By Geoffrey Smith and Alan Murray
July 1, 2016

“The war between business and Washington” was the topic of my last moderating task before leaving the Aspen Ideas Festival yesterday. No one questioned the premise. Relations between business and the federal government during the Obama years have been easily the worst in the three decades I’ve covered them. And the election debate between Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders destroyed what comity remained. Business lobbyists may still get their way on small issues that fall below the public radar. But on the big stuff – trade, immigration, education, tax reform, patent reform, regulatory rollback, etc. – they can’t get heard. (Read Tory Newmyer’s February Fortune story on the topic here.)

Who’s to blame? That debate could go on for years. Our lunch discussion – which included a couple dozen leaders from business, labor, think tanks, and NGOs – focused instead on whether there’s any chance of improvement. And the good news is, in Aspen at least, there’s a hint of a possible path forward – a bipartisan effort to create a “new social contract,” which as articulated by Senator Mark Warner would combine increased support for displaced workers and new benefit arrangements for those without full time jobs and benefits, along with trade, tax and immigration agreements that would fuel economic growth. Also on Warner’s agenda: policy changes that would encourage long-term shareholders over short-term traders.

 

The problem, of course, is that there’s no functioning forum for hashing out the details of such a grand bargain. Could that change after the election? Hope springs eternal.

 

In the meantime, Fortune again this year will honor those employers who have built a strong social contract with their employees in its 100 Best Companies to Work For list. To be considered, companies have to register no later than July 29 on the Great Place to Work website, which you can find here. Corporate leaders tell us the application process helps improve employee engagement. And in a business world where talent is the key differentiator, that’s no small thing. So take the time to apply.

 

More news below.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray
alan.murray@fortune.com

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