Do You Feel Better Off?

Ugh.  I have learned over the years that posts that verge onto politics give me the most negative mail.  My politics are more complex than most, and I can tell you I am not voting for Romney or Obama.  So please, do not take what I say as advocacy for either party.

As this article from Bloomberg points out, it’s not easy to answer whether you are better off.  Like the article, I also think of Ronald Reagan in 1980 posing the same question.  Now a Vulcan would have said, “Of course I am better off.  1977 & 1978 were great years, more than offsetting the problems of 1979 & 1980.”  A human says, “I’m uncertain about the future, things don’t seem good now, so no, I am not better off.”

Note the difference: forward-looking vs backward-looking.  It is not a question of how income has changed, but how prospects for income have changed.

Thus the question should be: “Do you feel better off?”  But the politicians don’t say that because it is too touchy-feely.

Both fiscal policy and monetary policy are unsustainable.  That does not engender a sense of confidence about the future, and as such many of those that think about this end up saying they are not better off, even if their income is higher over the last four years.

There is another way to view it, which I know is unpopular, but I think people implicitly deduct the growth in government debt from GDP growth, because they realize that much of what the government spends money on does not grow the economy.

This is another way of being forward-looking.  When people are asked if they are better off, they do not look at past improvement, but whether the future looks better than it did four years ago.  Now that you know what Obama is like, do you really have any confidence that the future will be better if he is re-elected?

Don’t get me wrong, I think the Republicans are full of hot air.  I don’t think they would deal with entitlements the way they should be reduced.  Further, I don’t even see them making any dent in current budget imbalances.

But if you feel less certain about your prospects now than four years ago, odds are when someone asks you if you are better off than you were four years ago, your answer will likely be “No.”   We look forward, not backward.


  • Timoth3y says:

    I agree that we tend to be forward looking, but if we take the time to look back, I think we were far more fearful four years ago. I did a quick headline search

    “Stock Markets Plummet as Lehman Brothers & Merrill Lynch Collapse”

    “Future Remains Uncertain for Washington Mutual and AIG”

    Looking back, I think we all remember being far more calm and rational than we actually were. Looking forward, I think we all predict we will be far more calm and rational than we will actually be.


  • Windchasers says:

    What Tim said.

    On the other hand, hmm, four years ago.. Well, we hadn’t *yet* had the financial crash. The real effects of the balance sheet recession hadn’t yet begun; unemployment peaked at about the beginning of ’10, and hasn’t recovered since, so.. Yeah, a lot of people are worse off since Obama won the election.

    (Not that I’m blaming him for that, here. Just commenting on the facts and whether people are justified in feeling funky).

  • Conscience of a Conservative says:

    I sympathize, my politics has be liberal on some issues, conservative on other issues and libertarian on many others. One thing that strikes me about the conversation of “are you better off now vs 4 years ago” is the lag effect of policies and how presidents take credit and blame for forces outside their control or doing. I’m also struck that the question of doing better or worse is very greatly affected by what I call the “media effect” and what stories are hitting the airwaves at the moment.

  • Greg says:

    I refer to the suggestion asked several decades ago, the last time we had a crook in the White House.

    “Deep Throat” told the WaPo reporters to follow the money.

    Obama claims his signature legislation is/was ObamaCare.

    ObamaCare was jammed into law via a series of open bribery and accounting fraud.

    If ObamaCare was any good, Congress would have put themselves on it.

    Congress doesn’t want ObamaCare — it is not good enough for them. US Presidents — past, present and future — are not on ObamaCare.

    Our “public servants” in government unions are also not on ObamaCare — it is not good enough for them either.

    The criminals in Washington DC (both parties) don’t want Obama’s signature legislation. Heck, not even Obama wants it.

    Every employee in the Federal government should be told they are on ObamaCare effective immediately, and they must pay the costs themselves out of there own pockets (or deducted from their welfare / pay checks).

    Obama claims we need government to be bigger, but he doesn’t believe in his own programs.

    When an employee is clearly not working out, you have to fire that employee or it will wreck your company.

    We need to fire Obama and try a different idiot — or it will wreck our entire economy.

    Trillions in new “debt” (which he doesn’t have any clue how to repay) and not a damn thing to show for it.