You Are Better Off Than You Were Four Years Ago

Sean Para, Contributing Writer

Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney has often asked, “are you better off than you were four years ago?” during the past few months, in an echo of Ronald Reagan’s famous 1980 slogan. Romney asserts that you, whoever you are, are not for years ago. He asserts that President Obama has failed to improve the economy or the country during his four-year term. These accusations are manifestly false. The Obama presidency has saved the economy from the brink of implosion and implemented numerous reforms that have improved the country, such as the Health Care Reform Act, the Financial Reform Act, the Stimulus Package and the Auto-Bailout. Few recognize the significance of the Auto-Bailout for the economy, yet it was in fact a major part of saving America from disaster. Although the economy remains anemic, the impact of these reforms is crucial, and their significance will become even clearer in the coming years.

When Obama took office, the economy was on the brink of collapse. Although in January 2009 when the president took office, the unemployment rate was lower than it is now (7.8% then and 8.1% now), the impact of the financial crisis soon took effect and unemployment ballooned, peaking at 10% in October of 2009. In response to the economic crisis, Congress passed an 831 billion dollar stimulus package. The effects of the stimulus continue to work through the economy, but unemployment has gone back down and the economy is out of recession. Gross Domestic Product growth remains low (1.5% for 2011), but it will pick up as the economy recovers. The Stimulus Package is the most likely cause of the return to economic growth, without it the economy might still be in recession.

Obama successful saved the American car industry from imminent implosion with the auto bailout. The auto bailout was a sound investment in the economy, with far reaching and beneficial consequences for the economy as a whole. The American car industry had been in decline for many years when the financial crisis and resultant recession pushed Chrysler and General Motors to the brink of collapse. Through the use of large-scale loans, temporary nationalization and extensive restructuring, both these car companies were saved. The cost of the auto bailout is estimated at cost of 80 billion dollars, but this was a sound investment and a strong example of effective Keynesian economics in action. GM and Chrysler have both largely returned to private ownership and are once again profitable. This brief nationalization was not a turn to socialism, as conservative opponents claimed, but a necessary and momentary use of government intervention to save a vital part of the national economy. The long-term effects of the auto industry collapse would have been disastrous for the economy, and this was averted largely due to President Obama’s effective leadership.

The Healthcare Reform bill is perhaps the most important piece of legislation passed in America since the Great Society, and will have far-reaching consequences for every American. After the Healthcare Reform is fully implemented, it will make healthcare cheaper and more affordable for the 16.3% of the population that does not have access to it. The 2010 Financial Reform bill was another major reform passed largely due to President Obama. It restructured and strengthened the American financial regulatory system in an attempt to prevent anther financial crisis brought on by avaricious banks. Their negligent behavior was largely the cause of the financial crisis. These two legislative acts protect American citizens from the malfeasance of private healthcare and financial services companies.

Obama’s presidency has been riddled with factionalism and strife. Congress has become more divided, the Republican Party more radicalized. Richard Nixon, for instance, would be too far left to be a member of today’s Republican Party. The increasingly radicalized Republican Party is an astonishing part of today’s political arena, and presents and will pose a challenge to traditional left-wing values and goals for years to come. Yet, President Obama saved the American economy from depression through the Stimulus and Financial reform laws, and strengthened American government for the betterment of the people. The country as a whole is better off than it was four years ago thanks to President Obama. Were Mitt Romney to be elected, he would bring back the lax oversight that brought about the financial crisis and the tax system that has seen wealth concentrated among the rich in the past 30 years. Romney would also seek to overturn the keystone legislative acts of Obama’s presidency. It would be an unmitigated disaster for out nation, and the country would without a doubt be worse off in 2016.