Voters: Are You Better Off Than You Were Four Years Ago?

"Next Tuesday all of you will go to the polls, will stand there in the polling place and make a decision. I think when you make that decision, it might be well if you would ask yourself, 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?"

-- Ronald Reagan, October 28, 1980

That was perhaps the most brilliant campaign line in modern history. Asking if you are better off than you were four years ago perfectly captures why Americans vote for change.

Yet Reagan was very wrong about one thing. "Next Tuesday all of you will go to the polls," he said. But not every eligible voter actually votes. One group in particular tends to have a low voter turnout: the poor and the unemployed. In other words, those most likely to be worse off than they were four years ago.

As persuasive as it sounds, it's hard to find a correlation between the state of the economy on election day and the odds of an incumbent being reelected. Statistician Nate Silver looked at the data going back to President Taft in 1912 and found that both the unemployment rate on election day and the change in unemployment during an incumbent's term doesn't tell you much about his chances of being reelected. Same if you narrow it down to just the post-World War II period. Even if you are "more or less deliberately cherry-picking" the data, Silver wrote, the correlation between unemployment and presidential elections is elusive.

Why that is may have been explained 30 years ago by Yale political scientist Steven Rosenstone:

When a person suffers economic adversity his scarce resources are spent holding body and soul together, not on remote concerns like politics. Economic problems both increase the opportunity costs of political participation and reduce a person's capacity to attend to politics.

There's a simple way of showing this. After every election, the Census Bureau publishes a detailed report on the demographics of voters -- not just the country at large, but those who actually stepped into a voting booth. In the last five elections (and likely more if we had older data), unemployed people have been significantly less likely to vote than those with a job:

Election

Percent of Unemployed Who Voted

Percent of Employed Who Voted

2008

54.7%

65.9%

2004

51.4%

65.9%

2000

39.8%

60.5%

1996

37.2%

55.2%

1992

46.2%

63.8%

Source: Census Bureau.

This extends to incomes. In the 2008 election, 79.8% of those with incomes above $100,000 voted, compared with 59% of those with incomes below $50,000, and 51.9% of those with incomes below $20,000. In the 2004 election, 81.3% of those with incomes above $100,000 voted, versus 48.3% of those with incomes below $20,000.

Voter turnout, therefore, doesn't tend to be a pure representation of our economy. It skews toward those who are doing all right, and thus are more likely to actually be better off than they were four years ago even if the whole economy isn't.

In the spirit of election day, let's take a poll. Are you better off than you were four years ago? Cast your vote, and share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Fool contributor Morgan Housel doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. Follow him on Twitter @TMFHousel. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 11:18 AM, seattle1115 wrote:

    Four years ago I was living on an over-extended credit card, not the least bit sure how I'd make it through the holiday season. Today, I'm saving for retirement and my outstanding credit card balance is less than $50. Of course, my personal reversal of fortune has very little to do with the president or with Congress, but I suppose it's a data point of some kind.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 11:37 AM, decoupodge wrote:

    I'm only slightly better off due to my actions and not anything the govt. did

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 11:50 AM, windycitymom wrote:

    I am better off than four years ago due to hard work, discipline, not living beyond my means, and some great investing tips from Motley Fool. It has absolutely nothing to do with our current president but in spite of him.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 2:57 PM, BHead5531 wrote:

    I am in the same boat as the the posts above me. My own success can not be attributed to the Government's actions.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 2:58 PM, AFMS wrote:

    I am but the country is not, nor is the future of the country, its people, and the rest of the globe if foolish American's let this man continue to take office...

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 3:10 PM, EnigmaDude wrote:

    Funny how everyone says they are better off than they were 4 years ago but its not due to Obama...

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 3:31 PM, DivingDan wrote:

    I am better off than I was 4 years ago. We would all be in even better shape if the republican congress stopped acting like a road block and actually worked to improve the economic health of this country. JMTC

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 3:34 PM, knighttof3 wrote:

    "This extends to incomes. In the 2008 election, 79.8% of those with incomes above $100,000 voted, compared with 59% of those with incomes below $50,000, and 51.9% of those with incomes below $20,000. In the 2004 election, 81.3% of those with incomes above $100,000 voted, versus 48.3% of those with incomes below $20,000."

    Not scoring a political point, but positing one influencing factor: typically, illegal immigrants have lower incomes and of course, cannot vote. With 12 million or so, that's a big chunk of low-income population. Was the statistical sample taken ONLY among those eligible to vote i nUS (i.e. US citizens excluding felons)?

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 3:49 PM, FoolSolo wrote:

    Four years ago my 401K was cut in half, my employer was teetering on the brink of failure due to sales falling off a cliff, my property value and a big portion of my net worth was falling like a stone, two unfunded US wars were raging thousands of miles away, banks were faltering or being acquired, every month hundreds of thousands of jobs were being eliminated across the country, hundreds of thousands of homes were being foreclosed, and the economy looked like a bottomless pit. There were a lot of sleepless nights back then, and there was plenty of doom and gloom.

    If I was to rewind the tape I would say that is as close as I would ever want to get to being wiped out and plunging into chaos. Now, there are plenty who will argue the causes for the catastrophe, and plenty that will argue that government got us there, and others that may argue the opposite, claiming that government successfully pulled us back from the edge of the cliff. I don't want to get into politics, but it is very hard not to look back over the events that led to that era and not get a sense that reckless leadership brought us to that brink. It is even harder to look back to January 2009 when Obama was sworn-in and not concede that he was handed the biggest basket of snakes in 6 or 7 decades since the great depression.

    By contrast, if you look at what our economy, the budgets and the deficits looked like when GW was sworn-in, compared to what Obama was handed, only a hard-right, narrow minded republican would argue that the US as a country is worse off today than January 2009. Nonetheless,I know several of my friends who still make that argument, even though some of them lost their jobs in the midst of that debacle.

    It took a very long time and a world war to get out of the great depression. I don't think it will be quite that drastic this time around, but I do believe we have a lot of work ahead to patch up the damage done in the past 25-30 years of eroding and unwinding the New Deal. Obama's biggest failure really has been that nobody went to jail and the banksters have been allowed to continue with their tricks, which is why the recovery is so protracted and stalled. Unfortunately, whether Romney or Obama are elected, I don't see either one changing anything in any kind of significant way that would make much of difference.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 4:00 PM, sherrietee wrote:

    It's a bit of a wash for me. I have more money invested than I did previously, and I do have less debt. However, I'm not making as much money as I did four years ago and I have had to cut back on entertainment expenditures.

    That said, I'm generally pleased with my personal life and where I stand. And FTR, I voted for Obama in '08 and in '12.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 4:02 PM, phillyarchitect wrote:

    A better question to ask is will you be better off four years from now if Obama or Romney is the victor. I vote for Obama, because Romney's tax cuts don't make sense to me, and he changes his mind so often I don't trust him. Wind down these wars, don't start any more, let the ridiculous George Bush tax cuts expire, stimulate the economy with short term debt to spur infrastructure rebuilding. We'll be back in a surplus in five years. Then we can start paying down our debt. No more tax cuts. It's not rocket science guys.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 4:14 PM, Darwood11 wrote:

    I'm better off than I was four years, ago.

    However, it is not thanks to politicians or government or the Fed.

    1. I followed the advice at RYR and the Fool and didn't pull any money out of the market. So I benefited from the recovery of the stock market.

    2. I followed the general contrarian advice, and as the stock market plummeted, I added in steps to my stock holdings. By the time the market had bottomed out, I decided I had probably bought too soon. But then again I'm not a "market timer" or a "short term" investor. Surprise! The market has rewarded this poor Fool!

    3. I continued to invest and save for the last four years, maxing out my Roth-IRA contributions.

    4. I continue to work "part time" even though this is my 50th year in the work place and paying taxes.

    5. I invested in 2008-9 in dividend payers, about 30 stocks in all, as well as mutual funds, with the goal to maintain a good distribution but enhance yield. I also purchased one commodities fund, as well as TIPS and other bond funds.

    5. By doing all of the above, I have been able to avoid withdrawing a single nickel from my retirement funds. So they continue to grow.

    6. I've built a 8 year "cash stash" invested in CDs, short term bond funds and the good old savings account. Thanks to the Fed, my CDs and so on earn negative returns. But that has been offset by the returns from my stock investments.

    Fool On!

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 4:17 PM, Milligram46 wrote:

    I can't say the results when I took this poll (roughly 60/27/13) does not surprise me. Many of us who are active here are big F Fools first - and could see the storm coming, and knew how to ride it out.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 4:19 PM, Libertyapplejack wrote:

    I am concerned with the pending tax increases and the feeling the economy is going no where. I am not in favor of increased regulation and I read and hear about a lot of future regulation and government intrusion into our lives. With all this possibly on the horizon, I do not feel better off today. than four years ago.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 4:38 PM, LynxSS77 wrote:

    No, but through no fault of the economy. 4 years ago I had much lower expenses, was paying off debt at a good rate and managing to put away 20% for savings and retirement.

    Today, a few months after a wedding and honeymoon debt has increased a lot from that and an expensive move and starting a household mostly from scratch (lived in RV previously), rent and living expenses more than doubled. Adding my wife to my employers insurance is quite expensive. All of this on the same pay check, we are now able to save almost nothing but at least I got a good head start while single :)

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 5:01 PM, DonkeyJunk wrote:

    I seem to be doing better across the board, thanks in a very large part to the decimation the economy suffered in 2008/09. The pretty-much-can't-miss stock market ballooned my assets, allowed me to purchase two rental properties on the cheap thanks to the depressed housing market (and offer them to renters for relatively cheap as well), and my employer continues to employ me. So, yes, my situation is better. This is likely a combination of good timing, decent investments, having a position that is not-so-easily replaced, and being located in an area where housing was particularly brutalized.

    Ultimately, right place; right time. The only thing I did was take advantage. Can't say the government helped, but they didn't get in my way, either.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 5:44 PM, robocarm wrote:

    I would posit that the folks that visit your web site will always be better off! It's not a level playing field. It is a luxury to have money to invest and to worry about. And we also have more time for what REALLY matters in life - which has very little to do with money!

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 5:46 PM, luciastern wrote:

    This question makes me suspicious of the motives of the questioners: are they Republicans?

    The economy is probably worse than it was 4 years after a major recession. But is the question "are you better off?" or "how much would you be suffering if the banks hadn't been rescued, if the auto industry hadn't been rescued, and if health care reform had not been enacted?"

    I become impatient with Motley Fool when I see things like this. Very transparent!

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 5:47 PM, Papko wrote:

    What good does it do if one person is better off ?

    the good of the country comes first .

    I am better off than I was 4 years ago , but without Police , roads , Hospitals and Schools and above all the rule of Law .

    Then personal wealth does not benefit me

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 5:52 PM, suziathome wrote:

    We're definitely not better off than four years ago. We're currently at 40% of our 2008 income level. 2009 our income cut in half, 2010 income a little lower, 2011 income a little lower, 2012 trend continues with income a little lower. I'm a seminar trainer who travels the entire U.S. The seminar brokers I work with continue to cut the number of course offerings, because the businesses out there are still not paying for their employees to attend seminars except when necessary for continuing education or for a particular business need. Webinars are serving to cover part of the business need, so the seminar business may never come back or it has to develop a different model. My investment portfolio looks better, partly because we've followed The Fool's advice, but we haven't added to our IRAs in years. My wife's retired (took SSI early because we needed the money), and I'm getting closer to retirement. With one son still in college, life is interesting month to month. Sometimes living paycheck to paycheck.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 5:59 PM, bghouse wrote:

    Yes, I'm better off. And I will credit the president for taking action to keep us from sliding deeper into recession ...

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 6:00 PM, Eadweard wrote:

    Many who say they are better off now but not because of anything the government has done seem to be overlooking the effect of government policies on the stock market and home mortgage interest rates. They should look at the overall environment before writing off the positive effects of the government.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 6:01 PM, mikes196 wrote:

    If we continue to expand big government and grow our debt with even more handouts the group with their hands extended will grow until they are the majority (not far away). Once that happens (which may occur after this election) are they not the only party to ever get elected in america again!

    What kind of country will we become then?

    Mikes

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 6:05 PM, foolmomma103 wrote:

    Yes, we are better off. We have a President we can trust and who doesn't want to start more wars. Financially we are better off too. Mostly because our investments are up and we didn't sell at the bottom like too many people did. Thank you Motley Fool for all the good advice along the way! We have one child who has already graduated college and has a good job, two kids currently in college, and our youngest is in high school. We may have to sell retirement funds to get them all through but it will be well worth the investment. Also, we live in Massachusetts and are terrified that Mitt Romney will be elected. He was awful for Massachusetts and will not be good for the majority of americans. He will cater to the 1%. So yes, as of today we were better off than we were four years ago. However, that may change tomorrow if Mitt Romney wins the election.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 6:06 PM, ipapajoker wrote:

    Dumb question... should be am I better off due to the idiot obama... the answer is NO...

    I do fine inspite of the crap we put up with.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 6:10 PM, TommyT123 wrote:

    I'm not real smart and I don't have a real good grasp of economic theory, Keynesian or otherwise, but I do know that common sense tells me that I can not spend myself out of debt and neither can the government. From just a little calculation involving my own financial situation, I know the expiration of the Bush tax cuts will hit me hard next year and cost me money I could certainly use elsewhere. And one final note, I did build my business and not with any government help but in spite of government intrusion. I am better off today because of my efforts and not by any assistance from the current administration.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 6:10 PM, snez wrote:

    Just as almost all are this is a very skewed poll. Why not ask the church choir if they like to sing hymns?

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 6:17 PM, hp52ca wrote:

    "I" am better off than I was after going off the 2008 cliff. But that's a question focused on one end of the polarity that's majorly out of balance - it's more than "I" that's at stake here, it's also "We", collectively.

    I have come to being very skittish around ideological commitments, absolutes, as I've grown older, recognizing that I'm not smart enough to have a lock on THE truth. A favorite mantra:

    For complex problems,

    there are simple, easy to understand,

    WRONG answers!

    My questions, paralleling some of the preceding comments, are more along the line of how do we JOINTLY solve our overwhelming problems? How do we come together. A reading of the Declaration of Independence's final words are sobering (and provide balance to the familiar opening words) - what extremely different political figures were willing to do, to pledge, their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor, to create a government and country, and we're their heirs. Now, of course, we have a republic. Paraphrasing Ben's famous words, can we keep it?

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 6:19 PM, Fred4953 wrote:

    As an 81-yr old USAF retiree, I am not as well-off in my total net worth now, compared to my position in 2008. I do not see Obama as the cause, but mostly blame the mess on Wall Street for the decline in my net worth. The big multi-national banks are still inventing new ways to squeeze profits from douhgtful "assets", US firms relocating their phony addresses overseas, rampent transfer of production to Asia, massive iou's from USA to China, are all slowly killing our economy

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 6:23 PM, Graminal1 wrote:

    I believe the premise that lack of voting by those unemployed is due to being concerned with other items in their lives is flawed. It is not because they are unemployed that they are not concerned, it is because they are not concerned/educated that they are unemployed.

    Your statistics on voting participation rising with income is interesting, but doesn't go to the root cause.

    Income disparity is mostly tied to education and intelligence. The more educated and intelligent tend to earn more income. They also tend to be more engaged in the political process because they understand how government can and will effect their economic well being. They are also more self reliant and concerned about govenrment interference in their lives

    Overall, unemployment is higher with the less educated and unprepared to participate in the workforce.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 6:24 PM, altrue1090 wrote:

    Compared to March 2009, my retirement assets are double what they were then. This was entirely due to the stimulus package of 2009. Thank you Mr. Obama for letting me be able to retire.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 6:24 PM, kckbo wrote:

    The question should be whether the country is better off today than 4 years ago taking into consideration the conditions that existed at that time.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 6:28 PM, neelvk wrote:

    I am better off today than 4 years ago. Credit goes to luck, the fact that I have no consumer debt and we have learned to live within our means.

    But, I also do not stay awake at night fearing that some yokel in the federal government is going to invade yet another country (costing us TENS OF BILLIONS) or start a trade war with China.

    Obama has righted a sinking ship (Katrina v Sandy), gotten us out of one mess and on our way out of the other, and we have been chasing terrorists all over the world (remember the guy in the White House who refused to listen to warnings that OBL was going to do something big?). Oil production is up, gas production is up and we are improving our energy efficiency.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 6:28 PM, allfiredup wrote:

    I am better off but it is not because of goverment policies. However my children are much worse off and that is because of government policies.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 6:31 PM, idamoore wrote:

    The country is better off than 4 years ago regardless of what people write here. This is not a representative audience.

    I am not better off because I am furious at Romney.

    I am financially better off however.

    Who the H does Romney think he is telling me what I can or cannot do with my body? And where are the men married to women who think as I do?

    How would men like it if Hillary or I or a whole number of my female friends decided what these men could do with their bodies?

    Has anyone ever heard anything as absurd?

    Better off always means something beyond cash.

    Better off often means how one feels and functions in the place where he/she lives.

    I do not worry financially. I worry about the grim

    and dim future if people like Romney and Ryan are

    in charge of anything at all.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 6:34 PM, healthcarepro wrote:

    I couldn't say it better than FoolSolo, and the minimalist answer of Snez is to the point also. We're not likely to be worse off after four years of investing wisely, especially considering the market's rise since Obama took office. It was a great time to load up the truck, so to speak.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 6:39 PM, tomd728 wrote:

    I do not feel I am "better off" with an avowed socialist as president.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 6:44 PM, ekim113 wrote:

    I see comments blaming big banks for their part of the decline.

    Who are Romney's biggest 5 campaign contributors?

    I am much better off than I was 4 years ago. As a college student in 2007/8, I saw the impending crises and decided to drop out of school to pursue a decent paying job. Once I secured the position, I was/am able to continue to go to school part time.

    I began investing in 2009 and have taken advantage of the low interest rates to pay off debts and put additional towards my home principal each month. The markets are rebounding and if you're not making money off them, it's only for a lack of investing (yes, I understand not everyone has the means, but I assume if you are on the site you probably do).

    Had the current administration not taken the steps they had, I am not sure I would be in this position. It could be better, or it could be a lot worse, but I am certainly better off than I was.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 7:01 PM, gdf55 wrote:

    It's an unfair question to me, personally, because the start-up company I worked for laid everyone off 3.5 years ago. 4 years ago I thought things were going to be all right. The depth of the financial mess the world had gotten itself into was only gradually coming to light. Overspending in the first decade of the new century, a lot of it off-budget and used to fight a stupid war in a country we should never have invaded, was piling up as national debt, after we had finally started to reduce the debt accumulated during the 1980's.

    When Reagan asked the question, it rang true because it was at the tail end of a very poorly managed presidency. This time around, there's a lot of blame to go around, and the essential question of this election might be, "could anyone in the past 4 years have done better?"

    The other thing that stands out is, obviously, the tremendous divide that separates the political parties. Carter may have been a buffoon, and Reagan may have been a lucky accident of timing and world events, and Clinton may have had trouble keeping his pants on, but all three of them had a Congress to work with that, well, worked, in spite of ideological differences. What we have now is broken, badly, and I don't see this election fixing it.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 7:14 PM, RouteReflector wrote:

    I'm much better off. I've proactively negotiated 2 salary increases that have increased my pay by just over 80% the past 4 years, bought my first house last September, significantly advanced within my career field, matured significantly, became wiser in the ways of the world (in my opinion), developed much more confidence in my abilities as compared to 4 years ago...

    I attribute a decent portion of what I view as me being "better off" to the federal government, as I'm a Network Engineer working in the cleared world on contracts with a couple DoD agencies. My job is directly tied to federal government spending, as are jobs all the way down the supply chain such as jobs at companies like Cisco, Juniper, Forescout, Check Point, Microsoft, McAfee, their resellers, their suppliers, the trucking companies who ship their gear, Fedex, the airlines who fly my team around the world, etc. I see on a daily basis how government spending can and does create jobs.

    On a related note, sequestration scares the hell out of me.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 7:18 PM, fredhogbristle wrote:

    Getting less nookie, but about the same economically. Definetly worse off.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 7:18 PM, wds123 wrote:

    Unemployed since August after working for the same company for 17 years, so I'm not better off, but more due to management (sales are low again! lay off more engineers! uh, why not replace the perpetually under performing sales staff instead???) than the government.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 7:28 PM, colleran wrote:

    It is interesting that we consider being better or worse in only economic terms. There has been a lot of interest lately in various measures of "happiness". I get the sense the those much younger than I are more attuned to this than my generation is. We can all be thankful for this.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 7:39 PM, QuarkHadron wrote:

    While I'm doing okay, it is my kids, coming of working age, who are doing without the opportunities I had. I'm okay, but I have almost 40 years of experience behind me - in a field where maybe 100 other people in the world have as much experience.

    More and more employers are hiring part-timers instead of full-time employees - when they are hiring at all.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 10:13 PM, incurablyFoolish wrote:

    @Graminal1 "Income disparity is mostly tied to education and intelligence. Overall, unemployment is higher with the less educated and unprepared to participate in the workforce."

    Actually education and preparedness to participate in the workforce are directly tied to income disparity.

    Obama did not cause this mess, greed caused this mess!

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2012, at 11:25 PM, mikem000 wrote:

    Four years ago the market was near bottom. My portfolio had lost more than 25% of its value. There was nowhere to go but up.

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2012, at 1:15 AM, wward100 wrote:

    As with a lot of these comments, I, personally, am better off because of things I did and not because of something the government has done. I live in the oil patch of west Texas and the economy here is unlike few other other places in the country. There should be zero unemployment in this area for able bodied individuals. The question should have been, "is America better off than 4 years ago and I would bet your poll results would be completely reversed. The folks that took your poll,by simply studying the Mötley Fool news and information, are obviously those kind of people taking the bull by the horns and helping themselves instead of sitting around waiting for the government to hand them something.

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2012, at 8:18 AM, RondoAZ wrote:

    NO! Quite obviously.

    1. Financially - fired at 65; started to consult then wife took critically and life altering ill - 10 months in hospital over past 2 years. Of course lost insurance when fired (called a lay-off).

    2. More importantly, it is clear with this election done that the American people (or those who are American who live here and the ones who get to vote even if they aren't) don't care about the constitution, and worse, don't understand the concept of freedom. We are headed down a slippery slope. Now, I will tend to my family and myself and not worry about anything else. Charity is for chumps or tax write-offs. The government and its laws, regulations and largess are to be taken advantage of for personal gain.

    Other people are to be used, be allies, or be defeated.

    3. I will use some of my wealth to buy guns and ammunition, and become a "prepper".

    Disaster awaits in the world where America wishes to be just one of the losers.

    A CEO of mine was right when he said "you're too nice to be an operations guy" even though I turned around a company that they had tried to do so with for over 10 years and it had gotten into its worst shape ever.

    Motley or not, we're all fools.

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2012, at 8:46 AM, StockGoddess wrote:

    The S&P 500 is DOUBLE where it was four years ago. How could any investor not be doing better. My stocks have all recovered from the fiasco of unregulated bankers and 2008.

    SG

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2012, at 11:45 AM, rossbaldwin wrote:

    More citizens need to take personal responsibility for their lives and not expect others to do that. This is a common theme of the above posts. But, I wonder why American poor do not exercise there voting right when the largest voting segment in India is the poor. Maybe America's poor know that whoever gets in will still give them a free ride .

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2012, at 12:22 PM, kthor wrote:

    "Voters: Are You Better Off Than You Were Four Years Ago?

    Yes and No ...

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2012, at 1:33 PM, 1pOwedyank wrote:

    Short term foolish question to a long term, growing problem.

    FoolSolo says it well if you want to talk about 4 years. Problem is we have not begun to feel the effects of what has been passed into law the last 4 years.

    While I don't like war,..... the spending comments are petty and hypocritical. GW was in office for 8 months when we were attacked. Hindsight is great, but is more reflective of political beliefs than real time realities. How come we don't hear the outrage of what we spend in interest on our debt? We spend more money on interest in 4 years than we spent on the war in 8 years. At least with a war some of that "borrowed" money went into our economy, unlike the interest on our debt.

    Our problem is spending, the solutions create the divide.

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2012, at 5:45 PM, jhs9256 wrote:

    IT IS QUITE APPARENT THAT THE MOTELY FOOL MEMBERS THAT REPLIED ARE DOING WELL BECAUSE THEY HAVE JOBS. tHEY PAT THEMSELVES ON THE BACK FOR CUTTING BACK ON EXPENSES. hOW DO THEY THINK THEY WOULD GET BY IF THEY LOST THEIR JOBS? tHIS COUNTRY DOES NOT RUN ON COLLEGE GRADUATES AND THE WELL TO DO ALONE. IT TAKES PEOPLE OF ALL MAKES TO STIR THE ECONOMY. wHY PEOPLE THINK THEY ARE SUPERIORITY TO OTHERS IS MOST OF THE PROBLEM.

  • Report this Comment On November 08, 2012, at 3:25 PM, 48ozhalfgallons wrote:

    I can now say with certainty that I will be worse off four years from now.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2012, at 10:46 AM, mikecart1 wrote:

    I'm way better off than 4 years ago. Using Motley Fool and other investing sources I have multiplied my worth while getting tips weeknights at 6pm EST from watching Jim Cramer on Mad Money. With these tools, my life has flourished.

    :D

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2012, at 1:16 PM, johnnyDaz wrote:

    I am definately better off because I busted my @ss the last 4 years to be successful. The fact is that people who make less than $20k/yr are just plain lazy and don't care.... and that's exactly why they vote at half the turnout as people making over $100k.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2012, at 2:58 PM, HurricaneJohnson wrote:

    Many of us on this forum are not necessarily worse off. While we may be able to afford a new Porsche, the uncertainty from the perspective of 2008 and our financial discipline kept us from spending money foolishly. And we're probably better off for it.

    However, when I see 1 in 6 in poverty, 47 million people on food stamps up from 32 million in 2008, a workforce participation rate that has not been as low since the 1940s, median income down about $4,000 annually, and food and gasoline (two major recurring purchases) costing about double what they did in 2008, I'd say the country is not better off economically.

    I've seen several comments related to "no wars" as it pertains to our current president. However, the current president escalated one - and the casualty count was higher under this president in that war than the prior president before.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2012, at 5:28 PM, whyaduck1128 wrote:

    Am I better off than I was four years ago? Yes. Did President Bush, President Obama, Congress, or any other well-known person have anything to do with it? Absolutely not. I received a windfall at a time when I really needed some big money due to my own previous mistakes. I'm bound and determined to not make the same mistakes I made before, starting with investing rather than speculating.

    I have a decent sized nest egg now. I do not have financial worries now. And, while I take no credit for it, I allow no one else to take credit either.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2012, at 6:55 PM, jonesericr wrote:

    When you ask if I'm better off now I would have to say cobbling together all the things that have happened. I made more money for years ago as a contractor but my job was terrible. No upward path, shuffling papers from one side of the desk to the other and always having the sword of unemployment hanging over my head because prophets were more important. Now I get paid less, have access to better benefits and have re-entered the IT world as a technician. My skills are growing again and with that the chance for better employment at a higher salary so yes I'm better off now than I was before.

    Lets hope my trend continues.

    ej

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2012, at 3:39 PM, BlueBoomerHD wrote:

    Some folks are saying, "I'm better off, but not cause of anything the govt. did." They are not correct! Your lights still come on at the flick of a switch; clean water comes out of the tap every time; you don't revisit what you flushed at the river, lake or coast; the road you live on is still paved, if it was 4 years ago; your kids, grandkids or neighbors kids still have public schools and colleges...

    The infrastructure govt provides is the stuff we take for granted, because, in our lifetime, it has always worked; better sometimes than others. This is the reason you pay taxes; it ain't magic or free. It (basic common carrier infrastructure) also needs: planning, operation, maintenance and replacement; similarly not magic or free.

    This has been the basis of what allows a body, if done well: anybody, to focus on their own path to success.

    Good government is important, and those of you who see only the politicians when you look at govt. have a large, personal, tunnel vision problem!

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2012, at 6:47 PM, ofrancis wrote:

    I am doing worse than 2008. I work more hours.

    None of that is due to what the President did, or the executive branch did.

    It is because of what the legislative did not do.

    They were focussed on making this president one term president and dropped me under the bus.

    The tax cut they bargained so hard for did not do a damn thing for me. My stock portfolio has recovered. Thanks to the fools around here.

    My 401K is back to where it was. I am happy to give credit to president for stopping the meltdown.

  • Report this Comment On November 12, 2012, at 10:52 PM, esotericevets wrote:

    If you are not at the edge, you are probably taking up too much space.

    Complacency is for cows.

    I am always worse off than 4 years ago and I embrace it. When I have a little respite from the storm, I flee that spot cause it makes me weak and lazy.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2012, at 12:20 AM, NickD wrote:

    People that get money for free are the problem my aunt is the most lazy person ever collects everything and is fully able to work I really want to dis own her from the family.

  • Report this Comment On November 27, 2012, at 2:39 PM, thidmark wrote:

    It was a great four years for investors. It was awful for religious freedom.

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