Business leaders don't like unpredictability because it makes planning difficult. That's why they increasingly are calling on Congressional leaders to work together to chart some sort of course for the future.
The dysfunction that exists in Washington, D.C., is proving to be a real drag on the economy, and manufacturing leaders are starting to view it as a major impediment to successful economic expansion.
In a recent survey of almost 500 CFOs of small and midsized industrial manufacturers, 83 percent of these company leaders listed the effectiveness of the U.S. government as chief among anticipated market challenges in 2014. That’s ahead of health care costs (81 percent) and the U.S. budget deficit (70 percent), both of which were the top two concerns in 2013. The Prime Advantage-sponsored Group CFO Survey is evidence of the obvious: The government can’t get out of its own way.
J. Scott Hall, president of Textron Industrial and the company’s Greenlee business, actually addressed this topic during a Celebration of Manufacturing Expo and Dinner in late March in Rockford, Ill., which is also the hometown of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association. During this Chamber of Commerce event, Hall addressed both the shortcomings of the political situation in Illinois and on a national level. (We’ll save the Illinois discussion because it’s more depressing and not of concern to a majority of metal fabricators.)
In addition to calling for meaningful tax reform and addressing the cost of regulations in the U.S., Hall requests elected officials to put aside extreme points of view and come together to create a plan that addresses deficit reduction without gutting revenue at a time when it’s needed most.
“If you are running a deficit and you cut revenue, you have a bigger deficit,” he told the crowd of northern Illinois manufacturers.
Before you get all red in the face and pound out an e-mail to me about the need for government to be taking less of its citizens’ money and not more, I suggest that Hall is stressing the importance that any truly meaningful conversation about making Congress work has to begin with an understanding that everything is on the table. Collaboration is the key to getting rid of gridlock.
Of course, some see gridlock as the sign that Congress can’t do whatever it pleases. They see it as success.
I don’t think a majority of business owners share that same line of thinking. In a world where there seems to be a crisis du jour, level-headedness and competency are needed from U.S. leaders. At the very least, that approach allows business leaders to understand what awaits so they can plan appropriately.
I haven’t heard the phrases “budget showdown” or “fiscal debt ceiling” in a while. Hopefully, elected officials in Washington are beginning to get the message.