Last month, as I wrote this column, the 44th president of the United States was sworn into office. He takes the reins of a country reeling from a faltering economy, massive job losses and unprecedented government bailouts of banks, car makers and seemingly anyone with their hand out.
Despite such woes, Americans appear to have high hopes for President Barack Obama’s ability to lead us out of our current troubles. A USA Today/Gallup poll found 62 percent said Obama’s inauguration made them feel more hopeful about the next four years. Hope is one thing, but the big question is: How will his policies and the goals of a Democrat-controlled Congress affect your business?
One of Obama’s top priorities is passage of a nearly trillion-dollar stimulus plan, designed to jump-start the economy and create jobs, in part through the largest government infrastructure spending program since the New Deal. This has the potential to boost freight levels temporarily, at least for truckers who haul construction materials. Many economists, however, say that project lead times will mean we won’t see much immediate benefit. A quicker cash infusion could come from the plan’s proposed tax cuts for individuals and businesses, including incentives for small businesses to buy equipment.
Energy independence is a big issue for truckers, although less so now that diesel is just over $2 per gallon. Obama vows to free us from our dependence on foreign oil – eliminating imports from the Middle East and Venezuela within 10 years. Doubling production of alternative energy and creating jobs building solar panels and wind turbines are two ways he would achieve this goal.
Then there’re the courts. Obama will fill vacancies at federal appeals courts, presumably with left-leaning judges whose approvals should sail through a Democrat-controlled Congress. The District of Columbia Circuit Court, which makes much of the law concerning regulatory agencies such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, has two vacancies. Obama’s appointees could mean a less business-friendly environment for federal lawsuits on issues impacting trucking.
Obama ran on a platform of change, but exactly what that will mean is yet to be determined. What’s certain is that campaigning and governing are two very different things. The realities on the ground may dictate a far different course than outlined in the rhetoric used to win votes. What, if any, effect the new administration will have on our nation’s troubles remains to be seen.
But at least for now, the glow of possibility appears to have buoyed the nation’s spirits. Perhaps a bump in consumer confidence – and the boost that could give the economy – will not be far behind.
This ends my 12-year run as editor of Overdrive. Next month, Editorial Director Max Heine will appear in this space as I take on a broader role with Randall-Reilly’s growing stable of media properties. Thanks for your kudos and criticisms throughout the years. I’ve enjoyed every one.