Given an audience with the next president (whoever that may be) following the election this fall, what advice would you offer him?
Bob Weidner of the Metals Service Center Institute posed that thought-provoking question to an executive panel during MSCI’s manufacturing summit last month in suburban Chicago. The trade group is hosting a series of summits across the country between now and November to help mobilize the metals industry and educate candidates on the issues of critical importance to U.S. manufacturing. Panelists included Bill Hickey, president of Lapham-Hickey Steel Corp.; C. Davis Nelsen, president of Nelsen Steel & Wire; Mike Petersen, president of Petersen Aluminum Corp.; and Bert Miller, president of Phoenix Closures.
“My advice to him would be to go big,” said Petersen. “Take on a big issue like taxes. People are hesitant to make investments because they don’t know what will happen with the fiscal cliff that’s looming. I’d say let’s go for tax reform and clarity on tax rates.”
“No matter who is elected, I would tell him we have to fix the imbalances in the U.S. economy,” Hickey said, pointing to America’s huge trade deficit. The U.S. has grown dependent on vast amounts of foreign oil and cheap goods from Asia. “If we don’t produce products here, we are going to wind up with a much lower standard of living.”
Nelsen said he would urge the president to address the bureaucratic culture in Washington. “My hope is that whoever is in the Oval Office would understand we have federal departments that are all about perpetuating their power rather than serving the people and the businesses in this country.”
Miller would recommend that the president focus on a progressive energy policy, which would help solve many of the nation’s problems. North America’s vast natural gas reserves represent the game-changer of a lifetime for the economy and the environment, he said. “A seven-year program to get American trucking on natural gas would go a long way toward solving the balance of trade. It would cut the cost of transporting goods by 50 percent, cut our carbon footprint by 50 percent, and keep a whole lot of oil imports out of this country. It would create a lot of infrastructure jobs, as well.”
What do you think the next president should make his priority? Lowering the corporate tax rate? Easing burdensome over-regulation? Enforcing international trade rules? Enacting term limits? Acting on the fiscal reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission?
The answer is obvious: All of the above.