Unintended Consequences

In previous column, I made the case for working with your elected officials and regulatory agencies in Washington, DC, through a range of advocacy options. This message was mainly aimed at people normally on the sidelines who feel their voices are too small or insignificant to make a difference.

If anything, all of the activity lately with various political groups - the Tea Party for one - should have changed your opinion of the average Joe's or Jane's ability to get Washington's attention using advocacy options. We need to let them know how something will affect us when sweeping changes are made. Washington won't know unless we tell them - and loudly.

Joining a trade association, advocacy group, political action committee or other association is the American way of making sure your voice is heard. While my organization, MEMA, may sound and appear small, we represent the voice of employers of more than 650,000 individuals directly involved in the motor vehicle parts manufacturing industry. There are another 3+ million that work for the raw material, service and logistics suppliers to our industry. This doesn't count those directly employed in the motor vehicle replacement parts and or service industry.

Collectively, we need to watch what occurs in DC. There are numerous regulations and executive orders pending that will greatly affect our industry. With all that is happening in the Health Care debate, other legislation tends to get overshadowed. The list is a mile long, and it is all publicly available, if you know where to look.

Let me sight the Recommendations for the Adoption and Implementation of an Oceans, Coast, and Great Lakes National Policy to illustrate my point. Sounds noble doesn't it?

Here is some information on the Policy, gleamed from the Project AWARE Foundation - a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving underwater environments through education, advocacy and action:

The administration will accept no more public input for a federal strategy that could prohibit U.S. citizens from fishing the nation's oceans, coastal areas, Great Lake, and even inland waters. The Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force still hasn't issued its final report on zoning uses of these waters.

Consequently, unless anglers speak up and convince their Congressional representatives to stop this bureaucratic freight train, it appears that the task force will issue a final report for "marine spatial planning" by late March, with President Obama then issuing an Executive Order to implement its recommendations - whatever they may be. Environmental groups would like nothing better than to ban recreational angling.

This document makes repeated references to "overfishing," but doesn't once reference recreational angling, its importance and its benefits, both to participants and the resource. These same organizations have revealed their anti-fishing bias by playing fast and loose with "facts" in attempts to ban tackle containing lead in the United States and Canada.

Does the government eliminating sport fishing sound scary? This is an example of our current form of government in action.

For those of us that fish, this is a disaster waiting to happen. The Policy is intended to protect the fisheries from over harvesting by commercial fishing. A problem that, it would seem, would be self regulating. If commercial fishing depletes the inventory, the industry always self-corrects on its own. Commercial fishing goes back to biblical times and still thrives. If the Policy is left untouched, this could eliminate your freedom to take your kid or grandkid fishing.

The rule of unintended consequences is what we need to watch for. Most of the time government intervention results in much like what happens when you try to settle a fight between your neighbors: you end up being hurt, or worse.

Again, I appeal to you to take an active role in your industry. Support one or more of the many associations that are watching out for your industry. At any one time there are literally hundreds of proposals out there that would be game-changers if enacted. No matter what industry you're in, someone in government is working to fix a perceived problem that will affect your livelihood one way or another.

The Thomas Register is a good place to view current legislation and regulations in process. Google or any of the other search engines will work well also. Keep up on what is going on by joining a good trade association or other advocacy group to make sure you have a voice.

I plan to retire in a few years and I plan to fish with my kids and grandchildren a lot.

Tim Kraus is Executive Director of the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association. Prior to joining HDMA, he served as director of sales and marketing at Triseal Corp. The Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association (HDMA) is the heavy duty market segment association of the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Associations (MEMA). HDMA exclusively represents the interests and serves heavy duty product manufacturers.