As I travel with candidates to meet voters across the state of Maine, I see people who disconnect from politics because they are overwhelmed and confused by the political landscape. Because of that confusion, I find that most people retreat from discussions about budget priorities – on the state and federal levels – and pass up opportunities to advocate for themselves and their families. Even as so many people need and benefit from government services, most are confused by budget terms from appropriations and outlays to mandatory versus discretionary spending.
As I read A People's Guide to the Federal Budget, I'm more convinced that it's not just us Mainiacs who need a little more information. Many Americans just don't have this information about how things work on the federal level. And A People's Guide constructively works toward an informed dialogue about the budget, with detailed explanations of how federal lawmakers determine our spending priorities. From my experience on the campaign trail with candidates for state office, I know that providing voters with even a small amount of information produces an immediate shift from apathy to interest to engagement.
I can also see a shift in the candidates I’m working with. Arming them with information empowers them to think more critically about the ways federal spending impacts our state’s budget, which in turn impacts their constituents. Maine has a citizen legislature, meaning that our candidates are not professional politicians. Some of our House candidates don’t have a formal education beyond high school, while others have law degrees or doctorates in political science. But no one knows all the inner-workings of the federal budget and everyone has unanswered questions. A People's Guide is an excellent place to begin arming our state legislators with information and creating a dialogue that moves from the capitol to the state house and then through voters’ front doors and into the kitchen.