Former governors reflect on the current political environment.
The opening general session at the 2013 Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. (ISRI) Convention & Exposition, held April 9-13 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., addressed the issue of partisan politics. Former governors Ed Rendell, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, and Haley Barbour, a Republican from Mississippi, shared their views on the current political landscape in Washington, D.C.
Despite their differences of opinion, both men stressed their long-time friendship and mutual respect.
Barbour’s association with the scrap recycling industry dates back to the days of the Superfund battle, when his lobbying firm, Barbour Griffith & Rogers, assisted ISRI in “Operation Breakout,” which was the scrap recycling industry’s strategy to win Superfund relief for recyclers of metal, paper, plastics, glass and textiles.
Regarding today’s political climate, Barbour said the government is a reflection of divided politics. He added that President Barak Obama’s campaign during the 2012 general election sought successfully to make Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate, unacceptable to the electorate. While the majority of voters polled said they felt Romney would be better for the economy, 81 percent of those in exit polling said Obama cared for “people like me.”
The current electorate is the “most polarized” Barbour said he has “ever seen,” adding, “Washington magnifies that.”
However, he said this political division does not have to lead to gridlock, pointing to former presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and what they were able to accomplish when control was split among the parties. “Reagan and Clinton thought like governors in that it was their job to get things done,” Barbour said.
Rendell said Obama’s track record as a leader has been mixed, as he has done well in some areas and not in others. “You know he is exercising leadership by the response to his proposed budget,” he said. “He is getting grief from both sides.”
Among the pressing issues Rendell said need to be addressed are the national debt, immigration, gun violence, energy, infrastructure, education and health care.
He pointed to the need to reform entitlement programs, saying, “Medicare and Social Security were never meant to cover 20 years.” Rendell also said that the federal government needed to start investing in the nation’s growth by ending subsidies for companies such as ExxonMobil, which records record profits year after year.
He closed by mentioning his book, A Nation of Wusses: How America’s Leaders Lost the Guts to Make Us Great, which encourages political leaders to stand and defend what they believe in, even if it means not winning re-election. “There are some things worth losing for,” he added.
The 2014 ISRI Convention & Exposition will be April 6-10 at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.