Gretchen Hamel: October 4, 2012

 Gretchen Hamel, Executive Director of Public Notice

At Public Notice, Hamel leads a team of communications and policy experts in their effort to explain complex economic, regulatory, and budget issues to Americans. The team’s campaign, Bankrupting America, has gained significant media attention.
By Gretchen Hamel

Politicians are great talkers. With the debates kicking off last night, this is more evident than ever. While talking points may win debates, they don’t give voters a real idea of what politicians plan to actually do and how they plan to do it. This debate offered more details than we’ve seen before, but we’re still left with the yawning gap between rhetoric and reality. For that reason, the more specific the plan, the better.

At Bankrupting America, our top concern is irresponsible government spending and the skyrocketing national debt, and according to a recentNBC/Wall Street Journal poll, many Americans share our concern.  Much has been said about why government spending is necessary, and there is often speculation in Washington as to how much worse things could have been had the government not increased spending. But a new poll released this week from the Tarrance Group shows that by a 2-to-1 margin voters believe government spending has done more harm than good. The poll found that 74 percent say it has not helped, with 52 percent responding that it has actually hurt the economy. Additionally, 86 percent of those surveyed say federal spending has not helped their personal financial situation, and 35 percent said it hurt.

Those numbers are staggering by polling standards, and they underscore the fear among all Americans that our national debt is weighing down the economy and their personal finances. Scarier still is the growing belief that Washington is incapable of working together to find a fiscally responsible way forward.

To that end, neither candidate made much headway. Both acknowledged the seriousness of our debt problem and referenced the debt, deficit or spending numerous time throughout the night. What was lacking was plan of action. On Sunday, Public Notice released an open memo urging the candidates to get specific on their plans to address the debt, asking them to commit to passing a budget next year and whom from the other party they could work with on debt reduction, among other questions.

Beyond vague commitments to cut the deficit and cherry-picked examples of wasteful spending, neither really answered these questions. It may not be politically smart to dive into the details of a debt reduction plan, but it would be a refreshing break to hear a politician outline a workable plan rather than rely on finely tuned platitudes.
With so much talk last night, the real question comes down to who will be more credible? With such personal interests at stake, fiscal responsibility resonates with middle class families, seniors, and Independents in a way that can sway elections as well as the direction of the country.

It seems politicians are not the only ones talking; Americans are talking too.

The question is who’s listening?


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