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Election aftermath

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WASHINGTON—When the maelstrom of dust had settled, the Nov. 6 election essentially left the federal government at status quo: Barack Obama still in the White House, Democrats increasing their majority in the Senate, and Republicans still clearly in charge of the House of Representatives, though with fewer seats.

Among tire dealers and auto aftermarket professionals, the general feeling was disappointment, but mingled with hope that Democrats and Republicans could find a compromise before Jan. 1 to avoid the dreaded “fiscal cliff”—a drastic round of mandatory spending cuts and tax increases.

“I got so many calls yesterday from tire dealers who are disappointed about the election and nervous about the tax cliff,” said Roy Littlefield, executive vice president of the Tire Industry Association (TIA), in a Nov. 8 telephone interview with Tire Business. “They want to know what is going to happen, and how it will affect them.”

Mr. Littlefield said he expected a lame-duck session of Congress to try and resolve outstanding fiscal issues, but added that it's difficult to say what will emerge from it.

“I don't know if (House Speaker John) Boehner can compromise, and I don't know if the Republicans will let him,” he said. “Our No. 1 issue is repeal of the estate tax, but I don't think they'll go very far on that.”

The results of the election demonstrate the deep divisions between Republicans and Democrats, Mr. Littlefield said. “The Republicans are in trouble,” he said. “It's almost inconceivable that they didn't do better this time, but they didn't.”

Aaron Lowe, vice president of government affairs for the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), had substantially the same viewpoint as Mr. Littlefield.

“In the end, we're back where we started,” Mr. Lowe told Tire Business. “The big question is, how will these groups work together in the next two years. We need certainty on economic issues for our members.”

The brightest outcome of the election, as far as the AAIA is concerned, was the 86-percent approval of the Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act in Massachusetts (see related story on this page), according to Mr. Lowe. “It sends a clear signal that we need a national Right to Repair law,” he said.

Political leaders must now end the current stalemate and address the nation's fiscal problems effectively, the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) said in a prepared statement.

“After one of the longest and most contentious campaigns in recent memory, it is now time for the administration and Congress to focus its energies on implementing the critical steps to fully restore the American economy,” SEMA said.

“SEMA is eager to join the effort with elected officials of both parties,” the Diamond Bar, Calif.-based trade group said. “It is time to identify common ground, build consensus and create solutions to the benefit of a prosperous future for our country.”

One organization that expressed unadulterated pleasure in the election's outcome was the United Steelworkers (USW) union, which organizes U.S. tire manufacturing workers. It was the USW that in 2009 successfully petitioned the Obama administration for three years of tariffs on passenger and light truck tires imported from China—tariffs that recently expired.

“Most American workers chose Obama for turning the economy around, passing the Affordable Care Act, rebuilding the auto industry, enforcing our trade laws and adding 5.5 million jobs in the last 32 months,” said USW International President Leo W. Gerard.

“We have more to do, but we're on the right track with this president.”

Taking the opposite view was the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). While not issuing a statement on the election per se, the NFIB released the results of a member survey taken just before the election, showing that uncertainty about future business conditions was at a record high.

“The fear of stalemate among the small business community is palpable, as the looming fiscal cliff and the threat of higher costs and more taxes are very real possibilities come January,” said NFIB Chief Economist William C. Dunkelberg.

“Until then, not knowing the direction of the economy will always have a dampening effect on spending and hiring,” Mr. Dunkelberg said.

To reach this reporter: mmoore; 202-662-7211.
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TB Reader Poll

Previous | Published February 1, 2019

What issue concerns you most heading into 2019?

The threat of more tariffs.
27% (27 votes)
The new Congress in Washington.
35% (35 votes)
Price fluctuations for the products we sell.
10% (10 votes)
More disruptions across the industry.
29% (29 votes)
Total votes: 101
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