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September 1, 2010

Why You Must Vote

“People deserve the government they get.” –H.L. Mencken

Ladies and gentlemen, my message for this issue of Forward is very simple. Please vote in the midterm election in November. And bring along your family and friends, because the stakes this year are unusually high.

You may think that voting is automatic. After all, highly educated, highly motivated people like you tend to vote in higher percentages than do registered voters as a group. Chances are, you not only plan to vote, you understand the issues and know about the candidates.

But that's not necessarily the case for your co-workers, your friends, relatives or neighbors. This year, I suggest, your task is to persuade everyone to vote and, in doing so, to help expand the number of voters who factor in the needs of business as they decide which candidates to support.

This will be a critically important election for business in general and for those of us in manufacturing and the metals business in particular. In these pages and through our communications with members, the Metals Service Center Institute has found more reason than ever before to sound the alarm about issues in Washington and, to a lesser extent, in Ottawa. Our political class seems to operate more on theory and ideology than it does on pragmatism, and most politicians clearly know very little about what it takes to maintain a thriving business. The taxes, regulations and potholes in the public policy road have expanded alarmingly.

So, we've had health care “reform” that raises short-, medium and long-term costs. We've had a mighty push by majority lawmakers and President Obama to pay back support from organized labor with damaging legislation, like “card check,” damaging appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and a swarm of rules that favor unions. There are climate bills and EPA action that threaten to add substantially to the cost of doing business. And the big deficit spenders in the administration and Congress ceaselessly look for ways to squeeze every last nickel from business in new or higher taxes, while refusing to cut the cost of government.

You have to ask the question: How can you believe politicians who, in an election year, proclaim the need to double exports and build our manufacturing base when, at the same time, they raise taxes, add burdensome regulations, fail to address national areas of concern like an aging infrastructure and find ways to increase the strain on businesses, thus making them less competitive?

I could go on, but the point should be obvious. This is the year when the business community has to make sure its voice is heard. This is the year that we must hold accountable those politicians who are big on election-year rhetoric that never leads to action. This is the year when we simply must judge politicians by what they have actually done, rather than by what they say.

H.L. Mencken is among the many commentators who have observed that we deserve the government we get. Just as perceptive was the ancient Athenian statesman and general Pericles, who observed that, “Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you.” Oh, so true.

So this year, let's go out and get something new. Let's elect representatives and senators who either have a business background or at least comprehend what it represents, who understand what it takes to build an economy, and who will do their part to make all those rhetorical promises a reality.