Over the River and Through the Woods

By Tom Cook, President, National Renderers Association

Living in the Washington, DC, area with a job that requires working with elected and government officials sometimes causes one to be accused of being guilty by association.

I went to a family gathering during the Christmas holidays in north central Kansas. It was with my wife’s family which, when all together, are a lot of people. Her brothers, sisters, in-laws, and nieces and nephews and their families represent a pretty good cross section of middle-America, although I would guess most of them are on the conservative side.

Well, when the relatives from the east come to visit, we get the third degree. What is going on in Washington? Can’t you do something about the mess back there? “If things don’t shape up, we’ll throw all the bums out,” they tell me. Yet family members seem pretty pleased with their own representatives in Congress and feel if all the other Congress members were more like them, all would be fine. I won’t even get into what they think of the Occupy Wall Street crowd. I do my best to explain some things, but in many cases, I don’t even try.

The family doesn’t like the gridlock in Washington, but if it stops something they are against, it’s okay. They are united in their belief that there are too many regulations. They don’t mind some they would classify as legitimate, but too many regulations don’t make any sense and cost too much to comply with. They describe these regulations as boneheaded and misguided. Did I mention that several family members are small business owners? So they speak with some experience.

Many of them are doing okay financially. A niece and her husband own the local furniture store and funeral home, a situation not uncommon in small Midwestern towns. They say business is real good at the furniture store, which is reflective of the good prices farmers are experiencing with their livestock and grain. They are coming to town and buying the higher-end merchandise.

But the local grain elevator is closing down and a brother-in-law is wondering if he will still have a job. A sister-in-law owns a variety store and although business has been pretty good, it has been better. Her clientele reflects more of a cross-section of the community and is probably a better indicator of how things really are economically in rural America.

With a large family gathering, you see a big variation of how they are doing. One indicator of how everyone is fairing financially is to look at the cars parked out front. Most of them were American-made, ranging from luxury cars to 20-year-old clunkers.

Another observation is that their lives do not revolve around politics in Washington. Sure, they’re interested but they don’t dwell on it. It wasn’t too long after this discussion that we were talking about hunting, weather, family, hunting, local businesses, small-town gossip, hunting, sports, funerals, and barbeque recipes. Did I mention we talked about hunting?

It is always refreshing to leave the Washington, DC, area to visit family, friends, and National Renderers Association members outside of the beltway because if you are not careful, living here can get you caught up in the hubbub. I often remind newcomers to the Washington scene that working for an association, it is our responsibility to “represent our members to Washington and not to represent Washington to our members.”

The year 2012 will be stalemated between the two political parties mostly because it is an election year so I don’t believe much will get done. If any action should make one party look better that the other, it probably won’t happen.

But I still abide by the famous quote of Winston Churchill: “It has been said that Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

February 2012 RENDER | back