Early voting is under way in Tennessee and other states. The ballot is not too crowded in most areas, with only a few state legislative races, congressional races and the top-of-the-ticket choice between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to consider.
With relatively few candidates from which to select, and the seemingly tremendously consequential nature of this year's election, it begs the question: Just how informed is the average voter?
My mind was prompted by a "Saturday Night Live" spoof on a political ad acknowledging the "undecided voter" in the presidential election. A smartly dressed, skeptical-looking female opens the ad declaring that undecided voters are "not impressed by political spin or 30-second sound bites; before you get our votes, you're gonna have to answer some questions".
"Questions like"... and the camera cuts to other "undecided voters" ticking off a few:
• "When is the election?"
• "What are the names of the two people running? And be specific!"
• "Who is the president right now? Is he or she running?"
You get the point.
Do undecided voters understand that the 7.8 percent September unemployment rate that was hailed as a success by the Obama administration is exactly the same as January 2009 when the president took office?
Do undecided voters really appreciate that the size of our labor force is currently the same as it was in 1983? And that, according to a May 2012 Washington Post article, there are "about 3.7 job seekers for every available opening."
While we're having to manage our budget at home, saving where we can and often struggling to pay our bills, the federal government has burned through over 2 trillion tax dollars annually AND borrowed in excess of $1 trillion more each year for the last four years, according to the 2012 "Economic Report of the President"?
Do undecided voters know that employers are now moving toward part-time versus full-time employees as the regulation, taxation and penalties of the "Affordable Care Act" or Obamacare burden their budgets more?
The answer to each question is, apparently, "No."
More of today's voters look to the government as their daily provider, not an entity with limited powers.
The Wall Street Journal reports that in 1980 and 1992, only "3 percent of America's labor force drew disability benefits." Yet, that rate is now 6 percent, with the number of workers on disability growing "twice as fast as private employment" in 2012.
The same WSJ piece notes that spending for the "federal government's 120 means-tested programs" provides over $1 trillion in benefits and has "grown 21/2 times faster during the Obama presidency than any other comparable period in American history."
Late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel tasked an actress to conduct woman-on-the-street interviews and ask folks about their opinion of the second presidential debate. The interviewees lauded Obama's good performance and spoke in support of his economic plan. Sadly, the second debate was still four hours away.
Please vote. It's your right and civic duty. It's also your right and civic duty to be informed. As two presidents wisely said:
• "A vote is like a rifle; its usefulness depends upon the character of the user" - Theodore Roosevelt, and
• "If a nation expects to be ignorant - and free - in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be" - Thomas Jefferson
Robin Smith, a consultant at Rivers Edge Alliance, is a wife and mother living in Hixson. She served as chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party from 2007 to 2009.