Opinion—The Perils of Uncertainty

Oct 12, 2016

The construction industry relies upon the federal government to create a stable economic business environment.

All three branches of the federal government are currently in a state of disarray bordering on paralysis.

Congress, which appears to have accepted its continual inability to pass meaningful, long-term economic legislation as the norm, shows few signs of changing. This situation is compounded by normal election-year malaise—post-election control of the Senate is uncertain. Both parties are riven by internal strife; party discipline no longer assures unified approaches to issues on either side of the aisle. Compromise is viewed as capitulation by both the extreme right and the extreme left.

Both candidates for President are making unrealistic promises concerning the measures they’ll implement to create jobs, and expand the economy. Virtually everyone in the country understands that these promises are politically unrealistic and economically unfeasible.

Both candidates have a loyal base of support but both are distrusted by a large percentage of the electorate. Regardless of who becomes President, neither she nor he will have the ability to use the “bully-pulpit” effectively to persuade voters to exert pressure on Congress.

Working relations between Congress and the White House will almost certainly be even more acrimonious than they’ve been during the Obama administration. Given that President Obama’s ability to work with Congress has set a benchmark for futility, legislative paralysis during the next four years appears to be a certainty.

The Supreme Court is one Justice short of the nine required to ensure a majority vote on all decisions. Both Democrats and Republicans have made it absolutely clear they will do everything in their power to prevent the selection of a Justice they view, respectively, as either too conservative or too liberal.

As a result of the increasing chaos in the democratic process at the federal level, class and economic divisions are coming to a boil. It is not unrealistic to contemplate people demonstrating in the streets in numbers that have not been seen since the Vietnam War.

In short, these are uncertain times and the economy is likely to begin sputtering as a result.

Federal construction contracts are, by far, the most important stimulant of the construction industry and the economy in this country.

We need a long-term infrastructure bill; we need long-term Federal Building Fund legislation; we need insurance reform; we need reasonable National Labor Relations Act standards; we need federal funding for long-term R&D in alternative energy technologies—we need the federal government to function effectively.

Don Wallis has more than 40 years experience in residential and commercial construction, and land development. He also has a law degree and currently teaches Environmental Law at Santa Fe Community College.