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News/Politics, The Liberal Complaint

Are We Better Off?

A conservative friend of mine posted an honest question about the election.  He wanted to know the good and bad about each candidate from people on both sides.  He asked us to use facts to try to convince him to vote.  Of course, it turned into a small debate about some of the issues, at one point a Republican gave him the new conservative litmus test for the election:  are you better off today than you were four years ago.  His personal answer was that he was definitely better off.  Even though he was able to answer yes, I believe the question should be posed on a national level instead of a personal level.  So here are some of the primary statistics that I believe answer that question for our nation.


Jobs – there is a lot of discussion about the job situation and unemployment.  There are a few facts that we can’t ignore.  First, the President can’t put policies in place that will make a change and expect them to show up in the statistics immediately.  This is why we call unemployment a lagging indicator.  The unemployment rate tops out more slowly than the economy actually improves.  Using this information we need to look at the job growth from about six months to a year after Obama took office.  This allows for his polices to be put in place, and begin to have an effect.  If we look at the numbers starting in 2010, one year after he took office, we will see that there has been a net production of 3.981 million jobs.  If you think I’m being too lenient on Obama, I’ll do the same calculation from July of 2009, less than six months after he took office.  We still show a net gain of 2.797 million jobs.  Either way, millions of jobs have been added to our economy under President Obama’s policies.

Economic indicators – There are a lot of these other than job growth and unemployment.  I’m going to look at a couple of the indicators that we hear about frequently.  The first is the consumer confidence index.  There can be very big swings in the index from month to month, so it is easier to look at the averages than the individual months.  The average from the time Obama took office through the end of 2009 was 45.9.  The average has improved each year under his leadership.  The averages in 2010 and 2011 were 54.5 and 58.1 respectively.  This year, the average is currently 66.3, showing even more improvement.

The other economic indicator is the housing market.  Again, there is a lot to look at in this market.  One of the most obvious measurements is the number of new and existing home sales.  According to a recent release by the National Association of Realtors, existing home sales are up 10 percent over last year.  New home sales are up an incredible 25 percent year over year.  Over the same period, the prices of homes have also increased by 9.4 percent.  If this isn’t enough proof to show the growing health of the housing market, the average time a home spends on the market has dropped almost 30 percent in the last year.  Economists are describing the housing rebound as “sustainable,” and even expecting it to continue to grow.

Gas and oil – I have to admit, it drives me crazy when people blame the gas prices on the President.  Very little of the price has anything to do with the federal government.  For each gallon of gas that we buy, only 18.4 cents goes to the federal government.  This amount has been the same since October of 1997.  By far, the largest portion of what we pay at the pump is due to crude oil prices.  These prices are determined by production, and the value of crude oil on the stock market.  Of course, the President has nothing to do with the prices on Wall Street.  Therefore, the only area that the President could have any effect would be in production.  One of the largest complaints people have had for years is that our country is too dependent on foreign oil.  In Bush’s last year of Presidency, the United States produced approximately 1.83 billion barrels of crude oil.  In 2011, we produced 2.065 billion barrels of crude oil.  This year, we are on pace to produce almost 2.27 billion barrels of crude oil.  The other side of the oil discussion is oil imports.  In 2008, we imported approximately 3.58 billion barrels of crude oil.  In 2011, we reduced that number by over 319 million barrels to 3.26 billion.  This year, we are on pace to only import approximately 3.18 billion barrels of oil, a reduction of over 395 million barrels of oil – or more than one million barrels per day.  So we are importing 395 million fewer barrels of crude oil, but producing 440 million more barrels of domestic crude oil.  Not only has supply gone up, but it has gone up in domestic production, reducing the costs associated with transporting the oil.

So what conclusions can we draw from these statistics?  Since President Obama’s policies have taken effect, the job market has improved.  Many of the primary economic indicators have also improved.  One of the primary concerns of the people, dependence on foreign oil, has been improved.  For a President who takes a lot of fire about the economy and jobs, I can see an awful lot of improvement.

Not even Republicans will dispute that the President was handed one of the worst economic meltdowns in the history of the United States.  It takes time to repair a system that has crumbled.  Why would we give up on a man who stopped a horrible recession in its tracks, before it became a depression?  Particularly when so many of the economic indicators are pointing towards recovery and growth.

Republicans told us to ask ourselves this question:  are you better off than you were four years ago?  I think this question should be answered as a nation.  Based on the statistics, I would have to say, yes.  I can tell you that the people who again have confidence in our economy agree.  So do the increasing number of people who have been able to buy and sell a home at a reasonable price in the last four years, of whom I am one.   Moreover, I’m certain the 4 million people who have jobs now would stand up and say in a resounding voice, YES!


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