From the CEO: Making Sense of Washington

By Henry G. Jackson Dec 1, 2013

As I write this column, the machinery of federal government is moving again after a 16-day shutdown. The U.S. Congress reached an impasse on the federal budget, the debt limit and political hot-button issues such as health care, and, as a result, funding to keep the government open ran out at midnight on Oct. 1.

The nation let out a collective sigh of relief more than two weeks later when Congress struck a deal, but we may be holding our breath again in a few short weeks; the deal funds the government only through Jan. 15 and extends the borrowing ability on "the nation’s credit card" through Feb. 7.

Countdown clocks and brinkmanship may play themselves out as Hollywood-style entertainment in the news media, but they are a difficult way to live, govern and run businesses.

The shutdown left its mark on the nation in real and measurable ways. According to a Standard & Poor’s analysis, the shutdown cost the U.S. economy at least $24 billion and 0.6 percent of economic growth—at a time when recovery is both fragile and deeply needed. Businesses saw some processes such as immigration services slow or come to a halt. Even the U.S. Department of Labor’s closely watched jobs report was delayed by several weeks. And the human toll—on everyone from fallen soldiers to preschoolers—was covered at length.

Meanwhile, implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly referred to as "Obamacare," has begun. Individuals and businesses still have much to learn about the law, what they must do to comply with it and when. In a recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey, 41 percent of HR professionals polled reported that the ACA’s complexity was the main barrier to implementing the regulation in their organization.

All of this adds up to uncertainty. And in times of uncertainty, you need a trusted partner that can help guide you through it. It is my commitment that SHRM will be this partner.

SHRM will continue to cover these issues closely and stay involved in the debate so that we can explain how it affects you and your organizations. We will provide accurate data and information so that you can make informed decisions to better lead your organizations. Put another way, SHRM will make sense of the uncertainty.

For example, if you’re looking for resources on the new health care law, turn to our soup-to-nuts toolkit, Complying with and Leveraging the Affordable Care Act—written by an HR pro for HR pros. If you’re wondering what the latest headlines mean for you and our profession, look no further than this magazine and SHRM Online. For the latest information and to help shape HR public-policy issues from health care to tax reform, look to our HR Issues Update. All of these resources and more are available at

The words of financial journalist and publisher B.C. Forbes are as true today as they were during a different Washington debate nearly 90 years ago: "Uncertainty hurts business," and "it annoys individuals." It can lead to indecision and delay in every aspect of business—including hiring.

While there may be uncertainty in Washington, there is no uncertainty with SHRM. Stay connected to us, and we promise to help you stay informed and make sense of what’s happening in Washington.

We wish you a wonderful holiday season, and we look forward to working with you in 2014.


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