Are You Better Off Today?

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.

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10 thoughts on “Are You Better Off Today?

  1. Seriously? You are trying to compare a snap shot of election day 2008 to today? You do realize that the economic collapse began in September 2008 and the downward spiral continued until March 2009. Also, I take it you realize that George Bush was still the President until 12:00 noon on January 20, 2009. So any further decline in the numbers you cite, up until this date, occurred on George Bush’s watch. It took Obama until February 13, 2009 before he could sign the American Recovery and Investment Act into law. So if you really want to see if we are better off since Obama became President then any fair minded person would use March 1, 2009 as their starting point. Here is a link to an article I wrote back in January 2012 and since that time the jobs and economic data have continued to improve.
    http://politonomicsandtravel.wordpress.com/2012/01/14/obama-has-made-the-economy-worse-really/
    But I suspect your purpose was to paint as negative a picture as you could. Maybe a few low information voters will buy it, but anyone who has paid a little attention to what has happened, and remembers how bad things were when Obama took office, recognizes that we are much better off since Obama took office.

    1. Seriously? I am not exactly a “low information voter” and I do wonder exactly where you are finding these folks that are so much better off now. Maybe he did inherit a mess but has not done anything except spend taxpayer money will no results to help anyone except maybe his union buddies. Start checking the hard facts and financial data.

      1. Maryann,
        I have checked the financial data and hard facts. If you read my article that I linked to you will find that data (as of January 2012 since I have not updated that article since). I actually follow the financial information very closely and I don’t allow my political opinion to influence the data since that is a very bad way to make an investment decision.
        When you say he “has not done anything except spend taxpayer money will no results” I assume you are referring to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. If you would read books written by mainstream economist what you will find is almost all of them agree that the stimulus produced significant results. Mark Zandi, John McCain’s chief economist, stated in his new book “there was no stimulus working at the end of 2008, but by the second and third quarters of 2009, the stimulus had pumped more than $100 billion into the economy. This massive, rapid change was why the economy went from free fall to recovery in just a few months.” Pick up his book and read it. Don’t base your conclusion on what you hear from TV pundits.

  2. Thanks for visiting my blog.

    Leaving your fury aside, I think you answer all the essential questions by noting that the numbers do indeed “paint a negative” picture.

    Also, people vote on election day, not inauguration day. We are talking about election day decisions based on economic metrics. It is a standard historical comparison, whereas a mid-term date, like March 1, 2009, is not where “fair minded” historians will measure from.

  3. Jason,
    How can anyone who is being honest in their comparison use election day as the starting point. I hope you know that the guy who wins won’t take office for another 2.5 months. Do you really think that what occurs during the lame duck period should be the responsibility of the new guy who doesn’t even take office until January 20th. By the way March 1, 2009 is not mid-term. It is only about 1.5 months from inauguration day. Anyone who uses election day as their starting point is intentionally trying to deceive others.

    1. Somehow you don’t seem to agree with the financial facts given, please enlighten me on when things started getting better. I must have missed the financial reports when this turn around in the economy started. Unemployment, national debt, please inform me of the good news that I missed.

      1. Read my article. You will find the recession ended in the 3Q-2009. The stock market bottomed out in March 2009 and began to turn around soon after the stimulus started making its way into the economy. The job losses end at the end of 2009 and every month from January 2010 has been positive. The unemployment rate peaked at 10.2% in October 2008 and has been declining ever since. Do you really think that any President could have or should have turned the free falling economy around in less time?

  4. Sorry, I don’t seem to agree with your analysis of the recovery or timeline of it either. Could any President have turned this around? Maybe you could go back a bit and check the policies of the Reagan recovery. Much different policies and a much better outcome and he did it all without wasting the time to blame Carter. More and more people on food stamps, welfare and unemployment don’t make a case for a more prosperous country.

    1. So are you saying that you don’t agree with reality because it doesn’t match your political perspective? The data is the data. You can look up the actual quarterly GDP numbers, the jobs reports, etc. and confirm the tables included in my article. But I suspect that you have no real interest in looking up the official statistics. By the way I have looked at the real Reagan record. The first thing you should know is that the early 1980’s recession was created by the Fed who raised their interest rate to 20% in order to break inflation’s back. Once they accomplished their goal, over the next 18 months the Fed dropped the Fed’s fund rate by 12% down to 8%. Reagan benefited by the loosening of the money supply and a significant reduction in interest rates. After Reagan passed his first tax cut in 1981, they quickly realized they had gone too far because the debt exploded, the economy slowed, and unemployment rose to 10.8% by the end of 1982. Then Reagan raised taxes in 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1987. I have also written an article titled “The Real Legacy of Ronald Reagan” which you can find on my blog.

  5. Reagan did have a year of high unemployment and then a very steady decline in the rates for the next years. Obama has managed to maintain the high unemployment rate for the past 4 years with no recovery in sight.

    My political perspective is one of self reliance and not goverment reliance.

    What we have had for the past 4 years is not the new normal that I am willing to accept. I do not want government to provide me with housing, health insurance, food stamps etc.

    Doesn’t seem that there is much for us to agree on because I.m sure that you would even find a way to excuse the way the price of gas has doubled in the past 4 years.

    Elections are tomorrow and hopefully we can move forward from there.

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