Which direction this election?

July 17, 2008
By: Dan Davis

Jim Zawacki, chairman of metal stamping manufacturer GR Spring & Stamping in Grand Rapids, Mich., finds himself in an awkward position this election. He"s donated $1,000 to the campaign of John McCain and plans to vote for the Republican candidate for president, but he"s not a big fan of his stance on trade.

Zawacki told the Arizona senator at a town hall meeting last week that the U.S. needs to get serious about enforcing the rules spelled out in trade agreements. Zawacki said he believes that free trade as it stands now is hurting business, particularly manufacturers, in the U.S.

"When I see unfair trade practices, we'll act very quickly and effectively," McCain responded. "But I also have to look you straight in the eye and tell you that I do believe in free trade."

That about sums up this election. Both candidates are leaving undecided voters and less committed voters scratching their heads.

Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic candidate for president, has many people excited about politics for the first time in a long time. His message of change is resonating with people, even if details about how that change will occur are lacking.

McCain is trying to win over independents and conservatives, who were pleased with past legislative actions on which he voted against tax cuts and didn"t support dramatic action to address the issue of illegal immigrants. McCain has altered his stance slightly on those issues during this campaign, but some voters still have questions.

Those questions about the two candidates may be affecting the general economy. Typically, election years are good for the economy and investors. This year doesn"t seem to be typical.

I met with a fuel tank fabricator earlier this week, and the company"s president brought up the election as having a numbing effect on economic activity. The company is filling as many quotes as ever, but businesses are holding back when it comes to investing in new products.

A manufacturer of waterjet equipment echoed the same sentiments. People seemingly are sitting on their wallets as they wait to see what happens in November.

I haven"t really thought of that as being an overriding factor on the economy, but perhaps they are right. In the day of 24-hour news coverage and every last word being put on tape, voters—and business owners and management—might be as skittish as a cat in Michael Vick"s house.

I can"t say this election has affected my own behavior. If anything, I shy away from news coverage to avoid hearing the candidates pander to the extremes in both parties.

But I do have concerns like most people. I worry that government can"t afford its current commitments, which puts it in jeopardy of meeting its commitments in the future. It bugs me that China owns so much U.S. debt, and that a growing portion of the government"s budget is set aside to finance it. I"d like to see the U.S. have better standing in the eyes of its allies in the free world.

More specifically, here are some of the things I"d do as president:

  1. I"d legalize sports gambling and tax it in a very big way. It"s done in other parts of the world, and the U.S. is losing tons of revenue from illegal operations. Take what"s available.

  2. I"d shut down the post office on Saturday. I imagine it would save some money, and I don"t like getting bills on Saturday.

  3. I"d raise the age for Social Security eligibility. No one really wants to discuss a true remedy for funding the impending retirement of millions, so we"ll just postpone the decision.

(The Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, the parent organization of The FABRICATOR, does not support these ideas, although I"m pretty sure the existence of an NCAA tournament pool in the office might be a silent vote for one of the proposed measures.)

I know I could get bipartisan support for those ideas. That"s important because I think that"s what most voters want out of this electiona spirit of teamwork. We"ve been through two eight-year administrations with sitting commander-in-chiefs who were vilified by the party not holding the White House. The bickering is childish and tiresome, doing nothing but scaring people away from the political process.

I"m looking forward to this election, more specifically its conclusion. Then we can get back to work.

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8281