For a number of days now, I’ve been hearing people talk about whether they’re better off than four years ago. At first I wasn’t sure what started this Reaganesque conversation. Then I learned it was from Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech:
That is why every president since the Great Depression who came before the American people asking for a second term could look back at the last four years and say with satisfaction: “you are better off today than you were four years ago.”
Except Jimmy Carter. And except this president.
[Daniel – He forgot President George HW Bush aka Bush Senior, who was President during a recession and lost his bid for a second term.]
This president can ask us to be patient.
This president can tell us it was someone else’s fault.
This president can tell us that the next four years he’ll get it right.
But this president cannot tell us that YOU are better off today than when he took office.
I could spend a whole blog post questions the odd conditions that Romney placed on “Are you better off than four years ago?” Why should we start with the Great Depression? Why would only second termers ask this question? If your wealth rose but your sons were killed in Vietnam, were you really better off? Is an endless upward economic path a realistic expectation for any country? And so on. But instead I choose to answer the Governor’s question.
For my wife and I, we are better off. We’re both gainfully employed, able to fund our various hobbies and have full health coverage. For the first time in two decades, our wages slightly outpaced inflation. We have more savings now than we did four years ago.
In the country as a whole, children can no longer be denied health insurance for preexisting conditions. They can stay on their parents insurance until age 26, allowing them more savings for an independent life.
But these are only the only the material gains and I strongly believe that cannot be the only measure. I feel the country is better off because:
- We finally got out of the endless stalemate that was Iraq.
- We finally have a plan in place to leave Afghanistan, the other quagmire. It’s taking us longer than the Soviets, but that’s the price of a democracy.
- Gays and Lesbians can serve openly in our armed forces, increasing the pool of talent and ending the waste of resources in ending don’t ask don’t tell.
- We stopped torture as an official policy.
- We have placed some modest regulations on the banks who brought us the 2008 meltdown. I don’t think there enough, but there is more protection than there was in 2008.
Romney’s reference to the 1980 campaign as relevant to today is part of why I’d never vote for him. The former governor is stuck looking backwards. His economic plans are identical to what George W. Bush offered us. Plans that raised the debt and contributed to the 2008 crash. His foreign policy of obsessing on Russia is pure 1980s, except where he has Bush’s failed yet unrepentant foreign policy team. I haven’t seen anything in his campaign that appears to address today’s problems. Even if I thought I was worse off than I was four years ago, I wouldn’t opt for the same failed policies drove us to the brink of economic and moral bankruptcy.
Let’s go forward. Vote to re-elect President Obama. We can fix his shortcomings after the election.