Former White House press secretary predicts difficult times for trucking

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Now that Democrats control the House and Senate, “It’s going to be a tough couple of years in business,” Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary, told attendees at the Commercial Carrier Journal Fall Symposium in Scottsdale, Ariz., Tuesday, Nov. 14. The business environment will be particularly difficult for industries, like trucking, that are impacted by environmental and regulatory rules, he said.

The climate in Washington will depend on “whether Democratic leaders can keep from going too far” or if they will “seek vetoes, seek confrontations, all in advance of the 2008 presidential election,” he said. For example, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) may push through an increase in the minimum wage by the end of January, Fleischer said. If the Democratic Congress passes an increase as part of a package that also includes tax cuts to help small businesses deal with the impact of this increased cost, it might go through. If they pass the increase with no concessions to small business, Bush might veto the measure, he said.

The Democratic-led Congress also might pass middle-class tax cuts funded by tax hikes on the top 2 to 5 percent of earners. If that happens, “Bush will veto it and they’ll say he’s for the wealthy,” Fleischer said. “It creates a perfect box for a Democrat to put a Republican in,” he said. “Either you’re for the rich or you take a bigger and bigger bite” out of the incomes of the top 10 percent of earners who already pay 2/3 of all taxes. Fleischer also said that unless Democrats and Republicans work together, “it’s hard to imagine the Death Tax being extended,” past 2010.

Reflecting on his job as press secretary, Fleischer called it “the most intellectually stimulating, rewarding I could ever hold.” It also was stressful and difficult. “Every day I would gather with the White House press corps around lunch to be a human pi