As part of our special Election Issue, we’re asking Bloomberg Businessweek readers to tell us: Are we better off than we were four years ago?
Erin Connolly, analyst:
“Four weeks before the 2008 election, my company—a West Coast retail institution for over 60 years—went bankrupt due to a) a private investment company fraudulently mismanaging the company and b) the housing crisis caused by mismanagement on Wall Street impacting our core consumer. With no company protection for our assets (i.e., employees) in bankruptcy, we were out of jobs with no severance, as well as no payout of existing earned wages such as vacation. Where did that leave myself and 18,000 other employees left without jobs in life? In that 47 percent ’victim’ bracket Romney was complaining about behind closed doors. I was left having to depend on the government to pay unemployment wages (which I actually had paid for in unemployment insurance/taxes) to help support me while trying to find a new job.
Where do I stand today? After a year of really hard work (I guess those victims can still work hard) and thanks to the increase to unemployment insurance payments, as well as an extension that allowed me to continue living on my own while looking for employment, I found a job. Now, after working my way up corporate ladders these past three years, I have more than doubled my salary from four years ago, I have more in savings than I have ever had, and have been presented with career opportunities I never would have had four years ago. Sorry to say, but I am, along with many others, better off.”
R. Hov., marketing director:
“Four years ago, I was going to college full time, working full time, and had a savings of $6,000, which is good for a middle-class 19-year-old putting herself through college. I used my waitressing money to buy a used Honda Civic, and felt very well adjusted.
Fast-forward to today: I have four roommates and am about to spend my second winter in a house without heat. I still have the car I stupidly bought when I was 19, but payments have become a challenge. I have not had a savings account in over a year because the job I got with my bachelor’s degree doesn’t afford me any extra spending money (or vacation, or insurance). Going back to school is out of the question unless I earn some scholarships, which I am attempting to do in order to earn a master’s degree to supplement my career. I had to move two hours away from the rural area where I grew up just to find full-time employment in the first place, so living at home to save money is not an option. Add in the colossal student loan payments from the public university that I went to and voilà, insta-poverty.
I am not better off than I was four years ago. I went to college in hopes that with a degree I would earn a decent living and be able to help myself and my parents. I often joke that if I hadn’t wasted all of that time and money on college, I could be at the top of the chain at my hometown McDonald’s by now! I wanted to share my perspective because I believe that a lot of middle class kids who worked hard to put themselves through college might be facing a similar situation to my own. The reality is that our parents make too much money (ha!) to earn us any aid from FAFSA.”
Patrick McCormick, engineer:
“Yes, I believe we are better off now than we were four years ago. In my community, new businesses have opened, and in fact business has increased, judging by how crowded things are. Also, home values have stabilized here, and fewer younger people are unemployed. Things seem to be turning around.”
“Yes. Better in my soul, yes. Earnings-wise no, asset-wise yes. I am significantly wealthier in my soul than ever. I previously earned a healthy six digits and now a modest five digits. I have finally learned to enjoy my family and have more quality time rather than spending my time trying to close the next deal. In fact, our household income dropped but somehow we have managed to make investments so our asset portfolio has grown.”
Joseph Hill, unemployed:
“When small businesses do well in America, then all of America does well. Under the last part of the Clinton administration and the entire Bush administration my small business thrived, growing year after year up until 2008. Throughout the Obama administration my small business swirled around in the toilet and eventually got flushed. If President Obama had fixed the problem at hand and got behind small business from the beginning, I think America would be in much better shape today. Instead he got behind everything else, especially an unpopular health-care bill.
The growth in the housing market was what fueled my small business and millions of others. Under the Clinton administration, the Democrats fought to see that everyone could purchase a home, whether they could afford it or not, and passed into law in 1999 adjustments to the Community Reinvestment Act that did just that and laid the ground work for the housing mess. I agree the Bush administration could have done more, but they did try, and when the Democrats took over the House in 2006 it became impossible. And by 2008 the bubble had burst. Obama was elected on promises that he would fix it all, and instead he has made it worse. I’ve barely been able to survive these past four years, and I know for sure I can’t survive another four years of the same.
If America is growing and doing well we can have all the stuff everyone seems to want and need, but if we don’t, then everyone will have to give up the stuff. It’s that simple. For all the small businesses out there, we can look to someone who has a record of doing exactly what should have been done four years ago. Mitt Romney, who may not be liked by the other side very much, should get a chance just as Obama did in 2008. God Bless America!”