By Emily Jane Fox
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Ten moms in Nashville sat around a wooden table on Wednesday night, to talk about the economy and the political climate in the nation’s capital, just hours before Congress voted to reopen the government.
The women had gathered as part of an annual focus group organized in different cities by the country’s largest retailer Wal-Mart. The meetings help Wal-Mart take the average woman’s pulse on what they’re confronting in their own lives and also their take on hot national issues.
This year, the discussion focused on budgets — in their households and the federal government.
Paring back was a common theme. The women said they’ve had to cut back on big purchases and that they worry about paying for their children’s field trips at school. One even moved back in with her parents.
They worried about whether they will achieve the American dream.
But they were hopeful — all 10 women said things will get better.
When their conversation turned to Washington, they agreed that the system is broken. The women debated how well the politicians are serving them and who was to blame for the crisis. They believed that women would do a much better job in office.
The women only introduced themselves using their first names, and CNNMoney watched a live webcast of the focus group.
Here are some highlights from Wednesday’s discussion:
Families stretching their dollars: “The dollar doesn’t go as far as it used to. You tell your kids everything is okay, and you go into your bedroom and ask yourself how you’re going to pay for everything.”
– “I’m not where I thought I was going to be at this point in my life. I was living the high life…Now my family is living with my parents. My husband just graduated from law school and he’s making $37,000 a year.”
– “The biggest change we made is that we no longer make big changes. We haven’t bought a big SUV. We haven’t gone on a big vacation. We’ve had to cut back.”
Repulsed by shutdown drama: “The partisan politics are disgusting. They’re saying, ‘I don’t like what your party has done, so I’m going to shut down the government, so our party gets what they want.’ They don’t think about constituents. You learn these things in kindergarten.”
– “Politicians care about getting my votes, but they don’t care about me as a person.”
Reminder of the Depression: “My grandmother lived through the Depression and she is still impacted by that. So I feel like we are going to be impacted by this situation in the long run.”
-“What we have in Washington is an irreparable great divide. Compromise is no longer in their vocabulary.”
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