Are you better off than you were four years ago?

You know, four years ago, when President Barack Obama hadn’t even been elected yet, let alone earned the nod from the Democratic Party to run for president. He was still in a heated contest with Hillary Clinton.

Regardless of the facts, Republican nominee hopefuls are already using this in their group effort to beat Obama in November. 

Poor approval ratings, high unemployment numbers and adding on to the national debt are all used as campaign fodder against the president.

But since they’re asking, let’s evaluate.

George W. Bush’s approval rating for January 2008 was 34 percent, according to a Gallup Poll. 

During that same time frame in 2012, Obama sits at 45 percent.

Bush’s average approval rating is skewed by a 40 percent spike the week after 9/11. This wasn’t because of anything he did; it was just human nature.

“Since we don’t have king or an emperor, presidents fill in when needed in the role of national leader,” said Paul Sracic, chairman of the political science department at Youngstown State University. “So when we perceived that we are being attacked as a people, our natural inclination is to rally to our country’s defense. The only person capable of leading us is the president.”

The financial crisis struck large in October 2008, just a month before the election.

At the end of the month, Bush’s approval rating was an embarrassing 25 percent.

Republicans can point to low unemployment rates under Bush, but close scrutiny exposes the truth.

In October 2006, the national unemployment rate was 4.4 percent. It bounced between 4 percent and 5 percent before preliminary signs of the economic downturn began raising levels to around 6 percent in early 2008. By October, the levels began rising rapidly, going from 6.8 to 7.8 in January 2009.

Bush somehow evades blame for the 56 percent unemployment spike over his final two years.

While unemployment is higher today than it was in early 2008, it has been trending downward. New unemployment applications, too, have been decreasing, with January’s numbers being the lowest since April 2008.  

Obama can do only so much with the feeble hand he’s been dealt. Republican opposition has been more than just a hindrance; it’s been a two-year roadblock.

Meanwhile, Bush’s dismal legacy seems to be escaping the criticism and blame it deserves, with Obama inheriting it. Exiting office, he received the second lowest approval rating since polls of the type were composed. 

Now, consider this: If your parents rack up thousands of dollars of debt throughout their lives, then pass away, should you be held at fault? Not only that, but would it be fair if you were immediately labeled a “failure” for not instantaneously paying off their bills, which matched or exceeded your annual salary? 

Gross domestic product in 2011 was roughly $14.5 trillion. Did critics really expect the Obama administration to forego all mandated expenses and commit it all to economic recovery? Even those to the far left can agree some defense spending is necessary. 

A stimulus package, albeit exorbitant and disproportionately appropriated, was a modest assuagement. 

Two wars, unemployment spikes created by the financial crisis and the housing bubble burst created a need for government spending. 

Bush also perpetuated spending for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, one of which Obama was just recently able to sever from next year’s budget.

Bush, on the other hand, inherited a $128.2 billion surplus from Clinton’s term, then turned it into a $458.6 billion deficit by the time he exited office.

Now I’m not an Obama apologist, but, similar to credit, blame is owed where it’s due.

Bush cut the red tape allowing for risky banking practices and initiated the foolish spending, and the banking executives awarded the bonuses with their recovery funds. While Obama has perpetuated the spending, a great deal of it went to salvaging the economy. 

While it appears we are worse off now when strictly looking at numbers, they are deceptive. Charts and graphs mask the explanation. Don’t fall prey to the politicians’ snare.

1 comments Alex Tue Jan 31 2012 20:43 This is article is preposterous and laughable.

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