Over the next two months, you will hear this line uttered or read it thousands of times. Seriously. Thousands. Unless you put your foot through your TV, shred your newspapers, don't answer your phone, and don't surf the Internet until after November. Which I've considered. For about a second. Too much of a political junkie to do such a thing, but eh, it was a nice thought.
While I think the Republicans do have a winning slogan here, given the horrible state of the economy and the fact that most people are NOT better off than they were four years ago, I want to argue the basis of the statement.
This statement assumes that government should be providing for your well-being and if President Obama isn't doing that, he should be replaced. It assumes that you believe that without the government, you wouldn't be able to be better off, whether it's President Obama or President Romney assuming power in January. Honestly, whether you are better off now than you were four years ago is truly based upon you. The decisions you have made up to this point in your life and what choices you have made affect where you are in life today. Did you decide to major in 'Old European Literature' rather than something marketable and instead have the study of literature as a hobby? Did you finish college? Did you join the military? Did you decide NOT to join the military in hopes that the government would support you through college? So very few things that involve whether we are "better off" are independent of the choices we make that I would argue that the government deserves neither the credit or the blame.
You may be thinking now "But, the government can influence the success or failure of specific businesses or industries based upon their subsidies or support" to which I would respond that this is true to an extent. However, given the international nature of most business, even the US government with it's full support cannot guarantee the success of an industry or a company. Look at General Motors. Even with a bailout of billions of dollars (much of which has not been paid back, despite media reports to the contrary), GM is barely squeaking by and has seen their earnings drop the last quarter. Banks? Too big to fail? Not hardly. Bank of America has cut their earnings for 2012 and 2013, with a stock price that is embarrasingly low at around $8/share.
Yes, the government has influence on the economy, which in turn influences your well-being by creating better paying jobs and better opportunity. However, that influence is based upon the ability to predict or measure what the government will do, what sort of regulations will come about, what sorts of tax changes will be made, and how it will affect the bottom line of companies. Given that both Republicans and Democrats seem to be much more interested in feathering their own nests with the tax dollars of the working people and companies, I'm not sure that either of our current two major candidates would help to turn that around. Republicans have spent too much of the taxpayer dollars on garbage programs like 'No Child Left Behind', 'Medicaid Part D', and 'The Patriot Act' to even pretend to be small government advocates. And President Obama and his minions would love to raise taxes in order to pay for yet more government programs, thus ensuring that another generation of Democrats are born.
So, next time you hear "are you better off now than you were four years ago?", think about the choices you have made in your life and honestly consider the question...and who is responsible for that well-being.
If you do that with true honesty, you will be better off now than you were four years ago.