WASHINGTON — A polarized national political atmosphere means a lot is riding on the upcoming election.
Depending on who wins the White House and who controls Congress, life could look much different in 2021 when it comes to hot-button issues such as taxation, regulation, climate change or infrastructure repair.
Or they could remain pretty much the same.
There's no confusing President Donald Trump with former Vice President Joe Biden, that's for sure.
And whomever wins the election will dictate how the federal government approaches matters that could have a direct impact on the tire and rubber sectors — really all businesses — for the next four years.
Add to that the uncertainty about which side will control the Senate come 2021, and it makes the crystal-ball gazing fuzzy these days.
At the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA), staffers are preparing for all potential outcomes.
"We've been doing scenario planning around our issue agenda in both cases — Trump administration, Biden administration. Also if the Democrats win the Senate," USTMA CEO Anne Forristall Luke said.
On the regulatory side, the Trump administration has taken a strong reform stance since he took office, and the USTMA would expect that to continue if he wins reelection, she said.
"We would expect to see a continuation of a focus on economic stimulus. There's a significant amount of work that can be done to help stimulate the manufacturing economy in the U.S., and we would expect to see that continue under the second Trump administration as well as under the Biden administration," Ms. Luke said.
"On environmental policy, we would obviously not expect to see an aggressive push from the administration on things like carbon policy, climate change. However, if there is a second Trump administration, because of that, we might expect to see more aggressive action in some of the activist states such as California, Washington state," she said.
"We're prepared to have the tire manufacturing industry play an important policy role in the development of any carbon-related policy that would impact our industry, whether it be at the state level or the federal level," Ms. Luke said.
If Mr. Biden wins, the USTMA expects him to re-engage global alliances and take "more aggressive action on climate policy. It would be important for the tire industry to have a seat at the table as that legislation, should there be legislation, is developed," she said.
"I would also expect to see a more coordinated national focus under a Biden administration on public health response to the coronavirus pandemic," Ms. Luke said.
"The Trump administration has taken a more of a decentralized approach to providing guidance to states on managing the pandemic. I think you would probably see a more unified approach under a Biden administration. And that could be a good thing," she said.
Tire Industry Association (TIA) CEO Roy Littlefield has seen plenty of presidents come and go over his more than 40 years hanging around the Beltway. He sees infrastructure funding as a key issue that could impact its membership.
Paying for the repair and replacement of things such as roads and bridges takes a lot of money, and a variety of new taxes could help fund that work in 2021. That could include increasing existing excise taxes or instituting new excise taxes on transportation industry-related goods, he said. What happens with estate taxes also could dramatically differ depending on who is sleeping in the White House next year.
A win by Mr. Trump means there could be an opportunity to eliminate estate taxes, but Mr. Biden already has signaled that's one area where he will push for higher taxation.