WASHINGTON, September 23, 2014 — In the fall of 1980, Ronald Reagan was running for president against incumbent Jimmy Carter. He asked Americans to ask themselves one simple question: “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”
Americans overwhelmingly felt worse off, and Reagan won the election.
Now President Obama is asking us to answer the same question. Although he believes otherwise, he will not like the answer. Most Americans believe they are worse off today than we were four years ago, or even six years ago, when the president took office. This is true in almost every important area.
Healthcare remains a critical issue. In 2008, about 50 million Americans were un-insured. Today that number is about 43 million. So perhaps a small minority of two or three percent of Americans, at the lowest income level, feel somewhat better off. But the remaining 300 million of us have seen our premiums increase by more than $3,000 per year, after Obama said they would fall by about $2,500 per family, while our tax dollars are being used to pay the subsidies that the president brags about. In addition, many of us are not able to keep our doctor or the insurance plans we freely chose.
When the President entered office, the economy was in the midst of a severe recession. At that time, the expansive monetary policy was likely enough to pull us out while keeping the public debt at a manageable level. But Obama increased government spending by passing a near-trillion-dollar stimulus package that most economists agree did little to help the economy. Then he continued to deficit spend, adding about $6 trillion to the public debt, more than a 50 percent increase from the level when he entered office. And he continues to run annual deficits which are at least 40 percent larger than any other president.
Median annual household income has fallen by an inflation adjusted $2,100 in the past six years and wages have been stagnant, although, to be fair, wages were stagnating before he took office. Although about 5 million jobs have been added since 2008, most of those jobs are low paying, part-time or have gone to foreign born immigrants, many here illegally.
This recovery from the worst recession since 1981, has been painfully slow. Instead of the recovery seeing annual growth rates in the 4 or 5 percent range which is more typical after a severe recession, his policies have resulted in a growth rate of about 2 percent, which barely exceeds population growth.
The energy industry has been able to expand primarily because of new technologies that allow more efficient extraction. This could have led to an energy boom and really stimulated the economy. But the President will not allow the Keystone pipeline to be built, he prohibits drilling on federally owned land and he almost destroyed the coal industry through over regulation. In addition, he uses taxpayer dollars to fund alternative energy sources that are simply not economically ready to come to the market.
It is no wonder than recent polls show more than 40 percent of Americans strongly disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy and about two thirds of Americans think the economy is still headed in the wrong direction.
Perhaps where most Americans feel much worse off is on the issue of security. Many Americans simply do not feel as safe as they have in the past. Today many Americans are fearful of terrorists that the President assured us were not a problem. Al-Qaida is on the run and terrorism is not a threat, he often told us. Yet today we are at war with terrorists who have threatened to strike on American soil.
We fear the IRS. We fear big government is trying to control our lives. We fear that the government has intruded on our privacy. We fear government officials who either will not tell the truth or who refuse to answer questions.
I am not better off than I was when you took office Mr. President. And hundreds of millions of other Americans share that view.