What Americans want from the next president
On the eve of a historically tight election, a writer drives through swing states and listens to the voices of America, hearing one overriding plea: 'Washington, stop bickering. Get something done!'
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Jeff Gilbertson wants to see entitlements reformed as well – and he doesn't care which party does it. He is sitting at the Zoxx 411 Club in Janesville watching his – everyone's – favorite team in Wisconsin, the Green Bay Packers.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures A roadtrip across the political landscape
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The club sits next to the former General Motors plant on West State Street in Janesville that was shuttered in 2009 after 90 years of operation. For decades, the plant churned out vehicles and jobs that were handed down like heirlooms from father to son to grandson. The plant, many here say, was the light that kept the middle-class dream illuminated.
Mr. Gilbertson knows a lot of the people who lost their jobs or were transferred to other GM plants out of state. "There's a lotta hurt here," says Gilbertson. "A lotta hurt."
The jobs of today, he says, don't offer much in the way of benefits. He sees the government playing a bigger role as the provider of retirement pensions – and that worries him.
"Social Security is dying, but I want to make sure it's there when I need it," he says. "I paid into it my whole life. It needs to be fixed – no band-aids, no quick fixes – a real kind of reform. But I don't see either party doing that right now."
Soccer moms, and dads, in Ohio
How Washington spends money is a near-universal complaint. On a brisk Sunday, Garfield Deeter stares out across a worn soccer field. His 8-year-old daughter is sitting on a bench on the other sideline, her head in her hands. It's near the end of the match and her team is losing, 4-0. But Mr. Deeter isn't worried so much about the score – "they're learning," he says. Instead, he's reflecting on the world she will inherit as a woman.
"The debt we are piling up now is going to be handed down to my daughter," Deeter says. "And if she has kids one day, to my grandkids. The way we're spending money is just not sustainable."
Deeter works for an ice manufacturing company in Findlay, Ohio. His friends call him "Ice Man." His pique with Washington is caused both by how much the government is spending and how intrusive it is in people's lives. He believes the government has gotten far too big and is choking the country with useless regulations that stifle free enterprise.
Medicare and Social Security are bankrupting the nation, he says, and should be privatized. He thinks younger workers should be allowed to divert their Social Security taxes into private, market-based accounts because "if you're under 40, it's not going to be there for you."
"I had to work for everything I have. Nothing was handed to me," he says. "We've got an attitude of entitlement in this country now, that we're owed something. No one is owed anything unless they work for it. And you know what? I'm a registered Democrat."