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Tess Vigeland: We’ve been talking for several weeks now about what a recession means to the economy and most importantly, to you.
Recession isn’t like inflation, where you see it right away in the price of things you buy. No, the biggest personal toll is usually that folks start losing their jobs — and it’s happening. Friday’s unemployment report showed the economy lost jobs last month for the first time in more than four years.
Meanwhile the interview process for the world’s top job races toward Super Tuesday on the heels of the Florida primary. John Dimsdale spent the week in Florida talking with a cross section of voters about their money issues.
John Dimsdale: Floridians feel buffeted by forces beyond their control, both natural and man-made. The state director for the AARP is Lori Parham.
Lori Parham: We call it in Florida the perfect storm. The hurricanes a few years back that really caused a crisis in property insurance, property taxes are very high and people are struggling there. Then you have the housing boom and bust. Then you add on top of that gas prices, prescription drugs and health care costs and people are really feeling squeezed.
At an AARP sponsored rally in Fort Lauderdale just before the primary, these retirees said they favor candidates who’ll bring the government to their rescue.
Woman: I want them to come up with something better. I want them to come up with a better way of handling healthcare than what we’ve got now. If I knew the plan, I’d be running, but I don’t.
Man: No, I don’t have any ideas. I wish I had some ideas. I listen to politicians, I watch the news. I’m a news addict. And I’m waiting for someone to come up with… they’re not discussing the issue.
Given a severe downturn in home and condo values, most of the three dozen seniors I talked to favor a government stimulus for the economy. On primary day at the polls in Hollywood, Florida, this retiree liked Republican Mike Huckabee’s proposal to widen the Interstate highway from Bangor to Miami and put people to work:
Man: He’s right, that’s what we need to do right now. He said use American steel, American labor, American concrete and start building these things.
Not all senior voters are looking for a government prescription to solve financial insecurity:
Jack Davis: The government has a role, but its not the nanny.
Jack Davis is retired government worker in Sarasota. He’s a John McCain supporter.
Davis: The more we let the government take over the responsibility of whether our kids are educated or not or learning or not or whether we’re protected from storms or whether our economy goes up or down, I’m one of those individuals that’s of the position that personal responsibility is what counts.
Many young voters agree. But some, like Lisa Ostoski, a recent college graduate from Jacksonville, also want the government to deliver on its promises:
Lisa Ostoski: When you graduate from college as I just recently did, its hard to find a job that has healthcare and a 401k and a pension plan because that really just doesn’t exist anymore. Also, Social Security is a big deal, you know — financial security when I retire, because I’m paying for Social Security now, but will I get it when I’m older? I’m not really sure.
Up the coast in Boca Raton, a thirty-something MBA graduate calls himself liberal, almost libertarian. Dave Pounder likes Barack Obama and thinks the government should stay out of the way of entrepreneurs like himself. But he favors a legal limit on businesses that outsource jobs overseas:
Dave Pounder: The analogy I use is if you have a big mansion with twenty rooms in it and one room has heating in it and the rest of the house is freezing cold — you know, it’s poverty in other parts of the world. If you open the door, all the heat in that one room is going to disperse into the entire house and the whole place will be cold. Nobody wins. So, in a way I’m kind of a proponent of putting restrictions in terms of how much companies can outsource and things along those lines to encourage jobs to stay in the US to maintain the standard of living, because if they don’t, you’ll see more jobs go out.
One area where both young and old endorse a government solution is environmental policy. Everyone I talked to agrees that mandated limits on greenhouse gas emissions might be the only thing keeping rising ocean levels from swamping most of the state.
In Tampa, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace Money.
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