During his acceptance speech at the Republican Convention, Mitt Romney repeatedly asked the crowd if they were better off today than they were 4 years ago. If this had been an audience of honest brokers, they would have answered in unison, "...yes we are!" 4 years ago, 2008, by almost any measure we are better off today. Now, Romney was referring to President Obama in his remarks and trying to tar him with the same brush Ronald Reagan used on Jimmy Carter. However, Obama didn't become president until January 20, 2009, so 4 years ago, in August of 2008, President Bush was in charge and the fiscal meltdown was his baby. Romney couldn't even get the dates right let alone the facts.
Four years ago the unemployment rate was over 11% in many parts of the nation. The economy was shedding jobs at a desperate rate. The banking system was in shambles. President Bush had forced the TARP (Troubled Asset Recovery Program) legislation through Congress. Over $700 billion of taxpayer's money thrown at Wall Street with no oversight or mandates as to how the banks had to use the money. (they sat on most of it...refused to lend...and made profits at average American's expense) Wall Street was cratering and the global economy was reeling from the American contagion.
Today, the surviving banks are bigger and more profitable than ever. They are making money hand over fist. The American financial system is the envy of the world and in better shape than any European Union member including Germany, and in better shape than China. Today, banks have been forced to have more capital on reserve and Congress passed the Dodd/Frank Financial Services Reform. It is not the best, but among other things it could impose the Volker rule prohibiting banks from gambling with your federally insured deposits in the hope of staving off another disaster. Today, the dollar is the strongest currency in the world and inflation is barely noticeable. (regressive pundits predicted when Obama's economic stimulus package was passed the dollar would crash and inflation would blow out of control) The United States is able to borrow money, sell Treasury notes, at a negative interest rate. People, and nations, are willing to pay us to shelter their assets because we are the safest haven in the world. Today, bank lending is at its highest level in years. Today, the stock market is over 13,000 and holding. Today, we have had 17 straight quarters of job growth and the unemployment rate is 8.3%. Yes, we are better off.
Four years ago, pundits were predicting the end of the American auto industry. The Big 3 were going to go out of business and shutter all their factories. The ripple effect would destroy all the companies who made up the auto supply chain and numerous other industries would be crippled as well. The economies of a number of mid-west states would be decimated.
Today, the auto companies are a true success story. Bailed out by Obama, (both Romney and Ryan say they would have let them go bust) They are making money, re-hiring workers and re-opening plants, re-building the economies of states like Michigan and the unemployment rate in those states is less than the national average. Ironically, it is poor European sales which are hurting Detroit's bottom line. We are in much better shape than any number of members of the European Union. Yes, we are better off.
Four years ago, young Americans were dying in two immoral and failed wars. Under Bush, Afghanistan became an after thought. The Taliban and Al Qaida had grown strong and rebuilt. The Afghan government barely held on to control of Kabul. Resources had been drained from Afghanistan and diverted to Iraq. Iraq was a basket case held together by 140,000 American troops and an equal number of contractors and mercenaries. The Kurds in the north wanted independence and the Sunnis couldn't stand the Shiite and vice versa. The war in Iraq created a power vacuum that was quickly filled by Iran. The U.S. was seen by most of the peoples of the world as a pariah state. We were spending billions a month, borrowing every dollar and adding to the national debt, with nothing to show for it except more dead or wounded young soldiers.
Today, American is out of Iraq. (this nation we "saved" is now letting Iran use its banks to get around economic sanctions imposed by the U.S.) Americans are no longer dying for nothing. In Afghanistan, the Taliban have been driven into Pakistan and hold no ground. American troops will be out by 2014 unless Romney and Ryan decide to keep them there for God-knows how long. Afghanistan is not a success story, but Americans will no longer be dying there and it is better off than it was 4 years ago.
Today, gay Americans who want to serve their country, and possibly sacrifice their lives in its cause, can do so openly and without fear of being thrown out. 4 years ago, gays in the military were being hunted and expelled because of bigotry and prejudice. Today, women can aspire to serve their country in combat...something they were kept from 4 years ago. (Romney and Ryan would reverse both of these progressive gains). Yes we are better off.
It shouldn't be lost on anyone how Obama has disengaged the American military from disastrous and immoral overseas adventurism. Romney promises to go to war in Syria and Iran and is employing and listening to the very same neo-cons who were the architects of the disastrous foreign policies which resulted in the debacles in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Four years ago, the housing market, which is a major component of a strong economy, was disintegrating. Millions of homes were lost to foreclosure. Prices dropped to lows not seen in 40 years. The ripple effect was to devastate everything from the furniture industry to appliances and cities saw their property taxes melting away along with their ability to deliver services.
Today, Toll Brothers Home builders have reported profits, which have increased by over 100%. Home prices are rising in the top 20 markets. Home Depot and Lowes report strong sales. Banks have been forced to change their foreclosure policies. They will pay over $25 billion in penalties for all the illegal tactics they used to steal people's houses. There are now worries there isn't enough supply to meet demand. Yes, we are better off.
Four years ago if you or your child had a pre-existing health condition, it was almost impossible to get health insurance. Four years ago, health insurance companies could charge women higher premiums than men. Four years ago those same insurance companies could cap how much they would pay for an illness, meaning one catastrophic illness could financially ruin a family. Four years ago your child was dropped from your insurance when they reached the age of 23, and four years ago, there was no requirement as to how much of your premiums had to be spent on actual health care.
Today, the Affordable Care Act ends these and many other shortcomings and abuses in the health care industry. This legislation also reduces the deficit over ten years and slows the rising cost of health care, which is considered a direct threat to our economic health in the future. (Romney and Ryan promise to repeal the ACA and reverse all of these gains) Yes, we are better off.
Four years ago, Bush and the Republicans will still talking tough about what they were going to do when they found Osama Bin Laden. They had no idea where he was and Al Qaida was increasing in strength in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and other nations in the Mideast.
Today, Bin Laden is dead...most of Al Qaida's leadership is dead...the number two of the Haquani network is dead...the head of Al Qaida in Yemen is dead...El Shababb in Somalia is on the run...Yes, we are better off.
Are things in this country all sunshine and roses today? No! Unemployment is too high. Youth unemployment is a scandal as is the unemployment rate for minorities. Dodd/Frank isn't strong enough. Underwater homeowners need more help. Someone on Wall Street needs to go to jail. Iran is still a flash point. (Romney and Ryan say they want to go to war with Iran if necessary. It would be a disaster of a policy and make Iraq look like a walk in the park) No one has a solution as to what to do about the civil war in Syria. (except John McCain and Romney and Ryan who want to use the American military and arm the rebels without knowing who they are or even if this would end up arming Al Qaida like when we armed the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan) The European Unions could still drag us under and China is flexing its muscles in the South China Sea. College is too expensive...gas as well. However, today America is on the path to energy independence which certainly wasn't the case four years ago.
There is no measure, no metric from August of 2008 where we are not better off today than we were four years ago. It tells you how awful it was then that even some improvement moves us to a better place than where we were at then. Actually there is one area where we are not better off....4 years ago the gap between the uber-rich and middle class Americans was not as wide as it is today. 4 years ago the 1% were not as rich as they are today. How do you think those numbers will look 4 years from now if Romney is elected president?
P.S. I invite you to add to this list of ways in which we are better off today than four years ago. I'm sure I missed quite a bit, but someone had to speak truth to fiction.