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We’ve (finally) come to the end of the first half of the 116th congressional cycle. As we head into what will more than likely be one of the most fascinating — and perhaps explosive political times in our nation’s history — now is an excellent opportunity to sit back and reflect on how you feel about the direction of the country.
Are we better off than we were a year ago? Three years ago? Five years ago? Is the nation on better footing in the global economy, foreign policy, domestic economic and social issues? Are you satisfied with immigration, tax reform and infrastructure? Do you have a positive feeling about how the backbone of the American spirit (small business) is treated?
Before you answer, don’t think about the specifics of any congressional action in 2019 — or lack thereof — or any specifics about the administration, the Supreme Court or any of the regulatory agencies. Forget about the entire impeachment circus and the upcoming presidential and congressional elections.
Sit back, take it all in, and ask yourself — in your gut, your instinctive reaction — how do you feel about the direction of the country? Feeling good, bad or indifferent?
I’ll tell you how I feel and give you a few observations. First of all, I feel great! True, there’s a lot of work to do, but the economy is strong, unemployment is at an all-time low, and the United States is finally telling other nations that we are no longer a doormat to their unfair trade practices.
Yup, feeling good. There is something strange, though. While I continue to monitor the media, Congress, the general public and the upcoming elections in November, there is an enthusiastic energy in America, combined with a strong sense of dysfunction. I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced this political vibe before — or perhaps not to this level.
Second half of the 116th Congress
The House will be (must be) laser-focused on any issues that can help sitting members of Congress (in terms of voting record) for the upcoming elections in November 2020. The House has been very unproductive in 2019.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s greatest nightmare would be a drawn-out impeachment process that lingers into 2020. Whether you favor the proceedings or not, it’s a political reality. She desperately needs to finish off the impeachment proceedings in the House and get back to business or face an impeachment backfire.
Truth is that both Democrats and Republicans in the House will benefit if Pelosi can get back to what the House was designed to do and let members do their jobs, which is why they were sent to Washington:
• The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement (USMCA) is a no-brainer, and I’m sure the delay in consideration is to separate it from being diluted with House impeachment considerations — and to use it in an election year.
The USMCA is a trilateral trade pact promising to encourage investment in U.S. factories and jobs, as well as the implementation of new dispute resolution commitments and new rules for automotive-sector wages, labor standards, exchange rates and for digital businesses in North America. I don’t know of anyone in the House or Senate or the White House who opposes USMCA. Bring it on!
• Infrastructure spending was perhaps once considered the only shining issue that the Trump administration and House Democrats could agree on. The nation’s infrastructure is crumbling (above ground and below) and though both sides signaled years ago they would work together on the issue — infrastructure consideration has been an absolute failure.
Remember, President Trump is a land developer and would very much welcome a well-thought-out infrastructure package from Congress. The issue, however, is this: Do the Democrats want to hand the president a victory to run on? Bring it on!
• The prescription drug bill is legislation to lower prescription drug prices in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. It also aims to improve transparency related to pharmaceutical prices and transactions, lower patients' out-of-pocket costs and ensure accountability to taxpayers. I’m certainly not taking a position but I suspect there will be some movement now that the holidays are over. Bring it on!
My observations from 2019
The world of advocacy is changing at warp speed. You’re either going to recognize the value of social media and get good at it, or you’re going to lose and wake up on the junk pile. If you choose to ignore it and wind up on the junk pile, don’t be scared — you’ll have a lot of company.
The sheer magnitude and influence of social media can be your best friend or your worst enemy. In this day and age, mastering social media and creating optimal messaging is not a luxury. It’s a necessity and is your only choice if you truly want to be effective in advocacy. The far-reaching influence of social media has the power to frame an issue and win in the court of public opinion in moments — well before many even recognize there is a threat.
Lobbying has taken on a new dynamic — efficient and effective ways to lobby “the people.” Though influencing “the people” isn’t anything new, social media is the way to absolutely, effectively and emotionally engage people like nothing we’ve ever seen before. It’s critical to influence lawmakers, but not as critical as to influence those who elected them.
Earlier this year, I decided to explore and educate myself about the current success of the e-learning process and its programs, as it pertains to contractors — specifically the plumbing and HVAC industry. As an “old-schooler,” I was somewhat apprehensive and perhaps slightly intimidated. I was, though, fully prepared to learn about the technology and I sincerely thought the story of e-learning would end right there — about the technology.
Online education is exploding and it would seem reasonable to assume that e-learning for a contractor apprentice would be a no-brainer. It would also seem reasonable and make sense that the plumbing and HVAC industry would embrace its value. But that’s where the detail comes into play.
The success of e-learning in the industry isn’t merely attributable to a well-thought-out structured program for contractors (apprentices) set on cruise control — and its success isn’t a random coincidence. Looking back on more than three decades of working for and with Congress, industry associations and firms representing industry, I can rattle off several great programs that would have significantly benefitted contractors, but never succeeded, never even got off the ground.
They failed or at least fizzled out and I never really thought much about why — but perhaps now I know why. The older world needs to embrace and come to grips with the newer world when it comes to e-learning.
As I said at the beginning of this column, 2020 will be an extremely fascinating and explosive political year. As Americans, we will again be tested to try to understand what is best for the country — and what is not.
I stand respectful of those who I don’t agree with politically — and I’m comfortable with the outcome of the election process in November. But for now, I continue to believe this nation continues to be strong and we, as a nation, continue to head in the right direction.