As I am starting to write this month’s article I am returning from South Carolina. I was invited to speak on behalf of ALC at the South Carolina Timber Producers annual meeting. “Forests For Our Future” was the theme for this year’s meeting. I was so impressed, I wanted to put my thoughts into words right away. Crad Jaynes, his staff, and the SCTPA Board put on an annual meeting to be proud of. In some trying times for logging in the south, I was told they had record or near record attendance. With great support from their sponsors, interesting guest speakers and training courses, their meeting was a great success. I had the opportunity to meet many fine South Carolina loggers and see some familiar faces too. Their southern hospitality made me feel very welcome.
A short time ago President Obama gave his “State of The Union” speech. I couldn’t help but ask myself the same question over and over, how ignorant does he think the American people are? I’m sorry, but if you believe the rosy picture he painted, I’ve got some oceanfront property in Arizona to sell you.
To start, the President said that they were successful in beating back the recession and stabilizing the economy. To give them some credit, if you spend 780 billion dollars in a stimulus bill and go one trillion dollars in debt, some positive movement economically, should happen. To date, not many “shovel ready” jobs have materialized. Unemployment for the foreseeable future will remain above nine percent.
He also said America needed to invest in new energy technology, biofuels, and clean coal all the while the oil drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico continues and fuel prices for our industry are on the rise. The whole reason the Department of Energy was created way back when was to reduce or eliminate our dependence on foreign oil. To date we have dramatically increased our dependence.
The size and scope of government was another subject. President Obama proposed a five year spending freeze for the federal budget after the prior year’s spending levels had increased above twenty percent. The freeze was estimated to save a whopping 400 billion dollars over ten years. We Americans were being told the federal government must live within its means and cut spending. After the Congressional Budget Office came out with the latest record 1.5 trillion dollar deficit figures, we all of a sudden have a real “fiscal hawk” at the helm.
A common thread heard throughout the State of The Union speech was making investments. The President implored Congress and the country, that we now need to invest more in education and job creation so we can remain the leader in innovation. The word “investment” has become just another word for more spending. Since the Department of Education was created, we have steadily increased spending on public education. That arguably has not helped the overall quality of education in our country but created a larger bureaucracy. I thought the last stimulus bill was an investment in job creation? After two years in office I guess they are really serious now.
Congress was congratulated on their bipartisan passing of the Bush tax cuts and unemployment extensions. The opponents of the tax cuts, including the President, said it would be too costly for the budget. He announced that after two years the bill should be left to expire for the richest of Americans. It always amazes me how some politicians think, keeping the income tax rates at their existing levels is somehow considered a tax cut and a negative. It seems that whenever unemployment, job creation, or poll numbers come out the administration and some sectors of the media are always surprised at the results but feel they weren’t as bad as they thought. This raises the question, are they in over their heads or that misinformed?
As you may have figured out, I am tired of politics as usual on both sides of the aisle. Now that the House of Representatives has Republican control and the Senate is still controlled narrowly by the Democrats, everyone including the President is calling for civility and a new desire to work together. I wish that same approach would have been taken for the last two years when some of the most sweeping legislation in U.S. history was rammed through like national health care, without even reading the bill.
In this new era of bipartisanship and image retooling, the President should stop putting and dribbling and start listening to the American people. Oh, and so should Congress.
Matt Jensen is the President of the American Loggers Council, which represents over 50,000 logging professionals in 30 states. Matt’s operation, Whitetail Logging, is headquartered in Crandon, Wisconsin.. For more information please contact the American Loggers Council office at 409-625-0206 or e-mail at email@example.com.