Quick – who is ahead today in the polls?

Hey….did you hear the latest gaffe from the presidential candidates?

Remember when the President said “You didn’t make this?” Or when Governor Romney said “I can’t convince them to vote for me?

What about the latest stories the spouses told about their presidential candidate husbands’ early years in elementary school?

Here’s my question:  “Who cares?”

The media and political strategists seem to revel in spending countless hours of coverage on meaningless and trivial matters regarding the presidential race, and other campaigns for that matter.  Coming from a newspaper family (my mother was the publisher of my hometown paper), I am truly saddened at how media coverage has devolved into often times nothing more than entertainment.

With all due respect to the ravenous appetite to fill time in the 24/7 news cycle, we need to cut through the chatter.  America’s economy is at stake.  Indeed, America is at stake.

It’s time for Americans to take charge again.  And you can be on the front lines to do exactly that.

It is not an overstatement to say that this election is the most important of our lifetimes. That’s something we hear nearly every two years, but no other in our lifetimes has implications that will last generations as does this one.

Will we be a nation that embraces and cheers the free market, entrepreneurial spirit and capitalistic risk-taking that has made our country the freest, strongest and most prosperous in the history of the world?

Or will we become sedentary spectators who allow the federal government to squelch the fire of ingenuity by continuing to demonize success and forcing ever more reliance on a Washington bureaucracy that seems intent on diminishing the values of hard work and personal responsibility?

That is the choice we will make on Tuesday, November 6.

The NAM recently released a poll we commissioned with the National Federation of Independent Business.  The shocking results of the survey found that a whopping 55% of small businesses and manufacturers would not start their business today because of the burdens Washington places on them.

How can America’s economy recover and thrive in the future if our government policies discourage investment and risk?  When companies indicate they won’t expand and won’t hire because of our uncompetitive tax policies, our oppressive regulatory regime and the looming fiscal cliff, is anyone in Washington listening?  It sure doesn’t seem like it.

Against that backdrop, Americans will go to the polls and decide whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney is the better leader to meet these challenges. Who has the best record – not the best rhetoric – to do the job?

For the past several months, both candidates have fallen over each other attempting to claim the mantle of the most supportive of manufacturing.  And the reason is clear – a strong and growing manufacturing base, with its outsized multiplier effect, is essential to growing the rest of our economy and fixing our nation’s addiction to deficit spending.

Their visions, however, differ radically, especially on issues that have a significant impact on manufacturing. And it isn’t difficult to figure out that the results will be vastly different.

The middle class has been affectionately wooed by both candidates on the issue of taxes.  But manufacturers get lost in the debate when President Obama calls on raising taxes on individuals of a certain income level.  No less than two-thirds of manufacturers – mostly small and medium sized companies – pay taxes as individuals, and they are already struggling to meet payroll.

Both candidates have called for comprehensive energy policies premised on an “all-of-the-above” strategy; yet “all of the above” means something different to each. Governor Romney, for example, makes room for the Keystone XL pipeline in his plan. It’s missing in the President’s approach.  And with much fanfare, Mr. Obama routinely calls for raising taxes on energy producers, which will ravage consumers – from senior citizens to manufacturers.

On regulations, Governor Romney has vowed to scale back the current Administration’s regulatory excesses, a task easier said than done. Many rules are mandated by statute or judicial decree, so a President’s authority to roll them back is limited. But it is certainly the right philosophy.  In the past, neither party has proven to be a model of restraint – some 2,000 have been imposed on manufacturers in the past 30 years.

There is a lot at stake – for manufacturers, for our economy, and for future generations of Americans.  So the next time someone asks you about an errant remarks at a debate, or tells you how great one of the candidates looks surrounded by their family, politely ask them this:  “Have you had a chance to compare the candidates on the issues? Do you know where they stand on taxes, on regulation, on energy and other issues that matter to our economy?”

The NAM’s Election Center has those answers, from the Presidential candidates, to those running for the Senate and the U.S. House. Share this site and the information with your colleagues and those in your community.  We need an informed and educated electorate to ensure pro-manufacturing policy is front and center after the election.

The key to our success starts with you.  Please vote and encourage your employees, your family and your friends to do the same.

Quite simply, America is at stake.

Jay Timmons is president and CEO, National Association of Manufacturers

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