Are you better off today than you were four years ago? On the eve of the election it is time to look objectively at the classic campaign question.
Where possible, I sought to compare November 2008, the month Barack Obama was elected President, to today. Where that was not possible I used end of year data for 2008.
In November 2008 the national unemployment rate was 6.8 percent. Today it stands at 7.9 percent.
The national debt was $10 trillion, which worked out to a $35,153 share for every American. Today the debt is $15.9 trillion and your personal share has risen to $48,358. Over the same time per capita gross domestic product moved from $46,900 to $47,284. It is important to note that debt has passed production. Every American is, to use the mortgage term, “underwater.”
Household income in inflation adjusted dollars fell from $52,546 to $50,054 according to the U.S. Census Bureau, though other sources suggest the decline is even greater. With the income drop and unemployment climb, 15.1 percent of America today lives below the poverty line, up from 14 percent four years ago. Necessities, notably gasoline, are more expensive today. A gallon of regular is up to an average of $3.95 from $1.84. Food stamp use is dramatically higher – 31 million American were on food stamps at the end of 2008, 46.37 million today collect food stamps. It is worth noting that over the past four years, for every new job added to the economy 75 food stamp recipients were added.
According to Freedom House indexes, the U.S. rating for personal freedom and civil rights remains unchanged. Since measurement began in 2002 the U.S. rating has never changed. Economic freedom is another matter. The annual Heritage index dropped America from a 81 point rating to 76.3 rating, as the country moved from being “free” to “mostly free.”
Wall Street is doing okay. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is 13,093.16. Up from 8695.79 on November 6, 2008.
Any conversation about the past four years must acknowledge health care. The U.S. Census Bureau provides illustrative numbers. In 2008, 256 million Americans had coverage. Today 260 million Americans are covered. But, the number of people in America has risen by more than four million.
Then, 44 million Americans were without coverage. Today, 48.6 million lack coverage. That difference has disproportionately affected women. Of the four million additional uninsured, only one million are men, the remaining 3 million are women.
Among the insured, 202.6 million enjoyed private health insurance in 2008, while 87.6 million were left with government health coverage. Today 197 million have private insurance, while the number of people receiving government care has risen to 99 million.
The number of U.S. troops deployed abroad has remained virtually unchanged during the Obama Administration.
So, are you better off today than you were four years ago? More importantly, is America better off today than it was four years ago? With the possible exception of Solyndra executives, UAW workers, and Wall Street brokers, the past four years have not been kind to Americans.
Put differently, Obama may have – as he is fond of mentioning – “inherited a mess.” During his term the mess has incontrovertibly gotten worse.