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This morning C-SPAN was asking viewers “are you better off today than you were four years ago?”  Listening to the answers (most said no, with the republicans using the opportunity to spout off every right wing talking point from the national debt to Solyndra), I thought about where we were four years ago.

Four years ago on this date, the economy was wobbly but it didn’t feel like economic Armageddon .  Economically speaking, it felt like an ordinary recession.

Then came September 15.  Armageddon.

When Lehman went under, the stock market sank like a rock and international markets panicked.  The swelling disaster prompted Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson  to beg Congress on bended knee to pass his TARP bill.

September 15th was an economic 9/11.  It changed everything.

It’s been a huge Democratic mistake to miss singling out 9/15 and treating it as a turning point.  Again, 9/15 changed everything.  More below the orange squiggle.

Starting September 15, the economy began an incredibly steep and rapid fall.

To ask “are you better off than you were four years ago” on any date before September 15 is the wrong question.  The conditions four years ago from today are far from the conditions when President Obama took office four months later.

Four years ago today, Wall Street recklessness enabled by republican policies and lack of oversight was relentlessly pushing us toward a cliff but had not quite reached the dropoff.  On September 15 we went over the edge.  

The fall was steep.  

Our plunge downward into a deep abyss took the last four months of the Bush administration and the beginning of the Obama administration.  The descent and landing at the bottom was cushioned by Obama policies.

But Bush administration policies landed us miles below the plateau we fell from.  

Four years ago today, we were still on the plateau being pushed inevitably toward a cliff most did not yet see.  2008 wasn’t great, but it wasn’t yet economic hell.  People think back to 2008 in general and think “yeah, things were better then,” as they now look up the sides of the abyss that we have not yet fully scaled.

Back in the 2004 election, no one asked the question, “are you better off today than you were four years ago.” Of course we weren’t.  “9/11 changed everything.” If anyone dared ask that question, they would have been seen as stupid or unpatriotic.  9/11 changed everything...

Well, 9/15/2008 changed everything, too.  But republicans, abetted by the lazy (or understaffed) media, successfully diverted public attention from the real enemy once again.

The economic abyss was a republican creation.  It was not a natural disaster.  It was the direct outcome of their tax cuts for the rich, their unpaid for wars and their "gut regulations and oversight” policies.

Fortunately President Obama took the helm.  Had we hit the abyss a year earlier in Bush’s term, things would have gotten much worse.  Perhaps the second Great Depression.

We would have hit bottom before President Obama took over rather than during his first year in office, and less blame would accrue to him for where we are now.

Why haven’t we climbed further out from this hole?  Republicans have actively opposed every initiative of this president to get us out.

Even during the first two years when Dems supposedly had control of both house and Senate, republican obstruction reigned strong.  Senate republicans’ record breaking filibusters killed most of the great initiatives passed in the House.

We only had a filibuster proof majority for about a day. Al Franken wasn’t sworn in until July and Ted Kennedy died in August.

Am I better off today than I was four years ago?  I’m about the same.  Am I better off today than I was the day the President was inaugurated?  You bet!

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (16+ / 0-)

    Some people fight fire with fire. Professionals use water.

    by Happy Days on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 09:06:02 AM PDT

  •  except that analysis takes thinking. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Happy Days, DRo, freerad

    if you compare September 2008 you have to remember that was before the election and before Obama.   That is not too real deep but most of us just think well i was earning X in 2008 and now I am earning less so it must be the current president.  personally I am earning less as well but I am better off with the foreign policy, supreme court appointments and the other policies we have with Obama.  To me it is more than dollar and cents.

  •  and (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GOPGO2H3LL, Happy Days

    we can thank Martin O'Malley for all of this.

    The Republican Party is now the sworn enemy of the United States of America.

    Listen to All Over The Place - we play all kinds of music!

    by TheGreatLeapForward on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 09:19:35 AM PDT

  •  I'm definitely better off (5+ / 0-)

    4 years ago I was worried about being laid off for the first time in my career. My company was one of the survivors of the financial/insurance industry crash because they didn't engage in a lot of the crap that brought it all down but they suffered nonetheless. When the stock price plummeted the belt started tightening. Layoffs occurred all over the place with long time, life time employees being let go.

    Today as one of the survivors we eventually bought a piece of one of the failures and I am as busy as I have ever been trying to integrate this new business into our existing business.

    I regularly complain to management how we need more technical staff to handle the almost doubled workload.

    Am I better off than 4 years ago?

    You betcha!

    "Do what you can with what you have where you are." - Teddy Roosevelt

    by Andrew C White on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 09:19:58 AM PDT

  •  One of my Republican friends (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Happy Days, Thinking Fella, freerad

    parroted that comment this weekend..."Are you better off today than four years ago"...and I immediately asked him.."Are you admitting to me that the country was better off when Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats were in charge of the house?"(we have a bitter disagreement on the local congressional election)
    He stammered and said "Hell no" I said "then what are you asking?" "You tell me all the time that the democrats are the problem and then you are telling me that things were better for you when Nancy was in charge 4 years ago"
    "What the hell are you talking about?"...he dropped the subject...

  •  The question itself presents a false premise: (5+ / 0-)

    We had a horrible economic implosion in SEPTEMBER 2008, and once PBO took office in JANUARY 2009, he has been endeavoring against all odds----and a completely obstructionist GOP-----to help us climb out of it.  To actually get the AHCA passed was practically a miracle--and I don't believe in miracles. Not everyone is doing better yet, but the country as a whole can continue in a better direction if we get rid of the GOP-controlled House for starters.

    The simple question of "are you better than four years ago" implies that things occurred AFTER 2008 as a direct result of Obama's policies that made things worse. Because it was the Republicans who took us to the abyss--not President Obama nor the Democrats.  

    It is the most ridiculous, stupid, Reaganesque question EVER. and it is most disappointing that C-Span felt compelled to hop aboard that train of ignorance.

    If the plutocrats begin the program, we will end it. -- Eugene Debs.

    by livjack on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 09:20:14 AM PDT

    •  the premise is even more false (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Happy Days

      the country was imploding before the crash, all the factors were in place, the financial institutions were crumbling,   what people had was a fool's paradise.

      The media was doing its best to hide the problems, the Bush Administration was whistling in the dark and ignoring everything, the few people, such as Stiglitz who were screaming loudly were marginalized.  All epitomzied with Jim Cramer recommending buying Bear Stearns before it disappeared.

      If people were paying attention they knew they were losing ground,  living wage jobs were disappearing, their standard of living was eroding,  we were stuck in two endless wars fueling deficit spending, the rich were getting richer at an ever increasing pace.   People were getting screwed on their credit cards, remember the huge increases in interest rates, cancellations with demands for repayments,  the death of the housing market, resets on loans coming up?   People were already in trouble.  They knew it when McCain's 'the fundamentals of the economy are sound' blew up in his face.

      What people can't do is remember four years ago. And who would want to.

  •  I would have said "No, I'm not better off than I (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Happy Days

    was four years ago.  But for one reason only.  Four years ago we had a Democratic House of Representatives - and they were sane."

    Because stupid people are so sure they're smart, they often act smart, and sometimes even smart people are too stupid to recognize that the stupid people acting smart really ARE stupid.

    by ZedMont on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 09:22:38 AM PDT

  •  Dems have to find a compelling way to answer (0+ / 0-)

    the question because it will inevitably continue to be asked.

    I'm not sure what the pithy response would be, but we must come up with one.

    Some people fight fire with fire. Professionals use water.

    by Happy Days on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 09:25:16 AM PDT

    •  I don't see it (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Happy Days

      how can this be a trip up question for democrats. Ed (The Ed Show) answered it clearly and concisely the other day. Its not to say that every American is doing better than they were 4 years ago, but when you think about the stock market, the housing market, the job market, etc back then things were just horrible. Now people are worried about jobs which they should be, but foreclosures have slowed, the stock market is near its all time high (and definitely at a high since back then), we've ended the war in Iraq, I mean the list goes on and on.

      Its funny that Rachel Maddow was talking about how Obama had done the most things in his first year in office than any other President, and now we're questioning the whole notion of better off?

      Even Mitt Romney agrees that we're better off.

      Interested in learning about math, probability, or Computer Science and their connections to the real world? Learn more at my site:, or visit me on Twitter: @MindAfterMath

      by LEARNINGlover on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 09:36:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  They flubbed the question this weekend (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Happy Days

      I can't imagine why they were not prepared for it!

  •  Just asking the question (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Happy Days, freerad

    is adopting a GOP talking point.  They need to create some false rubric on which people feel they should base their vote.  The obvious implication of the question is that if you're not better off, then you shouldn't vote for Obama.  It's truthiness writ large.  It feels true to a lot of people even though it's a completely brain damaged way to make your voting decision.  And yet, we hear it over and over and over right now.  Same old thing.  GOP plays the press.  

    When the truth is only a matter of opinion, advantage goes to the liars.

    by Sun dog on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 09:25:57 AM PDT

    •  Who would have asked in in 2004? It's just wrong. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sun dog

      Of course we were worse off in 2004 than 2000, because "911 changed everything."

      No one even thought of asking it.

      If we had built up the 9/15 date as a date that changed everything, it, too, would have obliterated even asking the question.

      Some people fight fire with fire. Professionals use water.

      by Happy Days on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 09:32:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  this was their strategy from day 1 (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sun dog, Happy Days

      and particularly from day 731 when they took control of the house. They wanted to ruin the economy and make sure that people had a negative answer to this question so that they could come back and say that things got worse under Obama so it must be his fault, ignoring their own fault. I mean, how hard is it to take a vote on a jobs bill?

      Interested in learning about math, probability, or Computer Science and their connections to the real world? Learn more at my site:, or visit me on Twitter: @MindAfterMath

      by LEARNINGlover on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 09:39:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  If the average American is not feeling better off (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Happy Days

    can they can be comforted by knowing the 1% is a lot better off?

    Turn this into a positive.  They got everyone else's 'better off'.  It's time to stop that!!!  Stand up for the 99%.

    Be the change you want to see in the world. -Gandhi

    by DRo on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 09:29:42 AM PDT

  •  of course WE are better off... am I better off? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Happy Days, jfromga

    I would have to answer YES.

    4 years ago i watched MSNBC as the market tanked and didnt stop tanking and I was afraid... truly afraid

    I was afraid we had lost our entire retirement next egg, that hubby would lose his job, we would lose our healthcare and become homeless and destitute like the people in the 30's depression era... truly afraid

    4 years later I am no longer afraid of those things...  Hubby still, thankfully, has his job, we still have healthcare, we still have a roof over our heads and the only thing we havent recovered from is the loss of that part of our retirement nest egg that went over the cliff when the economy tanked but even that is slowly recovering... slowly.

    NOW the only thing I fear is that ignorant people and racist people and useful tools will put the same people who pushed us to the edge and kept right on pushing BACK into office and we will go right back to where we were before Obama became president.

    "You've got to be an optimist to be a Democrat, and a humorist to stay one" - Will Rogers

    by KnotIookin on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 09:30:19 AM PDT

  •  Yes I'm better off today then I was 4 years (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Happy Days

    ago when the Republican left us in the mess they caused.

  •  I'm definitely not better off. (4+ / 0-)

    In September of 2008, I was making 75K, was poised to sell my small business for close to half a mil, had a house, a retirement fund, and health insurance.  
         Three months later, just as Obama was inaugurated, I lost my job, the sale of my business fell through, and I began a long, painful 2 year decline where I lost my job, lost my house, lost my insurance, retirement, and everything else - except my family.
         Now, I've moved from a red state to a blue state, I have a job, health insurance (thanks to Obama), and I have begun the  long, painful climb out of the safety net that caught me.  I now make substantially less than I made then.  You would think that I would be a poster child for a disillusioned Obama voter.
         But I paid attention.  I know whose fault it was, and I know who has a plan to help me succeed again.  I will be voting for Obama, and Bernie Sanders, and Peter Welch.  I will be working to keep what happened to me from happening to a LOT of other good, hard working people.
         I may not be better off personally, but I'm better off with these guys in office looking out for me.  Greed took me down, Hope got me back up.  I'm sticking with Hope.

    Auntie Em: Hate you. Hate Kansas. Taking the dog. Dorothy

    by haremoor on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 09:37:05 AM PDT

  •  "Better off" is relative and personal (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Happy Days, Diogenes2008

    if the question is, "Are YOU better off?"

    Whether we do well or not depends largely on the people we live and work with, on the presence of things that make us happy (whatever they may be), and the absence of disaster. Very little of this is directly affected by who is president.

    The question, if it must be asked, should be, "Are WE AS A COUNTRY better off?"

    261.A wealthy man can afford anything except a conscience. -Ferengi Rules of Acquisition

    by MaikeH on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 09:38:32 AM PDT

  •  A rhetorical question is sometimes just a lie. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Happy Days, jfromga

    A rhetorical question is not a question.  It's an assertion of its premise in quesion form.  If the premise is false, it's an assertion of a falsehood -- a lie. Shame on "journalists" who do that.

    It is obvious that our country as a whole is better off today than we were "four years ago." An economy that has crashed and is recovering slowly is much better off than an ecomony that is about to crash.  

    Sometimes the premise itself is nonsense.  "Are you better off today than the day before you got fired?" "Is it colder in the mountains or the winter?" "Would you rather find your purse or not lose it?"

    A right answer to the wrong question is a wrong answer.

    by legalarray on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 09:43:39 AM PDT

    •  It is obvious? To whom? (0+ / 0-)

      It is NOT obvious to the 23 million people unemployed or under employed.

      It is NOT obvious to the 50% of recent college grads who cannot find a job.

      It is NOT obvious to homeowners who are under water on their mortgages by tens of thousands of dollars.. the homes they counted on as a retirement investment.

      And, it is certainly not obvious to minorities who are unemployed at double the rates of their white counterparts.

      An economy growing at 1% IS an economy close to crashing into another recession.

      It is obvious that our country as a whole is better off today than we were "four years ago."
      Really?  Really?
  •  A good reminder (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Happy Days

    "We have only the moral ground we actually inhabit, not the moral ground we claim." - It Really Is That Important

    by Diogenes2008 on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 10:54:47 AM PDT

    •  I'll add this (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Happy Days

      For anyone who might have forgotten what the Bush years were like (from a Special Comment by Keith Olbermann):

      And, sir, if you have any hopes that next January 20th will not be celebrated as a day of soul-wrenching, heart-felt Thanksgiving, because your faithless stewardship of this presidency will have finally come to a merciful end, this last piece of advice: when somebody asks you, sir, about Democrats who must now pull this country back from the abyss you have placed us at - when somebody asks you, sir, about the cooked books and faked threats you foisted on a sincere and frightened nation - when somebody asks you, sir, about your gallant, noble, self-abnegating sacrifice of your golf game so as to soothe the families of the war dead; this advice, Mr. Bush: shut the hell up!

      "We have only the moral ground we actually inhabit, not the moral ground we claim." - It Really Is That Important

      by Diogenes2008 on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 11:05:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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