Jackie Gingrich Cushman

"It's the economy, stupid," was the message that Democratic political strategist James Carville kept repeating to Bill Clinton in the 1992 campaign against then-President George H.W. Bush. It seems that President Barack Obama has finally gotten the message, too, and not a bit too soon.

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While the Democrats in Congress have been delivering votes for government health care and Obama has been opining on troop deployment in Afghanistan, everyday Americans have been trying to figure out how to spend less and make ends meet.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is based on the belief that you cannot focus on a higher-level need until the lower need has been met. The levels are as follows: basic needs, safety needs, psychological needs, self-actualization and peak experience. The economic downturn has left many Americans focusing on meeting their basic needs. Until they can be addressed, all other items are beyond their focus and attention.

This is borne out by a CNN/Opinion survey released Tuesday that found "four in 10 said the economy is their top concern. Seventeen percent cited health care, and 16 percent said that Afghanistan and Iraq are the country's biggest problems." More than twice as many people cited the economy as their first priority over health care and Afghanistan and Iraq.

This past week, a small-business owner mentioned that her business this past quarter was half of what it had been during the same quarter last year. She has been watching the health care debate because she feared that, if it is implemented, the extra cost could put her business into bankruptcy. When I asked her what she wanted from government, she responded, "to leave me alone so I can work."

This past Tuesday, Obama delivered a speech on the economy at the Brookings Institution. He began by laying the groundwork of his understanding of what has led us to where we are today, beginning with a meeting he had during his transition.

"Peter Orszag, my incoming budget director, closed out the proceeding with an entirely dismal report on the fiscal health with growing debts and debt stretching to the horizon," Obama remarked. After painting a picture of the possibility of another Great Depression, Obama continued with his story of how the crisis was handled.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.