Congress will soon return from its August recess with a pile of unfinished business and surprisingly little time to complete its work. Although September is almost here, members of Congress already have an eye on the end of the year.
Constitutionally, Congress’ most important job is to pass a budget and fund the government. Already months behind on this critical task, both Democrats and Republicans must come to an agreement by the end of the government’s fiscal year, today, to keep the lights on and the trains running.
We all have moments when we think America might be better off if Washington would just go away. Unfortunately, a government shutdown at this critical time would cause a disruption to the economy that wouldn’t do the carpet industry or Georgia businesses any favors. The housing market and the nation’s economy are only now beginning to recover. A disruption that would take money out of the economy and make borrowing more expensive could send us into another recession.
However, we should expect more of our leaders than to simply not make things worse. There are critical issues that, if addressed, could strengthen the economy and benefit the carpet industry and the rest of American business.
One simple task would be to pass legislation that would help industry recycle and reuse coal ash from power plants. The carpet industry has been a leader in finding new ways to utilize recycled products. We have been able to reuse coal ash as a material for carpet backing. Recycling the ash prevents mining of raw materials and diverts the ash that would otherwise end up in giant holding ponds and landfills. The House of Representatives has already passed this important legislation. We need the Senate to follow and our Georgia senators to step up and do the same as quickly as possible.
Congress could also help by simplifying the maze that is the U.S. tax code. The code is far more complex and confusing than it should be. Congress should take this once-in-a-generation opportunity to give industry and consumers long-term certainty. Both businesses and families need to be able to count on what their tax bill will be each year so that we can all make appropriate decisions and investments.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Washington needs to settle on a true “all of the above” energy policy. Making carpet is an energy intensive business. Our mills and distributors need reliable and affordable energy to produce and transport our products throughout the country.
When Washington picks winners and losers by favoring certain energy sources and feedstocks over others it increases costs, reduces reliability, damages our industry and hurts our customers. America is far more energy rich than we imagined only a few years ago. Washington should do all it can to encourage the responsible use of all forms of energy; including natural gas, coal, oil and renewable sources that we have available to keep prices down and make the carpet industry — and other manufacturers — more competitive in the global marketplace.
As always, CRI and its members are engaged with our Congressional leaders and the administration. We will continue to work to help resolve these important issues quickly and in a manner that will benefit the nation.
Werner Braun is president of the Dalton-based Carpet and Rug Institute.