Are you better off than you were four years ago? It’s a harder question than you might think.
If you examine the numbers, they suggest that most Americans aren’t better off than they were four years ago — but aren’t much worse off, either. The big difference may be their state of mind. When Barack Obama took office, the economy was collapsing. People were terrified. Companies were firing hundreds of thousands; the stock market was plunging. This fright has now morphed into a quiet dread that the economy is stuck in a state of insecure stagnation, which the government can’t cure and that will crush people’s dreams.
Just how Americans react to this change may determine whether they feel “worse off” — and how they’ll vote in November. Are people so relieved that we avoided a depression that they forgive the economy’s subsequent miserable performance as a lesser evil? Or are they so angry over Obama’s apparent powerlessness to engineer a strong recovery that their discontent overshadows any earlier success?