Business sees gains in US elections

The US public may still be in anguish about their choices in the 1980 presidential election. But no matter who wins, the US business community appears to face the prospect of a string of victories.

The reason: the rightward tug of the election -- with President Carter dropping many of his more populist reform demands -- is enhancing the likelihood of enactment of key pro-business legislative proposals.

The "rightward" tilt is seen here in a number of important areas relating to business:

* All three candidates, although differing (often sharply) on specific proposals, are not talking about a need for revitalizing the sluggish US economy. President Carter talks about "reindustrialization." Challengers Ronald Reagan and John Anderson offer more traditional tax measures aimed at aiding the business community.

* Congress appears to be on the verge of adopting a major overhaul of depreciation allowances for capital investment early next year. Mr. Reagan has thrown his support behind a plan put forward by the Democrat-controlled Senate Finance Committee that is expected to become eventually a congressional initiative. Mr. Carter for his part, is expected to accept the Finance Committee plan if re-elected.

* A roster of proposals long sought by the business community -- including reform of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), and elimination of unnecessary paper-work requirements -- is close to enactment.

* Finally, within Congress itself, changes are at work benefiting the business-financial community. The incoming chairman of the prestigious and influential congressional Joint Economic Committee for example, Rep. Lee Hamilton (D) of Indiana, is an advocate of supply side economics.

There is also another important side to the emerging political equation. That is what is not being said by the more "liberal" candidates -- Mr. Carter and Mr. Anderson. Neither candidate has yet taken to lambasting crucial sectors of the business community, nor call for the type of reform proposals advocated by Mr. Carter in 1976 when he talked about "reforming the US tax code."

Mr. Carter has gone out of his way -- at least up to this juncture -- in restraining from criticizing the powerful oil companies as he did frequently throughout his first term.

While Mr. Carter (and the Democratic platform) have sought to identify Mr. Reagan's tax cut plan as primarily benefitting the "well to do," it is not lost sight of here that the President himself is on record as aiding the business community.

"The business community is now in a relatively strong position in the US," argues Dr. Peter Newman, chairman of the department of economics at Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Newman's view is similar to that of many US economists. As he perceives it, the "Kennedy platform" put forward by liberal Democrats at the recent Democratic convention suggests that liberalism "as an intellectual force," is somewhat bankrupt at present and needs rethinking. For that reason, he suggests , more conservative candidates are "in the driver's seats" in both the Republican and Democratic parties.

According to Dr. Richard Lesher, president of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, there has been a sharp shift to the right in both the House and Senate. dr. Lesher maintains there will be "a stronger pro-freedom, pro-productivity coalition in Congress" after the November election. He foresees substantial gains fro the business community.

For his part, George Hagedorn, chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers, finds it "encouraging" that all three candidates now seem to agree that "we must have been doing something wrong" regarding overall management of the giant US economy during recent years.

Mr. Hagedorm says that he is still "concerned" by "many aspects" of Mr. Carter's proposed reindustrialization policy (such as targeting aid to depressed industries and "what looks like more central planning"). But he concedes that the public discussion -- whatever the specifics of actual policy -- is now aimed in the direction of expanding productivity.

Perhaps underscoring the larger perception here that the business community may finally be shaking itself free from some of the anti-business aspects of the pro-consumer and pro-environmental movements of the 1970s, is the new Railroad Decontrol Act, now on the verge of enactment in Congress.

The powerful Association of American Railroads calls the recently passed House decontrol bill a "firm step in the right direction." If a compromise Senate-House agreement can be reached sometime later this year, Mr. Carter is expected to sign the measure as an indication of his support for deregulation -- and support of the US business community.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.