, we will need savvy leadership to negotiate the inflationary impact of the trillions of dollars stashed away in the 12 Federal Reserve banks entering the money supply.
Our national security is a concern for our economy and for trade. The world's perception of our laissez faire international policy is now and will continue to affect our trade. Not only has Vladimir Putin explored the limits of our timid foreign policy and Europe's policy outrage versus their need for Russian energy, China is getting increasingly bold in the Far East. Our defense allies and key trade partners like Japan and South Korea are very nervous and deservedly so. Some observers see the struggle by democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong as the biggest test for China since Tiananmen Square in 1989. The Chinese government is unlikely to give much ground in Hong Kong if they fear it would embolden other island territories and nations to resist China's increasingly aggressive actions in the region.
The point is, some kind of world order, confidence that someone besides the “crazies” are in charge is essential for trade and travel to occur. Some folks don't like the U.S. playing world policeman but the current administration's actions – or the lack of them – has given us a vivid demonstration of what kind of strongmen take over if there is a vacuum of American power.
On an international level, this parallels the need for rule of law nationally. There are those who accuse businessmen and conservatives as being against all regulations, all rules and restrictions. That is not the truth. No one wants a basic set of rules, the evenhanded enforcement of those rules and the resulting peace nurturing economic activity more than businesses and conservatives. They want to trade, produce and make a living. It is the stifling overregulation of big government strangling business activity, questionable or uneven law enforcement and the infringement of individual liberty that conservatives oppose.
There is one thing politically becoming more obvious in America. And that is that in an economy as moribund as ours, where growth is not only difficult but possibly even risky, given looming serious new expenses like Obamacare, restricted energy development, higher taxes and regulation, big business is more inclined to "farm' the government. Look at renewable energy projects, huge tax breaks for new factories, immigration reform for labor supplies regardless of national security impact and support for political causes that are anti-free market and bad for the overall economy. Big business support for these things may seem counterintuitive and against principle. But because they are more easily manipulated by big business lobbying and their capital strength, big business may be at odds with small and medium size businesses.
Bottom line, the boat is still leaking but it is afloat. But if we are to power upstream away from the falls, it is past time to change leadership, change direction and do more than just try to keep the boat's holes above the waterline.
There is much still on the table. We will most likely require congressional action to achieve compliance with WTO trade regulations regarding mCOOL. Some pieces of immigration reform may yet be tried before the next presidential election. There is still a pile of EPA regulations – past, present and future – from which we need a Congress to protect us.
Obamacare problems have only begun to manifest themselves and much needs fixing or eliminating. Obamacare's 30-hour work week is a problem for many and it won't help the quality of service at the restaurants the meat industry depends on for half of its sales. What the administration glosses over in reporting the jobs numbers is that a major portion of the jobs created have been part-time jobs.
Above all, we need some tax reform that will get the economy really moving – to stimulate economic activity, encourage business investment and expansion and create jobs. The key measure – labor force participation rate – is at 62.8 percent. It has dropped steadily since 2008, from more than 66 percent for years prior (USBLS). One has to go back prior to 1978 to find lower numbers.
We also need Congress to fix some issues at other government agencies. The National Labor Relations Board is creating a toxic scenario for McDonald's that, while it could seriously affect the business model and labor situation for them, would also likely spread to lots of franchise-based, non-union businesses. The NLRB, loaded by this administration with former union officials, is trying to destroy franchising. It is making unionization of franchised businesses vastly easier, therefore, forcing much higher wages on franchised businesses like restaurants. All of foodservice could face an upheaval like it's never seen, with the entire meat production chain seeing a world of hurt.
There is an anti-human strategy at EPA and Interior, which places any and all species above human beings, as manifested in the water problems in California's Central Valley over the delta smelt and various prairie birds threatening livestock and energy operations on the Great Plains. These are the kinds of things we need members of Congress with brains and guts to fight if we are to survive.
The chances that the Republicans take over the Senate in this election has been analyzed to death. They appear certain to take some seats. But there are a lot of races – some of them in cattle country – too close to call. If you think not all votes count, talk to the folks in Missouri. Out of nearly a million votes cast on their "right to farm" ballot initiative, fewer than 2,500 votes made the difference.
I'm sure most of you live in rural country where only a microcosm of your neighbors have not gotten out their razorblades, if necessary, to scrape off their Obama/Biden bumper stickers. It's not like if you talk to your friends, neighbors, relatives or strangers in town you're likely to get your head taken off. A lot of "independents," whom I think of as "hopeful unrealists" have rued their decision to allow President Obama not one but two chances to demonstrate that he and the left know how to run things.
It is time everyone makes sure that November 4 is circled in red, that everyone really gets out to vote and does their part to make sure our boat doesn't finally take a hole we can't plug fast enough. Find out ahead of time if anyone among your friends, company or relatives needs a ride to the polls. If friends or relatives ask you about candidates and issues, don't tell them how to vote. Tell them how you intend to vote and why. And if you wonder if voting is important, take a good look around you. A tiny percentage of votes cast another way...imagine how different the world would be.