Inevitable Events: Death, Taxes and Change

As Benjamin Franklin wrote, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” These days we are increasingly aware of another certainty: change. A common thread of all three events ‒ death, taxes, change ‒ is that none of us particularly like any of them. Death is unavoidable and is our final “deadline,” with no exceptions. Taxes may seem avoidable, but only at the cost of never working, never making purchases, never owning anything. And change occurs constantly, regardless whether we choose to love it or hate it, accept it or resist it. We often claim to like change, except when it is happening to us.

Occasionally there are changes that are monumental from an historical standpoint. Many result from advances in technology. The invention of the car, and the creation of the assembly line to produce it, come to mind. Many changes are determined by elected officials. The decision to go to war certainly signals a significant change on many levels. The United States might not exist, or might not have remained united, if not for monumental changes wrought by war.

Last Friday we experienced a modern-day historical change, when Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner announced that he was resigning from Congress at the end of October. The speaker of the House wields a powerful position in our political system. From a presidential succession standpoint, the speaker is third in line behind the vice president and the president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate. Additionally the speaker sets the agenda for the House of Representatives and its 435 members.

Speaker Boehner, who is a Republican, has faced a challenging administration the past few years. He has had to work with a president who is a Democrat and, for many years, a Senate president pro tempore who was a Democrat. Philosophically, he has not lined up well with those leaders. Even within his own House Republican caucus, he has had difficulty balancing the interests of centrist Republicans against those Republicans who lean in support of right wing social issues. It has not been an easy task.

Now with Boehner bowing out, who will fill that role? Will the next speaker face the same dilemmas that Boehner has? What will be the new speaker’s legislative priorities? How will he or she get along with President Obama, or House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell? These are important questions to which answers are not yet known. What is known is that major change is occurring in Washington, D.C., and it will impact us all.

From a banking standpoint, I do not think the impact will be seismic in nature. The banking business is collectively focused on securing regulatory relief, a level playing field for all financial service providers, and stronger and better rules surrounding cybersecurity. Regulatory relief and cybersecurity generally have bipartisan support. The differences lie in the details on the depth of regulatory relief and cybersecurity enhancements. Consequently whoever is elected as the next speaker will not likely have a significant impact on the agenda for the banking business interests.

Where a new speaker could have an impact is on the prioritization of banking interests, juxtaposed with all other interests. In other words, might we rise to the top of the priority list, or sink to the bottom?

We wish Speaker Boehner success in the next phase of his life and thank him for his years of service. At the same time, we look forward to working with the new speaker and his or her team. Change is inevitable, and those of us who work on behalf of banks and bankers will accept this change and look at it in a positive light.

– S. Joe DeHaven

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