Another murky week in America

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Which is more confusing: the news or the primaries?

This week, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen made news you can't use. Just another example of how confusing it is to be an American voter or an American political candidate in 2016. News clips show Yellen testifying before Congress suggesting that, maybe, just possibly, the United States could catch the economic virus that is causing some economies overseas to tank. So maybe, perhaps the Fed will be "evaluating" negative rates. "We're taking a look at them again because we would want to be prepared in the event that we needed to add accommodation."

Now that's clarity on the economy. Meanwhile, gas prices are almost at a historic low of less than a dollar per gallon; good news. But, then again, experts warn that low gas prices might be a dangerous trend for economies.

Are you confused yet? Wait until we get to budgets.

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President Obama proposed a budget with a moonshot for cancer research — something that every American cares about, but the Republicans are not even prepared to seriously look at his budget because he's a lame duck. Political candidates are arguing about balancing the budget and whether or not the U.S. debt is so out of control that the only way to "make America strong," is to cut lots of government spending and bring overseas jobs back home. People care about money — sort of. According to a poll released last month by the Pew Research Center, the percentage of Americans who say that reducing the budget deficit should be a top priority is now at 56 percent, down from a high of 72 percent in 2013. 

Do we even need government, of any size?

Ask Flint, Mich. residents who want to sue their state for the contamination of the water supply — as well they should.

Ask air traffic controllers. Testifying before Congress this week, they say they would be willing to move their members to a private, nonprofit corporation that would supervise 50,000 U.S. flights each day — just as we are being warned about dangerous lithium batteries on planes.

Auto companies. We love them — except when they manufacture faulty air bags. Then we want Congress to investigate.

Education is also up for grabs. Rising college tuition and student debt are common concerns for voters and candidates. But one party wants to get rid of the Department of Education, and another candidate wants to make public universities free. (Meanwhile, the University of California, Berkeley, the nation's most prestigious public university, is facing a budget deficit that is the tip of the iceberg for higher education nationwide and nobody really seems to know how to fix college costs, or who's in charge.)

And don't get me started on healthcare. Either prices are coming down, and the number of insured is going up, or we are going to have a big legislative fight that will make the entire picture murky.

No, I can't give you clarity on foreign affairs. Terrorism continues to dominate the headlines, but voters say they don't really care about it right now although the leading candidate, Donald TrumpDonald TrumpClinton gets small bump nationally in post-debate Fox poll Trump had cameo in softcore Playboy porn film in 2000 What Trump and Obama have in common MORE, ascribes his success to addressing voter concerns about security and wants a wall to block immigrants. Meanwhile, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is still out there and a vast diaspora of nearly 5.5 million refugees have spilled out of Syria, while Americans are concerned about the few thousand we might take.

Murky. That's the best word for today's politics and public opinion. Polarized, maybe, but more muddled and meandering that ever before as we navigate the confused and confusing.

At least we have pieces like this one to sort it all out!

Sonenshine is former under secretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs.