Discussing debt at America's kitchen table

Filed under: Work Life, In The News

Red Mom Blue Mom

Welcome to Red Mom Blue Mom, ParentDish's special coverage of the 2008 Presidential election. Each Tuesday through November 4, columnists Rachel Campos-Duffy (Red Mom) and Ada Calhoun (Blue Mom) will take on issues relevant to parents on both sides of the aisle. You can find past Red Mom/Blue Mom posts here.

Blue Mom: Who owns America's kitchen table?

By Ada Calhoun

Senator Joseph BidenWhen Joe Biden gave his first speech as the vice presidential nominee, he said, "Ladies and gentlemen, your kitchen table is like mine. You sit there at night . . . after you put the kids to bed and you talk . . . about how much you are worried about being able to pay the bills. Well, ladies and gentlemen, that's not a worry John McCain has to worry about. It's a pretty hard experience. He'll have to figure out which of the seven kitchen tables to sit at."


McCain's had trouble relating directly to everyday people, especially since Biden joined the Obama ticket. According to OutTheOtherEar, Biden has the lowest net worth of all the senators, and impeccable working-class credibility.

And don't the Republicans know it. According to a September report on Politico, Karl Rove said, "The most important thing for McCain to do is find a way to show a comfort with the kitchen table issues."

Enter Sarah Palin.

Asked on Hugh Hewitt's show, "Have you and your husband, Todd, ever faced tough economic times where you had to sit around a kitchen table and make tough choices?" Palin said,"Todd and I, heck, we're going through that right now even as we speak, which may put me again kind of on the outs of those Washington elite who don't like the idea of just an everyday working class American running for such an office."

At last week's vice presidential debate, Biden and Palin worked hard to out-kitchen-table each other. In the course of the ninety-minute exchange, the phrase "kitchen table" was used five times.

The kitchen table has proved to be an especially powerful metaphor, because what we need at the moment are leaders who embody the pragmatism of a family forced into a tight spot by circumstances who together can figure out a way to get back on track.

We don't really need someone who has been broke, but a little personal fiscal suffering doesn't hurt. As Chris Rock said in a much-watched Larry King episode last week, the candidate who understands the economy best is always "the guy with one house."

Red Mom: Can't solve debt with more debt
By Rachel Campos-Duffy

Governor Sarah Palin
Besides Texas Congressman Ron Paul, only Governor Sarah Palin is talking plainly and honestly about the role of personal responsibility in this financial crises. During last week's vice-presidential debates she said: "Let's do what our parents told us before we probably even got that first credit card. Don't live outside of our means. We need to make sure that as individuals we're taking personal responsibility through all of this... we have an opportunity to learn a heck of a lot of good lessons through this."

"Kitchen table" issues are front and center this election. Palin's statement resonated strongly with Americans on both sides of the political aisle because she spoke to the heart of the conversations so many of us are having around our own kitchen tables after the kids have gone to bed.

Since the financial crises, my husband and I have recommitted to our budget and canceled a family trip we had planned for the fall. Both of us have October birthdays and we made a pact not to buy each other gifts and to celebrate at home this year. And for the first time ever, I may actually get my Christmas shopping done early because I'm already actively seeking out sales and determined to avoid last minute Christmas impulse purchases.

American families understand that in difficult financial times they cut back. Shouldn't the federal government employ the same kitchen table common sense principals? Unfortunately not. In fact, but for a few conservative Republicans and blue-dog Democrats, our representatives in Washington thought this was a good time to spend more of our money. That's akin to Sean and I deciding that this would be a great time to hire a designer and redecorate. The supposedly do-or-die $700 billion bailout bill included more than $100 billion in additional pork spending and special interest tax breaks. And it's worth noting that the $700 billion loan is actually money we are borrowing from China since our national debt, the cumulative amount the federal government has borrowed and not repaid, is a record $9.5 trillion.

The Democrat-controlled Congress holds the purse strings and government spending is out of control. Our politicians want us to believe that going $700 billion dollars deeper into debt is going to help what is essentially a debt problem. It's like believing you can cure Joe Six-Pack's drinking problem with a case of Sam Adams.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.