“Politician” has been practically synonymous with “crook” since the earliest democracies of the Greek city-states. Every election year the cry goes up: throw the bums out! Every election year seems to deliver a crop of candidates who proudly proclaim themselves not to be those most hated of creatures, the “Washington insiders.”
Maybe the reason so many people hate politics is because hypocrisy seems somehow baked into the job. One face — the public face — that beams smiles and optimism and promises the moon and stars and a chicken in every pot. The other face — the insider’s face — that’s always looking to raise your taxes, cut your benefits, and pass legislation filled with the kind of loopholes only a billionaire could love.
But maybe it’s more basic than that. For many people, the call to politics is grounded in high-minded idealism (call me naive, but I don’t think there’s a single politician in Washington who ran for the job planning to one day sell out to the special interests). But then the reality of politics is compromise, always forced to give for what you get, never quite getting all you were hoping for. Excepting only those moments right after an election night victory, it must be one of the most frustrating, disheartening jobs ever created.
While not everyone can afford their own lobbyist, there’s plenty you can do.
But it’s also one of the most necessary. Like it or not, politics is how things get done in this country. Politics makes legislation, legislation makes regulation, and it all can have a direct effect on your business. Just to give a few concrete examples:
· January 1st saw the implementation of the GOP tax plan, which was designed to be business-friendly. The corporate rate will drop from 35% to 21%. Plus, individuals will be able to deduct 20% of their qualified business income from a partnership, S corporation or sole proprietorship.
· Earlier this year saw a final decision to preserve the WaterSense program. A success by almost any measure (it costs $3 million a year to administer and has saved Americans about $33 billion in water and energy costs since its inception in 2006), it was in danger of being eliminated (you can read the whole story in our September feature).
· On June 19th the Department of Labor issued new rules on Association Health Plans which would allow businesses sharing a common industry to join together to purchase health insurance; on August 2nd, Attorneys General from 11 states and the District of Columbia files suit to challenge the rules.
· At the end of July Congress re-authorized the Carl D. Perkins Act, increasing annual funding for career and technical education from $1.2 to $1.3 billion over the next six years.
But maybe just as important are all the things that don’t end up happening. Remember that trillion-dollar infrastructure bill that looked like a sure thing? Not a word of it now.
So, since there’s no escaping politics, the sensible thing is to stay informed on the issues important to your business (and if you’re reading this you’re probably already serious about that), form your own opinions and then try to make your voice heard.
While not everyone can afford their own lobbyist, there’s plenty you can do. If you’re a union shop, tell your union rep about the issues you’re concerned about. Join a trade organization and get involved. While writing a letter to your Senators and Representative may sound old-fashioned, in this day and age of social media and email, an actual stamped, signed letter carries a surprising amount of weight.
And above all vote for those candidates who represent your interests. Tell your friends, family and co-workers to go vote and help them get to the polls. If you’re an employer tell your employees to go vote and give them the time they need to do it. Democracy can be pretty ugly sometimes, but it still beats all the alternatives out there.