SHELTER

October  2004

Politcal Face Off
Critical Issues Could Affect Your Business
by Alan B. Goldberg

The 2000 election will certainly have its place in history, with issues that remained long after the results were finalized. Nearly four years later, there is still the question of whether the Electoral College is the best way to elect a president. There is still concern about voting methods and whether adequate improvements have been made, especially in battleground states in which the election will be decided. 

Many domestic and foreign policy issues for 2004 are as controversial and spirited as the campaigns. Unlike previous elections, where third-party candidates claimed the two parties were very similar in their platforms, this year there are distinct differences between Democrats and Republicans, and either one could have an impact on your business. Here is a quick overview of some of the issues and what each party plans to do.

Energy
Soaring fuel prices have impacted every industry and generated much interest in each candidate’s plan for dealing with it. While both parties agree that dependence on foreign oil must be reduced, their plans differ.
The Bush plan to reduce oil exports calls for oil exploration and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), opening new Federal lands in the Rockies and the Gulf of Mexico and easing regulations on refineries and pipelines. The plan also calls for using coal and nuclear energy as a means of diversifying electricity generation. Tax incentives for the purchase of fuel efficient vehicles are also part of the plan. 

The Kerry plan opposes domestic drilling, calls for reduced use of coal, oil and nuclear energy and emphasizes investment in other forms of energy. Kerry claims that if domestic drilling did take place, oil from ANWR wouldn’t be available for 20 years. 

“It is time to get off this ride and chart a new course to energy independence,” Kerry said.

What both plans have in common is that they are long-term solutions. Both candidates also agree on the need for higher fuel efficiency standards in the short term.

Steel Tariffs
In 2002, in response to a long-declining industry, Bush imposed tariffs of 8 percent to 30 percent on most steel imports. Twenty months later, he repealed most of the tariffs, which the Word Trade Organization (WTO) ruled illegal and trading partners threatened to retaliate. Both Bush and Kerry favor free trade. Where they disagree is on labor and environmental standards. Kerry says all trade must include them; Bush opposes any linking to the standards.

Exporting Jobs
Although neither Bush nor Kerry want to see jobs lost overseas, their approach to preventing it is as different as their views on other issues.

“If I’m President, our government won’t provide a single reward for shipping our jobs overseas or exploiting the tax code to go to Bermuda to avoid paying taxes while sticking the American people with the bill,” said Kerry. “We’re going to get rid of the loopholes and instead we’re going to give incentives to good companies (through tax cuts) to create and keep good jobs here at home.”

He offers an economic plan that he says will create 10 million new jobs over the next 10 years.

Bush feels the best way to deal with the loss of jobs overseas is to make sure America remains the best place in the world to do business so that its job base will expand. 

“The more vibrant the small business sector, the more likely it is somebody’s going to find work. The more vibrant the small business sector, the more likely it is jobs will stay right here at home. That’s what people have got to understand,” he said.

Bush said 70 percent of all new jobs are created by small businesses, pointing out that excessive taxing and spending in Washington D.C. “is not creating an environment for the entrepreneurial spirit to flourish.” 

Forestry
Bush’s proposed forestry plan would make it easier for timber companies to remove wood from 190 million acres of the most highly fire-prone forests because it would end the government’s “hand’s off” policy in national forests. According to Kerry’s plan, a new Forest Restoration Corp. would be created which would be responsible for the long-term health of national forests. The funds would come from the $100 million in subsidies that go to the timber industry. 

Health Care
In his State of the Union message earlier this year, Bush described his proposed health care plan which entails a health savings account and choices of health care coverage. The purpose of the plan is to give Americans the opportunity to choose private health care coverage that fits their needs.

“We want people to own and manage their own health care plan. We want people to own and manage their own retirement accounts. …when a person owns something, he or she has a vital stake in the future of our country. 

Bush says that a government-run health care system is the wrong prescription. 

“I don’t want the federal government making decisions for consumers or providers. 

Under the proposed Kerry plan, the government will pick up most of the expenses and the premiums for middle class families will go down.

“Right now, only four out of every 1,000 claims deal with health care costs over $50,000. We’ll close the loopholes that prevent more affordable prescriptions from making it to your pharmacy. And we’ll be able to provide seniors with the real prescription drug coverage under Medicare that they’ve been waiting for,” Kerry said. According to his plan, the cost of prescription drugs will be lower because the federal government will be able to negotiate better prices through Medicare.

Both parties offer some type of aid for small business. Under the Bush plan, they would be able to buy insurance at lower rates through multi-state organizations. According to the Kerry plan, there will be tax credits. In addition, the federal government will assume 75 percent of catastrophic costs which is estimated to provide up to $1,000 in annual savings for families. (Individuals who buy catastrophic health care coverage, under the Bush plan, would be allowed to deduct 100 percent of their premiums from their taxes.) 

Other issues
The war on terrorism , the war in Iraq, national security and the state of the economy are other issues where both parties offer opposing views. While polls change from week to week, these polls have little meaning in an election where so much is at stake, for business and individuals.

The best way to make its workforce totally committed to customer service is by being an employee-owned business through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), so believe the employees of Western Building Products of Milwaukee, Wis. As participants in the ESOP, employees are challenged to actively participate in the business, have the opportunity to share in the profits of the business and to vote on major governance issues that affect their work life.

Cast Your Vote: Bush or Kerry?
SHELTER recently asked its on-line newsletter readers to let us know for which candidate they were voting. Here’s what some of them had to say:

“For Kerry. I don’t think Bush is doing a good job. I DON’T feel safer, the economy has suffered and he’s not concerned with domestic issues, in my opinion.” 

“I will proudly cast my vote for George W. Bush. He has done a great job of leading this country during its most difficult time. He is a moral man who has demonstrated he can be trusted. John Kerry’s record has shown he cannot make up his mind on any important subject, and we cannot afford to have such a man as our President.” 

“For Kerry. Tax cuts were too much, the war with Iraq wasn’t thought out and really was a huge waste. I disagree with courting the 3 G’s and separating the country.” 

“President George W. Bush will get my vote for a second term. He did an overall good job in: maneuvering our economy out of the recession, and—most of all—securing our country in time of crisis.” 

SHELTER

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