It's a question that Romney supporters are fond of throwing around smugly, one of those supposedly undeniable truth statements that are supposed to stop you in your tracks because there is no way to answer it without admitting that the person asking is correct in their assumptions. In this case, the assumption is that Obama hasn't made anything better in America. It's a weird about-face, as it is usually the incumbent asking the question as way of underlining how good they've been at their job.
Since we are only days away from the 2012 Presidential Elections, I'm feeling rather motivated to actually answer this question. The last four years haven't been especially easy for anybody not in the top 10% (you know, the people who own the country, it seems), but I think it's fair to answer the question on an individual bases, considering that the question is meant to motivate my individual vote.
Anyway, comparing November 2008 with November 2012, am I better off now than I was four years ago?
Four years ago, I was:
*Laid off after fifteen years with the same company, because the sudden economic downturn crippled the entire industry in a matter of months.
*Subsequently laid up with the Swine Flu for a month (Happy Holidays!) with no medical insurance.
*Suddenly stuck with not being able to afford classes after having started attending college night classes again the previous year.
*Living in a house suddenly worth $30,000 less than it was two years ago.
Today, I am:
*Working for a new small business owner that isn't squeamish about hiring new employees during an Obama presidency, despite all Right Wing claims to the contrary.
*Still in possession of my house, thanks in part to extended federal unemployment benefits that helped me to stay afloat for the year and a half I was unemployed, and helped me stay financially intact enough so that I was prepared to survive the year and a half I was forced to work for an exploitative business owner who denied his employees federally-protected overtime pay and made Labor Day a non-payed holiday.
*One class away from obtaining my degree, thanks to Obama's improvements to the Pell Grant system, including allowing Unemployment benefits to be disregarded when calculating Pell Grant eligibility.
*Living in a state that was ravaged by a hurricane (ironically sharing the name of the employer that laid me off four years ago), and seeing my state survive and recover from the disaster with the help of immediately received support from FEMA, the organization that Romney has gleefully contemplated defunding in past interviews.
Is everything 100% better or back to normal four years later? Of course not. I'm still without medical insurance, and the medical insurance I will be eligible for soon will undoubtedly cost me more than it did when I last had it. Also, I love my new job, but I'm still not close to restoring my financial situation to what it once was, and real estate values still haven't recovered enough for my mortgage lose its underwater status.
But am I better off than I was four years ago, unemployed at the beginning of the worst recession since the Great Depression, licked to the curb by my career occupation at a time in which College Graduates and Six-Figure-Salary professionals were already begging for entry-level positions, sick with an as-of-yet undiagnosed pig disease as I watched Obama being sworn into office?
You bet your ass I am.