Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Bush should address the one thing on people's minds

Economy weighs them down
By Charlie Madigan
Tribune senior correspondent

“State of the Union Time again, a job President Bush has to do under a law that used to be accomplished by a simple progress report to Congress in a letter. Now it's a grand event and a bully pulpit for an incumbent. You'll be hearing lots about Iraq and the spectacular election experience had there just a few days ago.

Bully for Bush, actually, because it was a great thing to see, a budding democracy in such a difficult place. Maybe the election will speed up the return home for our troops. We can only hope.

However, the title of the speech is "State of the Union."

Presidents rarely actually discuss that subject. Instead, they talk about what they want to talk about, their agenda, their proposals, their triumphs (but never much about their failures). There's lots of applause and then a rebuttal from some Democrats, who try to get in their shots early by agitating for some comment from Bush on how he plans to extract U.S. troops from the war zone.

But here's another measure that is very telling.

Life in America is still very much about the economy, the stupid economy.

It's not the Alan Greenspan economy that gets so much attention in the media, or the monthly reports that create the statistical shape of how some parts of the economy look, or promises of tax cuts.

Down home in America, it seems, it's all about money. Or worse, it's all about the lack of money.”

On the eve of the State of the Union address, the Gallup Organization released the results of one of its latest measures of how people feel about the nation's economy. Gallup specialist David W. Moore did the analysis. He says the dominant concerns in America these days are not the war or the debate over Social Security. The big problems are health care and money.

Away from Washington, reality dictates the agenda.

The daily grind sends important messages.

Gallup asked 1,005 adults to name the most important financial problem they face today. Then it just let them say what they wanted instead of prompting them.

Almost one in three formed the group that said "not enough money, low wages and the high cost of living." Breaking that down, 13 percent said they didn't have enough money to pay their debts and 12 percent said they were short of cash or were not being paid enough. Eight percent cited unemployment, the same number who said "college expenses" were at the top of the list.
con·cept: Bush should address the one thing on people's minds