Are you better off today than you were four years ago? asked Ronald Reagan, 1980 in his debate with Jimmy Carter. And it’s been asked over and over and over and over since then.
It’s now the question of this week among the pundit class and is being asked of official Democrats with some frequency. And every answer I’ve witnessed has been a complete fumble. There is an answer. It’s yes, we are better off.
The month after Obama took office, the unemployment rate was 8.3 percent; it’s 8.3 percent now. Sticking him with the January number when he was president for only ten days [see below] of it seems silly to me (as, by the way, does the unemployment in his first year). But the difference is that in February 2009, we were losing 800,000 jobs a month; in July 2012, we’re adding around 150,000 jobs a month over the past year, despite a huge drop in government employment. The stock market has made big gains – from around 6500 in the spring of 2009 to almost 13000 today, inflation is under control, and interest rates are at deep lows. We’re out of the quagmire of Iraq and al Qaeda has been decimated. 30 million more people have potential access to health insurance. Yes, median household income is very meaningful – but it’s not the only metric. Of course, we’re better off.
That’s a response to an article in The New Republic, which claims otherwise, using an historical construct worthy of Paul Ryan’s speechwriter. The author, Timothy Noah writes:
There can be little doubt that Americans are worse off, economically, than they were in 2008. Median household income has fallen since 2008, and (according to one study) it’s fallen even more steeply during the recovery than it did during the 2007-2009 recession. . . . At the moment the misery index is 9.7 (8.3 percent unemployment plus 1.4 percent inflation), compared to 7.8 (7.8 percent unemployment plus 0 percent inflation) the month Obama took office. So by that venerable metric we’re worse off than we were four years ago. We just are.
Well, sure, just like the Janesville auto plant ‘closed’ after Obama took office. Same thing.