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Our Views: The job before us
How we decide to fill one position may determine if many others will find one
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Members of The Times editorial board include Publisher Dennis L. Stockton; General Manager Norman Baggs; Executive Editor Mitch Clarke; and Managing Editor Keith Albertson.

It’s fitting this year that Labor Day falls between the two national political conventions. In no election in recent memory has the issue of jobs been bigger than in this fall’s vote.

It was four years ago that the great recession hit weeks before Election Day, and may have helped propel Barack Obama to victory. Now he’s trying to defend his economic policies as he seeks re-election with the national unemployment rate still at an unacceptably high 8.3 percent, the rate only slightly better in Hall County (7.8 percent) and worse in Georgia (9.3 percent).

The economy has rebounded somewhat, but at a languid pace that has not put enough people back to work. As companies downsized to meet the challenge, they learned to get by with fewer workers, leaving many looking for jobs that no longer exist. And this uncertainty has many employers sitting on their assets rather than investing in expansion and new jobs, waiting for ... what exactly? The presidential election perhaps?

Hard to say for sure, but it’s clear the economy is not working, and neither are enough Americans. How much federal policy can affect that is a point for debate between the parties, one that should be the focal point of the fall election, from the presidential race on down.

What most can agree on is that we need to get that capital moving again. Businesses need to spend more, at home and abroad, to create more goods and services, expand their reach and add good jobs. Every dollar spent, whether by a business or a consumer, sends pennies flying into dozens of different pockets.

One reason our economic policies have failed is that each party tends to target one side or the other, the producing class (the rich, if you will) or the working class (the rest of us). Yet history has shown that a climate that aids both can best spark growth that benefits everyone.

The free market is a closed circle, one side feeding the other equally. Workers need good jobs to make money they can spend on goods and services that benefit companies that hire other workers with good salaries, and so it goes. Politicians who try to feed only one half of the wheel are merely pandering for votes, which is why our partisan divide has stymied wise policy.

Into this arena strolls two men with vastly different ideas on how to break that dam and get the river flowing again. Between now and Election Day, it’s our task to listen closely and decide whose ideas will put more Americans back to work. Nothing is more important than choosing a president who can work with Congress to unleash our economic potential.

Rest assured, while the economy will be discussed at length, there will be plenty of clutter in the way. Nonsense issues, personal attacks and the “stoop of the day” glitch or gaffe will dominate the news cycle and overshadow more substantive concerns. The campaigns themselves devise many of these distractions, knowing too many Americans will let their votes be swayed by the circus sideshows.

We should keep in mind the traits that matter most in a president: ideas, intelligence, competence and experience. How many happy, smiling children they have, what church they go to, how pretty their wife is or what color tie they wear are not key qualifications for commander in chief. Why, then, do so many weigh these factors when seeking to fill the most important job in the country?

It’s up to voters to cut through the fluff and get to what matters most. In this election, that means creating the environment for a stronger economy now and in years to come. While other issues may count, they don’t mean as much to someone who can’t find work and is struggling to house and feed family members. To 8.3 percent of U.S. voters, and many more whose lives they touch, it is not hard to prioritize what they want from their president.

Most of us are fortunate enough to have jobs and look at Labor Day as either another workday or a welcome respite from one. Like those without work, we need to be just as mindful of this debate and choose wisely this fall, in local races, for Congress and for president. When more of our neighbors are working, it benefits us all and gets the wheel of the economy turning for everyone.

Americans deserve a rousing, spirited debate of ideas between two leaders who share different visions for the future. That’s as it should be; without a clear distinction, there would be no reason to go to the polls.

If the candidates do their part and provide such a contest, it falls us to take the time and make the effort to ask the right questions and seek the right answers.

The race has begun and the choice is before us. Let’s do our part to choose wisely so that next Labor Day is a holiday worth celebrating for more Americans.

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