The First Quarter Issue is always really interesting to put together and read. I first started writing for The MHEDA Journal in the First Quarter 2010 when the industry was still neck-deep in the recession. Then, 6 or 7 percent growth would have warranted a parade. But this year, in speaking with MHEDA dealers, it seems like 6 to 7 percent represents something of a disappointment. But to me, that isn’t the most interesting thing about the 2015 forecast. After all, economies are cyclical and numbers during a recession aren’t necessarily comparable to those during an upswing.
The really interesting thing to me is that, even as members have been predicting and enjoying record years during the last five years, there always seemed to be a sentiment that things could or should have been even better.
“The country is somewhat resilient but the ACA has added many challenges. It will take many years to undo what has been done but we will prevail,” says Springer Equipment Company President Ted Springer in the Dealer Forecast on page 48.
From 2010-2015, according to MHI forecasts, the industry has grown a cumulative 94.92%, an average of 14.28% per year. But, in speaking with members each year, it’s hard not to wonder how much more pervasive that growth would have been without the implementation of the Affordable Care Act or without the more strict emission standards that have been passed during the Obama administration. Would those records have soared even higher?
As I was looking over member responses to this year’s forecast, I began thinking about perspective and narrative. To hear the news, you’d think we were still in the middle of the recession. In many media circles, “The Obama Recovery” has been turned into something of a punch line. But in putting together the forecast each year, our industry has been continually predicting new records. And I think that comes back to the idea that things could or should have been better.
This is one of the main reasons that I love writing the dealer forecasts. One thing I really enjoy doing is looking at the trends that have emerged during the year and Critical Impact Factors that the board puts together and trying to guess how members will respond. With so much of the perceived let down being tied to government policies, specifically the ACA, I assumed that the prospect of a new governing party potentially gaining power would excite membership. One of the main questions asked to respondents in forecast interviews was, “How do you expect the November elections to impact the business environment, if at all?” And with every GOP candidate pledging to dismantle the ACA on day one, it seemed to me that if Republicans gained control of the White House and maintained their majorities in Congress, that those members lamenting regulations like Obamacare would expect numbers to rise.
That wasn’t the case though. Some people did mention that a GOP President would be more business friendly but the overwhelming majority predicted that the election would have no impact one way or another on growth going forward. That even though the tax burden is higher than most would like it to be, the real growth-drivers (or hindrances) are more industry-specific and would exist whether we elect Clinton, Rubio or Trump.
What do you think? Would growth have been more robust under a McCain or Romney administration? Will the results of November’s elections have an appreciable difference on your expectations for 2016 and beyond? We want to hear from you. Tweet us @MHEDA_Journal and use the #MHEDA to make your voice heard.