The man with the cool demeanor and the great hair thinks I should vote for him in the upcoming presidential election. The crux of his argument seems to be that his opponent, the current president, can't tell me that I'm better off now than I was four years ago and the reason for that is the current
president's economic policies. The man with the great hair is really trying, but I'm afraid his pitch is lost on me for one simple reason. I am better off than I was at this point in 2008.
I don't just mean that as far as intangibles like emotional well-being. I'm talking in empirical terms. Not only is my salary higher today than it was in September 2008, I've also benefitted in the short term from a tax cut thanks to the much-reviled Recovery Act (aka "the failed stimulus"). On top of that, my retirement account is worth more now than it was in September 2008.
A key factor in the latter point is that the majority of my 401(k) is devoted to so-called S&P 500 Index Funds. On September 12, 2008 the S&P 500 closed at 1251.70 down around 20% from the all-time high set in 2007. Yesterday it closed at 1465.77, which is not only within striking distance of the historical high but also 75% higher than when the current President took office in 2009.
Taking a step back, I certainly understand that no single statistic can possibly encapsulate an economy as diverse and despite its challenges vibrant as America's. That said, the performance of the S&P 500 reflects the state of a significant slice of American business. Therefore, it begs the question of why is it that, if the current President's policies are so bad for business, so many businesses are doing better now (by at least one widely accepted metric) than they were when he took office?
As I hope folks realized well before this point, I'm poking a bit of fun here. What I hope is equally obvious is that I'm doing so with serious intent. Unless you're an arms dealer, the current round of sound-bite skirmishes are doing little or nothing to benefit anyone. Unless you're talking to people on the extreme ends of the economic spectrum, asking someone whether they're better off today than they were just before the previous election borders on insulting, because it pre-supposes that there's actually been enough substantive discussion from either side of the aisle to enable the electorate at large to give an informed answer.
I'm not oblivious to the large number of people all over the country who are struggling to find work and make ends meet. On the flip side, I know a lot of people with friends and family in Michigan whose lives are less anxious than they would be otherwise because "The Big Three" are still alive and kicking. Both say something about where the economy is, but which one tells the real story? Moreover, considering that the President generally gets a disproportionate degree of credit and blame for the state of the economy relative to their actual ability to impact it, what does any anecdote really say about who should take the oath of office four months and four days from today.
Certainly, I don't claim that my situation is necessarily representative of where the country is economically. At the same time, in a climate where sound-bites are trumping analysis - let alone honesty - on all sides of the debate, what makes my story and by extension my intention to reelect the current President any less valid?