By Bill Allmond, Vice President, Government and Public Relations -
President Obama next week will give his fourth and perhaps most important State of the Union address of his presidency so far. No matter who occupies the White House, these speeches are full of lofty ideas that rarely get implemented. But, given the enormous stakes facing the nation today, this year’s speech should more appropriately be called the “Fate of the Union.”
During his inauguration speech last month, the president mentioned or alluded to numerous priorities for his second term. Immigration. Climate change. Gun control. Infrastructure. The debt and deficit. In truth, this last priority will most likely occupy most of the year, and it should. Washington has repeatedly delayed or avoided tackling one of the biggest issues that threatens the economy - our fiscal health. While the other priorities President Obama mentioned are important, they pale in comparison to getting a handle on federal spending and helping manufacturers grow their businesses. Resolving these issues correctly will determine the fate of our economy for years to come.
Last year, a study by the National Association of Manufacturers found that falling over the fiscal cliff would reduce real GDP by 0.6 percent in 2012 from what it would have been without the fiscal cliff debate. Even with the fiscal cliff partially averted, many concerns remain. Sequestration, if it occurs, could cost a million jobs by 2014, according to NAM. Manufacturers pulled back on spending and hiring at the end of last year as they worried about slowing sales and fiscal uncertainties. Furthermore, manufacturers in our industry remained concerned about the continued growth and cost of federal regulation.
Will the White House and Congress see the “big picture” and agree on spending cuts and revenue generation? Will they support policies that make our industry more competitive, such as reforming our tax code and regulatory process? Doing so would help the U.S. chemical industry avoid the 9-10 percent loss of output forecasted per year over the next decade due to federal regulatory costs. Will they agree to open foreign markets to our products through new free trade agreements? Doing so with the EU, for example, would save more than a billion dollars in tariffs currently paid by chemical manufacturers to export across the pond. Can President Obama and Congress agree that intellectual property generated by innovative American industries like ours should be heavily protected against espionage?
These priorities are more than just lofty ideas. They are practical ways in which President Obama, together with Congress, can and should address the fate of our Union.