Jackie Gingrich Cushman

"It's the economy, stupid" is the infamous mantra conceived by political consultant James Carville that underscored the main issue driving the 1992 presidential race. A few months later, Bill Clinton replaced George H.W. Bush (41) as president, and it was the focus on the economy that got him there.

It was shocking this week to hear Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, one of the Republican presidential candidates say, "The issue in this race is not the economy."

This statement by Santorum is not in tune with likely voters. While it is not the only issue, Rasmussen Reports noted earlier this month that it is the number one issue for likely voters by twenty percent. Likely voters listed the economy as very important (82 percent). The other items listed as very important that topped 50 percent of the likely voters were: health care (62 percent), government ethics and corruption (61 percent), taxes (60 percent), energy policy (54 percent), education (54 percent), and social security (53 percent), based on two national surveys of likely voters from February 22 -- 23 and February 26 -- 27, 2012, margin of sampling error plus-or-minus 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.

Possibly the Santorum team has been lulled by President Obama's administration into believing that everything is OK on the economic front. Just this month, the administration touted an unemployment rate of 8.3 percent and the addition of 227 thousand non-farm jobs. The simple truth is that there is a lower percentage of people participating in the labor force than there was a year ago. If the labor force participation rate had remained constant, then the unemployment rate would have been 8.7 percent in February, with 13.6 million people out of work.

Additionally, there are another 8 million people who are working part time instead of full time for economic reasons: either they cannot find a full time job, or the business conditions have led to fewer hours. Combined, over 20 million people, or 13 percent of those who are in the labor force are either out of work or working part time when they would like to be working full time.

America works best when Americans are working. With more Americans working, there would be less need for government assistance (therefore less government spending), and more tax revenue coming in (therefore more government revenue), both of which would assist in balancing our federal budget.

Why is it important to balance the federal budget? The same reason it's important for a family to spend only what it takes in. As we spend more than we take in, we build up debt, and at some point that debt has to be paid off.


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”.