If it seems like this campaign has already been under way for a year, you’re forgiven.
The Republicans have been bashing each other’s brains out since summer, and I’m not sure President Obama ever truly gets off the campaign trail.
While the produce industry is addressing several specific issues such as immigration reform and health policy this election year, much of our future success will be determined by how the nation addresses broader economic issues.
This year is critical to your future in several ways.
First, our country faces great challenges and some very tough decisions in order to secure our future and the future of our kids and grandkids.
We’ve got to get our economic house in order, find the best ways to balance revenue and expenditures, and deal with the exploding costs of social security, Medicare and other costs associated with our aging baby boomers.
There are no easy answers to these challenges, but they must be tackled directly rather than keep being kicked down the line. The day of reckoning is here.
Second, we have a true choice on how to deal with these issues.
I believe we must re-invigorate our national commitment to the free enterprise system with entrepreneurial growth through hard work and risk taking, or possibly slide further into an economic system based more on government allocation than personal responsibility.
While some may be quick to characterize that viewpoint as political, this is not a Republican or Democratic issue.
Historically, America’s leaders of both parties have recognized the economic engine of free enterprise, even while both parties have slowly allowed the escalation of entitlements, accumulation of massive regulations, and adoption of tax policy that serves as a disincentive to growth.
Perhaps individually well-meaning, these steps have combined to slow the economic engine and now threaten long-term economic collapse.
Now, face-to-face with this threat, candidates of both parties must address the fundamental question of how Americans can re-invigorate our economic system.
Last, anyone who even casually reads the news can see that Washington is at a stalemate today.
Both parties seem to have decided to fight it out this election year, before the word compromise is even uttered aloud.
That’s a failure of leadership, and it’s led to uncertainty in our business environment that affects investment, consumer confidence and growth.
We simply must get back to a government where people of good spirit bring different perspectives to an issue, debate their views, and reach compromise in the best interest of all Americans.
That, most likely, will come only after November.
I urge every one of you to get involved politically this year, not just in the presidential campaign, but in your local, state and national races.
Get to know the candidates, ask them questions, talk with your neighbors, volunteer in a campaign you support, make a campaign contribution, and by all means, vote in the upcoming primaries and general election.
I know it’s tempting to dismiss all politics, as this past year has been one of the most frustrating I can remember.
But there’s an old saying, “Those who don’t participate in government get the government they deserve.”
Regardless of which party wins the presidency in November, there must be a renewed commitment to tackle the nation’s problems together. We cannot afford anything less.
Tom Stenzel is president and chief executive officer of the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association.
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