Noted American theologian and author James Freeman Clarke once said, “A politician looks to the next election, a statesman to the next generation.” As Americans, we are all too accustomed to politicians, but the time is now to start thinking about the statesman.

Robert Muhs

Robert Muhs

The November 2012 elections on the federal, state and local levels will likely impact every car rental company in America.

As candidate Bill Clinton said prior to his first election to the presidency, “It’s the economy, stupid.” With the economy still sluggish, the certainty of tax cuts in question, health care reform deemed lawful by the courts, a growing national debt, and a serious lack of confidence in all levels and branches of government, 2012 truly cries out for review of policy pronouncements.

These issues and many more will come home to roost in the next Congress. How the budget is handled, what tax rates are in effect and the prospective job market will all impact our industry and the way business is conducted.

While historically the outcomes of most presidential elections are determined by personality — who the voter would most likely have over for a backyard barbecue — 2012’s election could be different. Unemployment continues to exceed 8%, gas prices are soaring and the global economy is equally sluggish.

Now more than ever the rental car industry must engage in supporting candidates who express similar ideology to those goals we all share: promotion of travel at home and abroad, lower taxes, reduced debt and consumer confidence. We must support candidates who will not bankrupt America’s future and who will stand and make tough calls.

While the presidential election is the main event, it is critically important to watch the federal results in the United States Senate and House of Representatives. The late longtime Speaker of the House Thomas “Tip” O’Neill once said, “All politics is local.”

As the car rental industry has seen in 2011 and 2012, this adage holds true. Think about an industry that represents 1.6% of all vehicles on the road. Think about an industry that has done an excellent job in protecting its customers from a safety perspective. Then think about how facts and figures are manipulated for sound bites rather than for policy.

On the national landscape, this industry has seen taxes levied to pay for stadiums, museums, fire stations and water treatment plants. We need changes in no-fault insurance laws. And as the methods of communication and business move to electronic applications, state laws will have to be updated to match. This is why we need to be ever vigilant in knowing our state representatives. By way of example, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana vetoed bills that would have increased the amount of fees levied by parishes on this industry under a local option bill. This showed intestinal fortitude and courage.

This also highlights how ACRA’s involvement and engagement in the process has paid dividends for the industry. As an association, ACRA calls upon its own resources as well as the resources of its membership to engage in meaningful dialogues with legislators on all levels — federal, state and local. This has been evident throughout 2012, not only in Louisiana, but in Rhode Island, Arizona, Maryland, Florida and New York, and on the federal level as well.

As business and industry leaders, we owe it to ourselves, our employees and our industry to understand those candidates who are truly willing to make hard choices and think not of the next election, but of the next generation.

About the Author

Robert E. Muhs, Esq., is vice president, government affairs, corporate compliance & business ethics for Avis Budget Group. He is also on the board of directors of the American Car Rental Association.

You can also see additional articles from the September/October magazine issue here.