Monday, September 10, 2012

Shrug's Guide to the 2012 Presidential Election - The Better Off/Worse Off Voter

"Are you better off now than you were four years ago?"

Ronald Reagan is most often credited as the originator of this campaign salvo, which was launched during his 1980 Presidential bid against Jimmy Carter.  Given the level of inflation, unemployment, interest rates, the Iranian hostage crisis, and the general misery of the country (remember the Misery Index?) at that time, Reagan's question was both profound and insightful.

The quote has been resurrected for the 2012 election by the Romney campaign.  Honestly, even President Obama wouldn't dare raise that question voluntarily.  But be that as it may, his campaign is stuck having to constantly answer it; and it's not an easy answer for which they can just toss out a sound bite.

The media would have us believe there is a small percentage of voters out there who are still undecided.  How can this be?  How can ANYBODY not know how they will vote by now?  I question the qualifications of anyone who at this point still doesn't really know.  Still, both the RNC and DNC each spent a week and a ton of cash avoiding the real issues and preaching to their choirs.  If an undecided voter's mind is swayed by anything they saw or heard at either convention, I question their qualifications to vote even more.  I'll make an exception for Clint Eastwood's speech at the RNC.  The man was rational, unpolished, and genuine.  But I digress.

Back to the question at hand.  I consider myself a "worse off" voter.  I acknowledge that I am still employed, I still have my home, and I still have my health insurance (for which I pay $5,000 out of pocket annually).  I further acknowledge that while I am better off than some, I am not better off than I was four or even six years ago.  Admittedly, President Obama can only take 2/3 of the blame for that.  Nevertheless, I believe the reason I am better off than some is substantially because of my own resolve, self discipline, and a realization that my success is up to me; all qualities I attribute to my mother. I may be better off than some, but I have to objectively look at the rest of the country and consider the plight of others.  It's difficult to imagine anyone being able to objectively state that the country as a whole is better off than it was four years ago.
  • Gasoline is more than double the cost of what it was when President Obama took office. When you consider the cost of distribution for the products we consume and the fuel cost for commuting to and from work, the price of gasoline hits all of us very hard, on every level.
  • The median household income is down 6.2% over the last three years for an average of $3,300 per household.  I can only speak for myself, but $3,000 to my bottom line hurts.  It is no secret that the recession drove millions of people into poverty.  According to (not exactly a conservative website) the number of Americans near the poverty line has skyrocketed since the recession began in 2008 and that number is expected to reach an all time high of 66 MILLION people in 2012.  What correlation can we draw; what significant event can we attach to the year 2008?
  • Unemployment is still well above 8%.
    The August jobs report figures were dismal.  When these numbers are objectively viewed to include people who have simply dropped out of the work force and given up even looking for work, the adjusted figure is closer to 11%.  Wanna have some fun?  Do a little research on states and major cities where unemployment is the highest and lowest and see which political party the leaders of those states and cities are affiliated with.
You won't hear the Obama campaign mention these facts.  The can't possibly do so unless they do a 180 and attempt to run on their record and we all know that will not happen.  They're too busy with mud-slinging scare tactics.  This is actually a sound strategy when you consider the number of people feeble-minded enough to fall for it.  When you can't run on your record, the best alternative is to run from it.

If you are an evangelical or entitlement voter, your choice is clear because it's a vote based on principals.  Whether or not you have the courage of your convictions to actually follow your principals and vote accordingly as opposed to simply following a party line is an entirely different story.  If you are a better off/worse off voter, your choice is not so simple.  You can blame the incumbent administration and vote them out.  Or, you can buy into the line that they inherited such a financial mess that they deserve more time to straighten it out.  On the surface, I suppose either option appears rational.  But, I believe there is far more to consider beneath the surface.

Personally, I suppose could take the moocher approach and just vote for the candidate who promises he will give me more for "free".  Or, I can consider the bigger picture and hope (to steal a term from 2008) that the other party can bring about change (oops, another 2008 term) and enact policies that benefit us all and bring more Americans up to a level where they no longer need their government to support them; at least those willing to do their part to achieve that level.

Need a little comic relief?  Known hardcore conservatives Larry David and Jon Stewart offered some on The Daily Show.  Enjoy.