Better Off?

I find it puzzling that so many conservatives are in such a lather about Obama’s reelection. One of the questions that arose throughout the election cycle was whether or not people were better off now than four years ago. It’s entirely possible that I’m either dazzlingly lucky or blindingly competent, but these last have been the best four years of my life economically. I did the following:

  • Made my highest salary ever
  • Lost that job but had the good fortune to turn down several other opportunities and pick one I love
  • Invested more than ever in the stock market, my 401k, and my kids’ education
  • Got money back from my insurance company thanks to the Affordable Care Act
  • Had my highest tax refund ever (while fearing that I had screwed things up and would take a bath)
  • Spent loads of money making improvements to my home

In short, it’s been a great few years for me. I’m not necessarily interested in giving credit for that to Obama (other than the Affordable Care Act, maybe). But my point is that even if he hasn’t been directly responsible for what’s been a period of prosperity for me, his policies haven’t wrecked my life or finances either, and it’s hard for me to imagine that he’s going to wreck them going forward.

I’m nowhere near wealthy, but I’m fortunate enough to be nowhere near the poverty line either, and maybe I’m just in a rare sweet spot that has made me, in fact, better off now than I was four years ago.

It’s easy to run around muppet-arming when somebody the pundits tell you to be afraid of gets into office. Lord knows I thought hard about striking out for Canada when Bush got into office (and then did it again), and things never got quite so bad as requiring that. But it was sure easy to think that they might. So in a way, I can understand the impulse conservatives have right now to think that things are going to be awful (in spite of things like the Affordable Care Act and falling unemployment that seem like they’d make life better for us plebes).

I do wonder, in real life, pragmatic terms — as in how people’s particular finances and prospects are likely to be affected and not some abstraction about how millionaires will have smaller piles of gold and gems to sit on while eating haunches of meat — how much impact Obama’s continued term in office will have on folks in my tax bracket and lower. I’m not baiting or trying to speculate (while distancing myself from the speculation by pretending I’m just idly wondering). I’m really sincerely curious what particular policies Joe and Peggy down the street think will drive them to ruin, and exactly how.

Maybe I’m doing just enough better than many people that policies that’ll affect them negatively won’t affect me. But if, in my still pretty modest tax bracket, I can be so out of touch that I can’t really quite imagine what all the fuss is about, then how vastly more out of touch must Romney be? And Obama, for that matter? And anybody who’s managed to make it to the national stage in politics?

2 thoughts on “Better Off?

  1. Norman Cooper says:

    I’ve always felt that financial boom and recession/depression is, for the most part, a personal financial matter. Even during the Great Depression, there were people who didn’t suffer the hardships that many Americans experienced. I have been in the workforce for almost twenty years. During this time, I’ve had many booms and busts, windfalls and setbacks, and most of the time it was either a result of my own doing and undoing. During the last four years, had a few short stories published, started a blog, bought two vehicles, became separated from my wife, had one of those vehicles repoed, reunited with my wife, changed jobs, and (like you) began making more money than ever before. Despite all the setbacks, the last four years have been my best so far. I can’t see where the policies of the Obama Administration has helped me…or hurt me along the way. It’s possible that Romney’s Administration would have been more of the same.

  2. I am certainly not better off financially than when Obama took office. But I don’t believe an economy is driven by one President or one branch of Congress. I believe part of the economy is based in civil policies and another is based in luck. I know for a fact my increasing financial woes are due to the cheating by banks in the mortgage crisis. I know that for sure. And I know some are due to personal choices. I know that for sure.

    I also know that the muppet-arming (love that Grover image) is freaking out the whole country and it’s not based in educating people about public policy. I wish civic lessons were mandatory through retirement. I wish cable news were required to be honest and accountable. I wish people knew better what the real consequences (or lack of consequences) of legislation are.

    I wish we had a better educated electorate and nation. Because they still might vote the same way, but at least they’d stop being terrified that one person could ruin a country.

    It simply doesn’t work that way.

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