Amer­i­can peo­ple should come first

The Covington News - - OPINION -

The start of the year is when many com­pa­nies, or­ga­ni­za­tions, fam­i­lies and peo­ple re­view their plans and their pri­or­i­ties. This process of­ten in­cludes de­cid­ing where they should fo­cus their time, en­ergy and ef­fort, and how to judge, at year’s end, whether they have suc­ceeded.

Plan­ning is most suc­cess­ful when it is built on the pri­or­i­ties, op­por­tu­ni­ties and prob­lems that need to be ad­dressed. If the big­gest prob­lem one has is health, then health should be the fo­cus. If a per­son is in good health, but can­not meet his or her fi­nan­cial obli­ga­tions, then the key pri­or­ity would be fi­nance — mak­ing more money or cut­ting ex­penses, or both.

Peo­ple’s pri­or­i­ties and plans should be aligned so that they not only get what they want, but can use it in the way that they want. Oth­er­wise, one could have more of what one al­ready has (money), but die of a heart at­tack.

While the Democrats and Repub­li­cans have seem­ingly staked out their 2014 cam­paign lines — in­come equal­ity (Democrats) and op­po­si­tion to the Af­ford­able Care Act (Repub­li­cans) — both par­ties might want to use the new year to re­con­sider their pri­or­i­ties and plans based on real in­for­ma­tion — from Amer­i­cans.

Ac­cord­ing to a Gallup poll re­leased this Wed­nes­day, the prob­lems listed by Amer­i­cans do not match cur­rent party lines. (Tele- phone in­ter­views were con­ducted Jan. 5-8, 1,018 adults, sam­pling er­ror plus or mi­nus 4 per­cent­age points, 95 per­cent con­fi­dence level).

“Al­though none is dom­i­nant,” Gallup noted, “the gov­ern­ment, at 21 per­cent, leads the list of what Amer­i­cans con­sider the most im­por­tant prob­lem fac­ing the coun­try.

“The econ­omy closely fol­lows at 18 per­cent, and then un­em­ploy­ment/jobs and health care, each at 16 per­cent. No other is­sue is men­tioned by as much as 10 per­cent of the pub­lic; how­ever, the fed­eral bud­get deficit or debt comes close, at 8 per­cent.”

The top prob­lem listed by Amer­i­cans — gov­ern­ment — in­cludes “dis­sat­is­fac­tion with gov­ern­ment/ Congress/politi­cians; Poor lead­er­ship/ Cor­rup­tion/ Abuse of power.”

While that fig­ure is at roughly the same level as it was a year ago, it is down from a high of 33 per­cent in Oc­to­ber, when the gov­ern­ment shut down.

But the shut­down was not the only source of dis- sat­is­fac­tion with this gov­ern­ment.

Other ar­eas in­clude NSA sur­veil­lance meth­ods, con­tin­u­ing rev­e­la­tions re­gard­ing Beng­hazi, the IRS’s re­view of po­lit­i­cally af­fil­i­ated non­prof­its, and the in­ef­fec­tive roll­out of the Af­ford­able Care Act.

How does this com­pare with Amer­i­cans’ key prob­lems/pri­or­i­ties from last year? “Men­tions of gov­ern­ment are up slightly,” ac­cord­ing to Gallup. “Men­tions of health care, on the other hand, have quadru­pled — from 4 per­cent in Jan­uary 2013 to 16 per­cent to­day, likely re­lated to highly vis­i­ble prob­lems with the roll­out of the 2010 health care law.”

The is­sue was par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant among women, 19 per­cent of whom cited health care as a top prob­lem, up from 4 per­cent last year.

“At the same time, ref­er­ences to the fed­eral deficit or debt have de­clined from 20 per­cent to 8 per­cent, while men­tions of the econ­omy in gen­eral have dipped from 21 per­cent to 18 per­cent, and men­tions of un­em­ploy­ment/jobs are the same, at 16 per­cent.”

In­ter­est­ingly, the one item that specif­i­cally ad­dresses the Democrats’ fo­cus on in­come equal­ity, con­cern over the “gap be­tween rich and poor,” is at only 4 per­cent. How­ever, it has quadru­pled from 1 per­cent in July 2013. While this prob­lem cur­rently is low, it is be­ing driven up by on­go­ing mes­sag­ing from Pres­i­dent Obama and cov­er­age from the me­dia.

Democrats are fo­cus­ing on cre­at­ing prob­lems for them to then solve through cam­paign prom­ises, rather than fo­cus on cur­rent prob­lems. This can be very ef­fec­tive if there are un­der­ly­ing prob­lems that they can draw upon, am­plify and harp on to stay on mes­sage.

Af­ter the plan­ning process is com­plete, and pri­or­i­ties and plans are laid out, it comes down to ex­e­cu­tion and the abil­ity to in­spire and lead peo­ple. As im­por­tant as it is to fo­cus on prob­lems iden­ti­fied by Amer­i­cans, it is also im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that the mes­sage is only as good as the mes­sen­ger and the de­liv­ery of the mes­sage.

It’s the at­ti­tude as well as the ac­tiv­ity.

Pres­i­dent Obama is very good at pro­vid­ing a de­liv­ery method that res­onates with vot­ers. Repub­li­cans need to take note that, while mes­sage is key, mes­sen­ger and de­liv­ery are also im­por­tant.

While politi­cians and par­ties need to ad­dress the prob­lems and con­cerns of the Amer­i­can peo­ple, to win at the polls in Novem­ber, they will have to do it in a way that en­gen­ders con­nec­tion and un­der­stand­ing with the vot­ers.

JACKIE CUSH­MAN

COLUM­NIST

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