Sixth Sense: The economy and the election

by Bill Paddack ([email protected]) 112 views 

The economy is often front and center in U.S. elections – particularly voters’ perceptions of the economy. With that in mind as we head toward the election of a new president in November, we asked six business leaders from across the state to share their thoughts on the current state of the American economy and how it will affect the race for the White House.

David Hudson
Little Rock

I’ll start by saying that I am not political. While I take my right and duty to vote very seriously, I consider myself to be in a party of one, as Thomas Jefferson once said.

From my own perspective, the current state of the economy is positive. My business continues to operate, and my beautiful city of Little Rock is growing. Most importantly, I can care for my family and afford the little extras that put a smile on my daughter’s face. However, I have a very serious concern about the stability of the economy after this presidential election. Many countries look to the United States to be a stable influence in an unstable world. If we elect a mentally unstable president, I think it could seriously affect the perception of the value of the dollar. We need to elect a president that will protect our country’s integrity and honor. This might just be the most important election in the last century.

Stanley Hill
VP, Public Affairs & Government Relations
Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation
Little Rock

The public’s perception of the economy will play a significant role in the presidential election.

Americans spend an average of 10% of disposable income on food. That’s one of the lowest percentages in the world. Agriculture is one of America’s greatest strengths as we provide a significant amount of food for ourselves and a world population that will reach 9 billion by 2050.

In Arkansas, ag production and its associated jobs is the state’s biggest economic driver totaling $20 billion annually. Nationally, ag exports are one of the few areas where the U.S. shows a positive dollar figure on its balance sheet.

Those are great strengths to the country and our state’s economic well-being. Ag policy at the state level and nationally should focus on strengthening our ability to efficiently and reliably produce food, fiber and shelter for people here and abroad. And this will require the next administration to advocate and negotiate ag friendly international trade agreements for Congress’ consideration.

Sam T. Sicard
President & CEO
First National Bank of Fort Smith
Fort Smith

The American economy is once again one of the healthiest in the developed world, but I don’t believe Congress or the president should be given credit for it. Even with the political dysfunction and fiscal irresponsibility in D.C., what still drives the economy are dynamic entrepreneurialism, free enterprise and the rule of law. As long as we have those three things in America, I am optimistic on our future.

However, we would have stronger economic growth if Congress and the president would reform our convoluted tax code, reform our broken immigration policies, lighten the excessive regulations on small businesses and actually implement a realistic plan to get our federal government back to a balanced budget.

It is hard to know how all of this will affect the race for the White House. I believe most Americans sense we could have a stronger economy if there were less dysfunction and stronger leadership in D.C. But the country remains very divided on who would be best to provide that leadership.

Beth Coulson
Board Secretary
Coulson Oil Company
Little Rock

Over the last seven years, I’ve seen our economy come back from the brink. Today, our stock market is twice the value it was during the Bush presidency. Yet, too many working families in Arkansas are still struggling. Some are even living in homeless shelters. Take, as an example, my friend who lives at Our House now with her family. She is just one of the many Arkansans who are forced to work two or three jobs just to get by. We’ve also seen college tuitions continue to rise and our retirements threatened.

I’m incredibly proud that the family business my husband’s father started has invested in the technology and training needed to create and maintain good-paying, skilled jobs here in Arkansas. Frankly, I think now is the time for another President Clinton to help us boost family household income, ensure equal pay for women, secure retirement for hardworking Americans and keep our economy moving in the right direction.

Michael Bahn
President, RR Logistics, LLC
Sr. VP of Sales & Supply Chain
Holistic Product Group, LLC

Our company regularly looks at the state of the economy as it is related to transportation, logistics and storage, particularly at the retail level in Northwest Arkansas. This year, the presidential election will have an effect on businesses, regardless of individual political opinion.

Because the transportation industry is a leading indicator for the economy, we have observed certain key operational indicators that suggest a recession is not likely to happen. Even though some indicators point out that we will see more positive data moving forward, candidates have repeatedly focused on the current state of a poor economy and strategies to save it, which has a prominent effect on voters.

In addition to the national outlook, state-by-state economic outlet is also a significant factor, as exemplified by the state primaries. With unemployment, health-care costs and median incomes as factors, states with more economic challenges are looking to focus on tax plans and re-shoring efforts. We hope to see a candidate focusing on these kinds of initiatives that encourage economic growth and jobs in the USA and in Arkansas.

Chris Stewart
Founder and CEO
Little Rock

There has been some growth in the economy this year and unemployment is lower. However, cost of goods continues to go up and wages have remained stagnant.

Although the economy typically is one of the foremost issues driving a presidential race, the election of 2016 signifies a shift. The threat of terrorism and immigration are equally important to voters. This is largely due to Donald Trump’s popularity and rhetoric. The perception is the only candidate focusing on the economy is Bernie Sanders and his message of economic equality.

As the race tightens, the economy will be important, but, it will not be the sole issue driving voters to the polls come November.