Are you better off today than you were four years ago?
This is a Presidential election year. We, the people, are evaluating the candidates as the primaries and caucuses continue. It seems evident that the majority of the votes cast to determine the leader of the free world for the next four years will be divided between President Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney. Although many in the country agree that neither of these two men represent ideal nominees, they likely will represent the "best" offerings of the Democrats and the Republicans.
Now, most of us see ourselves as typical Americans, those most at risk of suffering the bad decisions carried out by the Executive Branch. So, naturally, the common people, the average Joes, the middle class, the so-called "backbone of the nation" debate which man, if elected, will initiate change and pursue the best policies to make life in the United States more palatable. We expect our President to act in our best interests and actively support our standards of good government and good living.
Our vote seems to hinge on examining the past and the future. President Obama has served for four years; therefore, we judge his performance in terms of his past promises and his past accomplishments during his tenure. On the other hand, we speculate about the "kind of President" Mitt Romney may be. Romney represents the GOP's "future" hope for improved leadership. Or, considering another outcome of electing a President Romney, the man could orchestrate policies that become worse than the worst under an Obama-led America.
In any case, negatives always outweigh positives. We typical Americans want to know how much more suffering we must endure at the hands of our President. In large, we don't consider any good achievements of a President, unless these achievements directly affect us, our families, and our pocketbooks. So, the age-old election question that echoes through the land when an incumbent seeks a second term as President is the following:
"Are you better off today than you were four years ago?
Is This a Loaded Question?
First of all, I'm not sure I know what the question means in terms of my personal experience. For one thing, I am four years older than I was in 2008. I must confess, when you reach 61, aging, in itself, isn't good news. And, included in this obvious toll of four more years of aging, I have to admit my memory has diminished with time.
So, friends, I really can't remember just exactly how "good off" I was in 2008. Hell, I often can't remember everything I had intended to buy when I walk through the doors of the local supermarket. I must confess my aging and my memory will probably not be affected by Obama or by Romney.
I am quite sure many people ask the question and want me to answer "no" and support this answer by saying I am paying more for gas now than I did four years ago. And, I can't deny that -- GasBuddy data tells me the average price per gallon in the U.S. in 2008 was $3.24 compared to projections of $4.25 or even $5.00 a gallon in 2012.
No matter who or what is to blame -- inflation, oil companies, foreign oil cartels, local distributors, the President -- I have solved the oil crisis. I drive much less in 2012 than I drove in 2008. Plain and simple math here: I have made a major personal budget cut in the category of "Travel Expenses." Even large, old V-eights like the motor in my '93 Cadillac get excellent mileage while sitting still.
And, now many of you are going to say, "But, my work or business requires I spend money on fueling my vehicle(s). I have no choice but to pay the outrageous prices." Would it surprise you to know that people in Italy are currently paying $8.67 a gallon, and the English are paying nearly $10.00 a gallon? Nothing in the free world is free whether you eat hot dogs, spaghetti, or fish and chips.
Face it, folks, we Americans are overly dependent on our immediate means of transportation, and we demand traveling wherever and whenever we desire. Again, my age plays a large part in my "better off" status concerning gasoline prices. With the onset of retirement and living on a fixed income, fantastic extravagances of wanderlust such as long road trips and cross country vacations have become simple TV realities of watching programs about excursions and expeditions on the Travel Channel and the National Geographic Network.
Another consideration for answering the question would naturally involve the amount of money I have readily available. So as not to rehash the effect of being on a fixed income, I will not get into a long diatribe about the necessity of making adjustments. And, I can verify that my money is scarce; however, I am quite sure I was not more financially secure in 2008. Large amounts of cash on hand is not what makes me feel "better off" anyway. If it did, I would definitely not be sitting here writing a blog for my entertainment.
Yes, if I now lacked the necessities of food, shelter and security, I would certainly answer differently. Yet, I believe most who complain about their lack of money believe they require more material possessions and adult "toys" for the fulfillment of their American Dream.
My mother lived through the Great Depression. In order to survive, her generation developed unbelievable skills and incredible ingenuity in those desperate times. She tells me about "poor days" and "family dependence" and "scrambling for necessities." She is a member of the so-called Greatest Generation, and they didn't become steeled individuals by allowing misfortune to rule their lives.
In 2012, we are undoubtedly living in "hard times" concerning jobs and the economy, but I feel that many people are unwilling to initiate the effort and to develop the intestinal fortitude to move forward. In most cases, the required personal efforts of needy individuals must take precedence over the legislated role of the government in terms of helping them weather poor conditions and assuring their goals -- be they educational, financial, or job related goals.
The self-motivated, determined souls will surely find they are "better off" if they have been actively working toward their dreams during the last four years. Some of these incredible diehards may not even care who was President from 2009-2012 because they have been just too damned busy helping themselves to let politics play a part. The indomitable human spirits of those who rise to confront difficult circumstances ultimately defeat these bad times.
Am I "better off" now? I guess my qualitative scales are not working too well. To me, politicians and government are secondary to my "good, better, best" conditions. With all of the partisan political haggling and arguing, I am skeptical of the government's ability to make me "better off." It is easy to understand why most of us see elections and candidates in negative terms. Many, instead of serving the public, hold office to wear the badge of office that allows them the personal perks to financial and societal "success."
Many prejudiced voters trust and distrust others strictly along party lines, and most politicians make deals to benefit the lobbyists and constituents that are most vital to their big money campaigns. I am very discouraged with the inability of our elected officials to compromise by working through problems and finding solutions for the good of the common people.
No politician or party should be "an island to oneself." No politician or party should make their most important accomplishment merely being elected or being re-elected.
Since no one asking me the question "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" really has the correct answer for ME, I think any consideration of an answer would be pretty much wasted time. I understand by the tone inherent in the question that the inquisitor is attempting to make me open my mouth, then force HIS or HER opinion down my old esophagus. And, truly, the things I use to judge my state of satisfaction are not going to be addressed by Obama, by Romney, or by any of the cronies of these high-ranking officials.
I guess if I must attempt to answer the question, I would begin by verbalizing my beliefs in love, forgiveness, cooperation, tolerance, mutual respect, diversity, and rock music -- things only people in intimate contact with others can truly understand. I value these things: being with friends who realize and care about our differences; enjoying good times with my healthy family; awaking each new day and being able to move, talk and feel; drinking a cold beverage or two while relaxing to good music; and preserving all vestiges of love I can still possess and express.
Better off? Four years? Obama or Romney? Give me a break. Get off of my ass with your silly personal concerns and party lines. I was fortunate enough to be born in the greatest county on earth, a place that allows me to express disdain and praise for everything. Right now Washington, D.C. is so far away from my heart that the cost of a politician's trip to my aorta would far exceed the limits of his taxpayer-funded expense allowances. And, uh.. oh my, did you hear that gas was going up to $5.00 a gallon this summer? What am I going to do?