The latest Pew Research poll results indicate that Americans favor concentrating on domestic policy
rather than foreign affairs by almost a 2 to 1(58-33) margin.  In fact, none of the Pew Research sub-groupings favor world affairs over problems at home.  Not the conservatives, not the libertarians, not the independents, not the liberals, just… nobody.  Period.

What do Americans identify as the biggest domestic problem?   In one word: unemployment.  And as David Dayen pointed out earlier today,  our unemployment problem doesn’t appear to be heading in the right direction.

Perhaps it’s selfish and isolationist to ask our elected officials to focus more on the citizens of
the United States.  But when it comes down to it,  the world didn’t vote for our elected officials.  And besides,  regardless of political party or world view, our better Presidents have given the welfare of our citizens top priority in tough times.  It has been one of America’s best traditions.

Take President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and President Warren G. Harding as examples of this tradition.  Both entered office during chaotic times with economies plagued by high unemployment.   Both spoke of making ‘putting our own house in order’ job number one.  And to their credit,  both Presidents matched words with deeds.  Neither President abandon the rest of the world,  they simply kept the welfare of our own citizens high on the priority list.

“Through this program of action we address ourselves to putting our own national house in order and making income balance outgo. Our international trade relations, though vastly important, are in point of time and necessity secondary to the establishment of a sound national economy. I favor as a practical policy the putting of first things first. I shall spare no effort to restore world trade by international economic readjustment, but the emergency at home cannot wait on that accomplishment. ”

First Inaugural Address of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spent his first hundred days crafting the domestic policy which we collectively refer to as The New Deal.  FDR didn’t even attend the big international economic conference which occurred over the summer of his first year in office.  The reason for this, as historian Thomas Ferguson points out,  was that the conference was an attempt to rope the United States into a budget cutting austerity package which would have prevented a revival of the American economy.

“It is time to idealize,  but it’s very practical to make sure our own house is in perfect order before we attempt the miracle of Old World stabilization.  Call it the selfishness of nationality if you will, I think it an inspiration to patriotic devotion– to safeguard America first, to stabilize America first, to prosper America first, to think of America first, to exalt America first, to live for and revere America first.”

President Warren G. Harding (speech):

Alright, ‘America first’ six times in a single sentence might be a little over the top but it does emphasize that he had no plans to forget about the needs of the average American citizen.  And indeed,  President Harding’s first acts upon taking office included emergency tariff increases and immigration quota’s to help fix the unemployment problem.  With that accomplished,  he moved on to finalize peace with Germany and Austria.  And before the end of his first year in office he had eliminated military industrial complex 1.0 which was threatening to destroy the civilian economy by gobbling up endless quantities of steel and oil in a mindless naval arms race.

Here are a few other tidbits from the poll which may in some ways relate to building our economy back up to full employment: 

Wall Street is not all that popular these days.  The public would most likely support an increase in financial sector taxation(Tobin tax) as well as further regulation and/or prosecution of our financial sector.

There seems to be very strong support for immigration reform.  78% of Americans favor strong enforcement of immigration laws and 72% support a path to citizenship for said immigrants.

Also,  given the Democrats track record,  it’s worth pointing out that the public prefers officials who stick to their position over those who compromise.

On a side note,  the poll seems to suggest that the housing crisis isn’t on the public radar.  I find that troubling.  If the housing crisis received even half as much media coverage as the deficit hawks,  I think we’d see housing taking the number two or three spot on the public priority list.