John Sheirer: Are we better off?
NORTHAMPTON — I have a Republican colleague who keeps asking anyone he bumps into at work, “Hey, are you better off than you were four years ago?” Before they can answer, he jumps in for himself: “I’m not. Obama’s done nothing for me. My salary is down, I can barely fill my gas tank and I still have to work for a living while half the country goofs off and lives off of my taxes.”
Republicans have resurrected this leftover Reagan campaign “are-you-better-off” mantra, trying to use it to lay the blame for any current national woes on President Obama.
First of all, my Republican friend and I work at the same place, so I know that he got a salary increase. So did I. In fact, we both work at a state-funded institution, so he actually gets paid with other people’s taxes, a fact he never acknowledges. I’m not sure why he feels compelled to lie, but dishonesty has become a basic strategy of Republican campaigning. Those people he claims are “living off his taxes” (Mitt Romney’s “irresponsible” 47 percent) are actually the elderly, the working poor, students and the disabled — hardly a collection of “goof-offs.”
In addition, stimulus funds kept the pressure off the state budget, which probably helped save our jobs. My friend likes to point out that gas prices have doubled since Obama took office, but he omits the crucial detail that the price per gallon dropped by half during the economic crash at the end of the Bush administration. Gas prices average out about the same, and they rise and fall based on factors outside the control of any president, so blaming Obama is just dishonest.
The key words in my friend’s Obama-bashing question and response are “you,” “I” and “me.” Republicans seem to be more self-centered these days than ever. Sure, politics is personal, but why has it become all about isolated personal greed for Republicans? We live in the United States of America, not the Individualized Singularities of America. We are all in this together.
Isn’t “Are we better off?” a far more appropriate question? How is the nation as a whole doing? Things aren’t perfect, of course. But when we sort through the right-wing propaganda nonsense and look at reality, we can clearly see that the country has turned the corner in the past few years.
The president’s stimulus plan saved millions of jobs and gave tax relief to the middle class and small businesses. The nation didn’t fall into another Great Depression thanks to Obama’s economic policies. The American automobile industry is alive. Reforms of Wall Street, credit cards and college financial aid have helped middle-class pocketbooks and wallets. Health care reform will save thousands of lives and billions of dollars a year. The Supreme Court has two new members who aren’t ideological extremists.
One misguided war that never should have started has ended, and the other is winding down. We didn’t get into a third misguided war with Iran. Obama’s leadership has regained the international respect that Bush squandered and Romney threatens to decimate. There hasn’t been a repeat of the massive terrorist attack that began the Bush administration or the financial crisis that ended it. Bin Laden is no longer a threat to America, and al-Qaida has been decimated.
The stock market has doubled and corporate profits have completely recovered. And the only reason conditions haven’t gotten even better is corporations are hoarding rather than hiring, Republicans in Congress are obstructing legislation at an unprecedented rate and state-level Republicans have slashed public sector jobs.
All of these points are verifiable facts that are pretty easy to find using that evil liberal tool known as research. If a Republican president did all the things that Obama has in his first term, Fox News would campaign to put him on Mount Rushmore.
Besides, I thought Republicans were the party of “personal responsibility.” If my friend honestly believes he’s worse off than he was four years ago, shouldn’t he look in the mirror instead of whining about President Obama?
John Sheirer lives in Florence and is the author of “Tales of a Real American Liberal.” For more information, visit www.johnsheirer.com.