First, it was the soccer moms; then we had the security moms. This November, it may be the mortgage moms – “voters whose sense of well-being is freighted with anxiety about their families’ financial squeeze” – who help to determine the outcome of the elections.
Even though the economy is growing and the national unemployment rate is low, middle-class families are finding themselves in a vulnerable position. Adjustable interest rates, flat wages, rising energy prices, and the increasing national debt are contributing factors to their sense of unease.
Polls show that swing voters — the category that candidates most want to attract — are unhappier than the rest of the population about their economic circumstances. According to a recent survey by Bloomberg News and the Los Angeles Times, six in 10 self-described independents said the economy was doing badly, and seven in 10 said the country was on the wrong track. A Fox News poll, taken at the end of last month, showed that 23 percent of Americans consider the economy the most important factor they will weigh when they cast their ballot in November — more than those who cited Iraq (14 percent) or terrorism (12 percent).
And a recent poll conducted for the AFL-CIO by the Democratic Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group found that 55 percent of voters said their income was not keeping up with inflation, and that the economy was a more effective campaign theme against Republicans than either the war or corruption. …
As reported in my August 31, 2006 post, Latest Numbers on Uninsured Americans: “… full-time male and full-time female employees saw a decrease in their earnings level in 2005 (1.8% for males – second straight year; 1.3% for females – third straight year)”.
… According to a study by the Federal Reserve Board, the ratio of financial obligations — primarily mortgage and consumer debt — to disposable personal income rose to a modern record of 18.7 percent earlier this year. The amount of mortgage debt alone has more than doubled since 2000, to nearly $9 trillion. And in July, for the 16th consecutive month, consumers in the aggregate spent all of their disposable income and dipped into savings or borrowed to finance the things they bought.
People who have adjustable-rate mortgages may find themselves in a position next year where they may have to refinance their loan or face an increase of up to 25% in their monthly payments. This represents about 11%, or $1 trillion, of outstanding mortgages.
… “You have a portion of the middle class that doesn’t believe it’s benefiting from good economic news, and, in fact, it’s not. … All the blame doesn’t go to Congress, but voters are going to take it out on Congress anyway.”
Among the key places the debate is playing out is New York, where Republican Reps. John E. Sweeney, James T. Walsh and John R. “Randy” Kuhl Jr. are facing tougher-than-expected challenges because of the state’s economy.
The benefits of the country’s strong economy have not “trickled down” to those in the middle class. They are finding that their disposable income level doesn’t go as far as it once had, and many are borrowing to maintain their current lifestyle. Will families’ “personal economies” be a big factor in the voting booth this November, or will other issues guide their votes? We will have the answer two months from now.