The Least You Can Do
I was a bit late for work today – traffic jam. But this wasn’t your run-of-the mill gaper’s block. This delay was the result of the George W. Bush motorcade. The Texas governor was on his way to a set of studios on the near-north side of Chicago in hopes of charming the pants off of 22 million viewers (most of whom are women) in a televised chat with Oprah. Bush’s visit follows that of Vice President Al Gore, who chatted up Oprah a week prior.
I didn’t watch Gore and I don’t plan on watching Bush (which isn’t good news for ol’ Dubbya, who needs to sway all the female voters he can; he lags 17 points behind Gore in polls with women). I pay attention to the "numbers," but I’m not really one for statistics. I try to vote on issues. I tried voting on "my gut" once, basing my choice for president on that intangible feeling or vibe you get from a candidate. I cast my vote in favor of this man because "he seemed sincere." My gut was way off that year.
To be honest, it was simple laziness. I just didn’t feel like researching the candidates or paying attention to their platforms. I voted solely on feelings, not knowledge, and that can be a big mistake.
We are in the midst of the longest peacetime economic expansion in American history. We have the lowest poverty rate in 20 years, the lowest unemployment rate in 30 years and the highest home ownership levels on record. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is above 11,000, up more than 7,000 points from just seven years ago. Welfare rolls have dropped from 14.1 million to 6.9 million. Overall, I’d say we’re having a pretty good run.
But in case you haven’t been paying attention, the fast approaching election will replace not only the sitting president, but also one third of the Senate and all of the House of Representatives. Now, I’m not saying that economic nirvana hinges solely on who controls Washington. But after eight years of prosperity, which coincided with the span of the Clinton administration, a change in power could generate a ripple effect through the financial markets, the job market and eventually our market.
Take note of some of the issues that will affect you as a grower:
The EPA is currently in the process of implementing the Food Quality Protection Act and completing the pesticide registration process for older pesticides. The right legislation will ensure this is done fairly.
The DOT is proposing a regulation that would restrict the amount of time drivers operating everything from large trucks to delivery vans could spend on the road. The rule would also mean new paperwork and record-keeping requirements. This proposal marks a distinct change from past DOT regulations.
A repeal of the estate tax would have gradually eliminated the tax, which can be as high as 55 percent of the value of the business, over a 10-year period. This would save heirs from liquidating businesses to pay the tax. Clinton vetoed the bill in August, but it is likely another version of estate tax reform will be introduced next year.
A bill for H2-A reform is currently in the House. If passed, this would provide a more stable labor and immigration strategy by protecting migrant workers. However, with only 30 days remaining for Congress to pass the bill, it may be postponed until the next Congressional session.
Healthcare and insurance remain issues at the forefront for many small businesses. Growing dissatisfaction with current methods of financing healthcare and increasing concern about the size of the uninsured population have led to proposals for substantial revisions of the health care system.
The election is Nov. 7. And granted, another few weeks of polls, pundits, stump speeches and talk show appearances can seem like an eternity. But the days preceding the election are the most critical. This is the time to watch the candidates closely. Pay attention to what they propose (or don’t propose). Tune into the debates, visit campaign Web sites (www.georgewbush.com, www.algore2000.com), contact the American Nursery and Landscape Association (202-789-2900) or the Society of American Florists (800-336-4743) for detailed information on upcoming bills that affect floriculture. Determine who will fight for what’s best for our industry. Choose, and most importantly, vote. It’s the least you can do for horticulture.