Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Real Problem

Lots of good ideas, lots of issues to consider and debate, were aired in the State of the Union address Tuesday night. Problem is there wasn't enough said about the real problem.

The Real Problem

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio listens at right as President Barack Obama gives his State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday Feb. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, Pool)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio listens at right as President Barack Obama gives his State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday Feb. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, Pool)

While watching C-SPAN before the State of the Union address Tuesday (which, by the way, is the best place to watch any political broadcast since it offers, straight, no-spin viewing often accompanied by intelligent conversation), I was struck by an interview with Gallup Poll editor-in-chief Frank Newport.

The interview focused on what issues are the highest priority for most Americans, which, as you might imagine, mostly conflict with whatever Congress and Washington occupies itself with at any given moment or even most of the time.

Gallup each month polls on this topic, and Newport was releasing the latest results to C-SPAN first.

Not surprisingly, the top priority or concern in America is "the economy," according to 25 percent of those polled. Next is "jobs & employment" at 19 percent.

Makes sense, those two issues encompass a lot of other issues and get to the heart of living day to day and our hopes and fears about the future.

And, of course, the President's speech had plenty to do with issues surrounding the economy and jobs.

But what struck me is the third most important issue to Americans, coming in at 16 percent, "disfunction in government."

This issue polls ahead of concerns about the nation's deficit, concerns about health care. education, foreign affairs, immigration, climate change, energy policy, poverty, guns, gay rights, pick your issue.

And yet, the State of the Union, the President, the Congress and the national media tend to proceed on focusing on single issues or a few issues without concentrating on "disfunction in government."

Not only is this disfunction the cause of almost all that's wrong in the nation, it is an issue that deserves far more attention. It should constantly be addressed and hammered on and discussed and debated and used as THE accountability measure for government leaders over and over again.

Until that happens, until there is a sustained effort by media, citizens and public officials interested in actual progress instead of only political positioning, real issues will remain unattended and the real problem will never be solved. 

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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