After the resounding victory by Republicans at all levels of government—local, state and federal—in November, there was some speculation about the posture and tone President Obama might take in his final two years in office. The more optimistic prognosticators predicted something similar to President Clinton’s model of reaching compromise to achieve a few key accomplishments, while continuing to push on a number of other fronts a more-ideological agenda. Some even hoped that the president would coast into retirement.
Any hopes that the president would coast the next two years—or work on serious accomplishments—were loudly and defiantly squashed in the State of the Union address. The president challenged the now Republican-controlled Congress to pass many of his yet unfulfilled 2008 campaign promises and even threw a few more onto the pile. It was clear that the audience to whom the president was speaking was not Congress, nor the American people, but the heads of federal agencies that seek to control wide swaths of business today through regulatory fiat.
So what does the macro-political environment mean to bakers? Unfortunately, it means at least two more years of trying to convince regulators to follow well-established science and medical data or common sense. It means educating regulators on the financial and operational impacts their decisions have on the 600,000 skilled employees in the industry. It means more requests for engagement, data and information from the industry and its partners. It means more aggressive outreach to allies within agencies and on Capitol Hill.
ABA is well-positioned to fully engage in these fights. As it has the past three election cycles, the ABA Executive Committee and its policy committee chairs convened to assess the impact of more than 62 separate policy initiatives, determine where ABA could most impact the outcome, reach consensus on ABA’s policy priorities, and map out strategies for success. The discussions were both sobering and invigorating. Clearly, ABA has a lot of work ahead of it the next two years, but with the roadmap developed by the ABA leadership, I’m confident we will achieve a number of successes.
It cannot be overstated how important the work of ABA’s policy committees are to the success of ABA. These committees, made up of experts from both baking companies and suppliers, are where the organization’s strength lies. Working closely with the ABA professional team, we are able to mitigate the impact of the most onerous proposals and even stave-off some of the most ill-considered initiatives.
We have our work cut out for us the next two years in the face of a bureaucracy that knows that its shelf life is near expiration. With all of us working together, I’m confident we can push back against this not-so-lame duck.