Are You Better Off?

Varney and CoFOXBusiness

It’s the question of the day, the week, and quite possibly the election. “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” Ronald Reagan asked it in 1980, and won:

“Are you better off than you were four years ago ? Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment in the country than there was four years ago? Is America as respected throughout the world as it was?"

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We’ve drawn that parallel between 1980 and now often on Varney & Co, because of the striking similarities to the state of the economy then and now. So we put it to you, our viewers. We found some people did admit they are better off, but through no help of the government. Here’s how you answered the question on our Facebook page:

Dean echoed the sentiment of a majority of people who responded, “No. I’m not better off. My employer gave no raises in 2012 and everything we buy is more expensive.” Rosemary, on the other hand, spoke for the few who say they are in fact better off. “My husband’s business is going strong and we have enough to live…and pay our bills,” she writes. “We don’t mind paying our fair share of taxes,” she adds.

As for me, my salary is up from four years ago. But that’s because of hard work. Again, nothing the government’s done. But my taxes, expenses, and debt are also up. And the value of my home and the amount I have in savings are down. What kind of future am I providing for my daughter if I can’t even afford to put money away for her college education?

I also asked my colleagues here on the Varney production team. Associate producer Michael Golz earned a promotion within the last four years. “Just because I’ve had a good four years,” he says, “it doesn’t really mean I’m better off. While I am making more money, I am spending more in rent, food and other costs. (Yes I do live in the most expensive U.S. city). I also worry about the direction of the country as a whole.” Bailey Wild is a production assistant on the team. She was a college sophomore four years ago. Two years into her career the optimism of graduation is all but gone. “The country is worse off and we’ve all felt it in one way or another.”

Paul Amin, another one of our associate producers, says he is better off, “I was laid off from my job a week after Pres. Obama was elected. I can’t really blame him for that. I was hired at Fox Business about a month later. Can’t give him credit for that. I was the one who scoured the internet looking for job openings and wore about my mouse sending resumes. But now I am at a much better job that I like much more working with a great anchor on a great show for a great and passionate audience. So I guess I can thank the President for that.”

It seems it depends on whom you ask, as former Standard and Poors chief economist David Wyss told Stuart this morning. “At best, you could say things have leveled off the past couple of years,” Wyss said on Varney and Co. today. But he adds, “We’ve had four years that we haven’t fixed the stuff that needed to be fixed. That’s the biggest problem.” He’s talking about the things we talk about on the show every day: budget, debt, deficits, and entitlements.

When Ronald Reagan posed that question back in 1980, he said if your answer was yes, then your choice was clear. And if it wasn’t, then your choice was also clear. Thirty-two years later, it seems voters will decide the same thing nine weeks from today.