Todayâ€™s NY Times has a very telling poll about the mood of voters as they left the polling place back in November. Based on a questionnaire of almost 13,000 people, itâ€™s pretty clear that the top issues for voters were the following:
3. The economy
6. Political scandals
In short, this was a national election. Those who vote are still pretty split on which party is the best one to address these issues (just look at the slim majority in the Senate — which may change if Tim Johnson is not able to recover from a possible stroke), but itâ€™s clear that voters are very worried about the world weâ€™re going to bequeath to our children. We either take our lumps now (i.e., tax ourselves and maybe cut government largess to pay down the deficit and leave Iraq to focus on the war on Al-Qaeda/Al-Qaida).
Also, even though the economy seems to be doing okay with the unemployment rate at 4.5%, thereâ€™s a lot of underemployment. And if youâ€™re below a certain income level (i.e., youâ€™re not a millionaire) youâ€™re on the economic edge. Maybe you can meet your financial obligations every month, but if you lost your job then itâ€™s: â€œHello mom! Hello dad! Weâ€™re broke and weâ€™re moving in!â€ Or, more seriously, youâ€™re homeless.
Every now and then, thereâ€™s a variation of this question that gets asked, and itâ€™s this: How much of a financial safety net do you have? 1 month? 3 months? I donâ€™t have hard numbers in front of me, but I would say that if it wasnâ€™t for our little 2 bedroom condo that we could sell if we fell on hard times, weâ€™d be living in our car in about a month after losing our jobs.
As far as the war in Iraq goesâ€¦Well, my knee-jerk reaction is to go with a phased pull out timed with each Iraqi division that is able to take control of their own security. In a way, thatâ€™s what the Bush administration is trying to do, but itâ€™s not happening fast enough. A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a Marine at a â€œToys for Totsâ€ drive who served in Iraq. He worked in logistics, and while our conversation did not drift into politics, he was telling me how little the Iraqis have in terms of equipment. Iâ€™m talking trucks, jeeps, uniforms, and, of course, guns. Like I said, I didnâ€™t get into the politics of the Iraqi war, but it seems to me that since we went into Iraq â€œon the cheapâ€ weâ€™re in a damned if you do, damned if you donâ€™t situation. Bug out too soon, and the civil war thatâ€™s going on there is just going to get worse. Stay the course, and itâ€™s clear that not only are the body bags still going to be coming home, but the money needed to achieve an effective pull out is going to be quite a bit more. Thatâ€™s where that whole â€œsacrifice at homeâ€ thing comes into play. Unless we want to keep asking China to extend our credit line, weâ€™re faced with taxing ourselves. Thatâ€™s the financial sacrifice, but what about others? Thereâ€™s no way in hell weâ€™re going to see the kind of things that our grandparents had to do during WWII. The U.S. wasnâ€™t the full-blown consumer economy as it is today. And if we collectively agreed to say: â€œWell, letâ€™s cut back on the useless crap we buy every month, â€œthat would certainly send the economy on a downward spiral.
So, what to doâ€¦
P.S. This post is late because I got to interview Nora Ephron this morning. Iâ€™ll have the mp3 up on my professional site later today or tomorrow.