Are you better off than you were four years ago? Well, are you, really?


1980 was the first year I was able to vote in a presidential election and, with chest puffed out, off I went to the polls to vote for Jimmy Carter on November 4, 1980. It began a long, sad slide for me personally as the country was electing Republicans at a record pace, and I seemingly was voting for people at all levels of government that were not destined to be elected. I kept thinking that I was maybe not understanding politics (I now know I knew exactly what I was doing), and that the people I wanted to see elected, almost all Democrats, were good people. They were people who I knew at some point and they had characters that I could identify with in a real way. Yet they were not being elected.

Also in 1980, a now infamous quote that reappears every four years, if not every two years, was born into the American political dialogue: Are you better off than you were four years ago? It was Ronald Reagan who delivered that line and it was, and still is, a line that people can personally relate to in so many ways.

Back in the late 1970’s, as many of us remember, interest rates were astronomical. A long economic slide was dragging the country down and many people were ready for change and believed that something they didn’t understand called supply side economics was the answer to a downward spiraling economy. Trickle Down Economics became the dream idea and Ronald Reagan was elected by a landslide in 1980. That was the beginning of the end of a society that was pretty freaking great up until that time and, by the time Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush left office – and the first time I voted for some one for president that was elected, William Jefferson Clinton – I hoped that the country had learned their lesson.

VoteHistory is this amazing guide if we choose to pay attention to it. However, many of us don’t, as is clear. But history, at least short-term history, gave precedence to a new era in politics and in economic redistribution. The eight years of Bill Clinton have, and may continue to be for a long time to come, the nearest we will ever come to prosperity and an equal distribution of not wealth, but of comfort and safety in this country. Despite his personal problems and a Republican-led effort to short circuit him at every turn, the American people found a way to love him, even now more than then.

Bill Clinton created political rock stars like no other president in our history has. People like Robert Reich, Donna Shalala, Madeleine Albright, Warren Christopher, and yes, even Al Gore (for some of us), among others.

These were good times. I mean VERY good times. But the ascension (coronation?) of George W. Bush didn’t just usher in a political mindset that ruined this country, it attracted skin-crawling political operatives like Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney and so many others that it would require another column to get them all in. But we all know, whether we admit it or not, that George W. Bush was a terrifically horrific president and a liar on such a grand scale that had Barack Obama NOT given him and Cheney a pass from prosecution, they would both be serving Federal sentences as I write this. We all know that, as uncomfortable as it may be.

Doing my morning rounds of news reading this morning, a story in the Dallas Morning News caught my attention. Titled “Pinched consumers going on saving spree, looking for deals”, it is about much more than the headline suggests. In fact, the spine of this article deals with a reality that too many of us are still experiencing today.

After the Bush era of economic disasters, a black hole of government debt was created by two wars we should never have been involved in to begin with and are still cleaning up. After Republicans once again trie to sell, and continue to try and sell to this very day, the idea that Trickle Down Economics is our way out of economic troubles and the best path to creating jobs, we have ample examples and proof right here in Michigan that these continue to be lies, and provable lies at that. Yet those at the top, i.e., Governor Snyder, Senator Randy Richardville, and Representative Jase Bolger, continue to try to sell the idea to the unwashed and the uneducated in this state. It’s really a sad reality that there are people who do believe that Trickle Down is an option. It is, I suppose, as long as you want to continue to make the wealthy wealthier.

You and I have a lot of work to do to educate those who do not follow these issues they way we do.

The article, and I do recommend that you read it, clearly shows that, unless you are in the upper reaches of wealth in this country, you are still stalled. The reality is that the middle class has been sliding into an economic abyss for more than a decade now and the wealthier among us have not just done well, they rebounded much quicker than most of us have. Not to mention the people who were living on the edge of poverty who are now fully entrenched in that poverty cycle which may take them many years to dig out of, if they ever can.

The idea that equality of opportunity exists in this country is not necessarily a lie, per se, but the opportunities that are available today take much more than just desire and talent, something that we all know. Without a bankroll to get us started, how do we create that opportunity? Guaranteed pensions no longer hold the promise of peace when the time comes to rely on it. Children, adult children, are living at home much longer than at any other time in this country’s history. Without Obamacare, many of those adult children would be without health care. Medical debt is still the leading cause of bankruptcies in this country and advancement in your job, once protected by collective bargaining agreements, is becoming the exception rather than the rule.

One thing is absolutely clear to me: Republican ideology is ruining this country and so many of her traditions and historic paths to prosperity have dissipated with the onset of Big Money in politics, which is again very provable.

Clearly something has to give. I am not assuming that voting Democrat is the answer and the only answer. But, in the short-term, it is, to be honest. Also, your engagement in the politics of politics is essential if you want a voice.

I preach non-stop that “they” have the money but we have the people. And that is true. But their money shows up a whole lot more consistently than our people do, and that has to stop.

We have just over a month to motivate people to get out and vote on Election Day. I know I am doing my part and I hope you are doing yours. Let this article do some talking for you and I would bet that many in your circle of influence understand this plight all too well. It’s simple, and scary at the same time, that if “their” money beats us to the polls on Election Day and “our” people don’t vote, they win. If they win, then the question that has been asked since 1980 won’t need to be asked any longer, because we will know the answer already.

So, are you better off than you were four years ago? Well, are you?

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