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Rubber companies need to move, not wait for better days

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Know the meaning of the word snafu? “A mishap or mistake generally caused by incompetence and resulting in delay or confusion,” according to Webster's.

It originates from soldiers in World War II cynically describing the military and its penchant for acronyms: “SNAFU, situation normal, all (we'll go with Webster's) fouled up.”

So also describes Washington going to the edge of the “fiscal cliff” before pulling back at the last moment. A Beltway snafu. As always.

A couple of months down the road and the U.S. yet again will wander toward fiscal calamity, since most of the tough issues of the taxes/budget cuts war weren't addressed by the congressional action.

What does it all mean to a rubber company? How can a business make plans for the near- and long-term when questions about government-imposed costs and the health of the economy remain unanswered?

Here's a vote for pretty much ignoring what's going on in Washington.

The only certainty about the U.S. legislature today is that it is dysfunctional. Political compromise is necessary for a government to work properly, and intransigence results in failure. The spirit of compromise, of opposite sides working together for the common good, is absent in Washington.

The politicians can squabble and grandstand, but a rubber company operates in the real world. Business can't wait.

A rubber manufacturer always has to be on the top of its game to survive in a highly competitive world. If a company's management delays actions until Washington sorts out its problems, it risks becoming as do-nothing as, well, Congress.

When the Great Recession began, economists generally predicted it would be a long, slow slog toward recovery, a process that would take years. They were right: The auto industry has come back, the housing crisis has abated, employment levels are better, if not good enough.

No one can predict the future, and there are plenty of national and global obstacles that can wreck havoc on the economy. But for now, it still looks like a continuation of the slow, but mostly steady, improvement in economic conditions.

If a company needs to spend money, to add capacity and staff, it should do so. Judiciously, of course, as always, but now isn't the time to sit and wait to see what the future might bring.