Michael Barrera: Are We Better Off?

Since 1980, when Ronald Reagan asked the American people, “are you better off than you were four years ago" question has been an important measuring stick of a sitting president’s performance.  If the same question was asked today, how would the American people respond?

Let’s look at the facts.  In January 2009, when President Obama was sworn in, gas averaged $1.84 a gallon. Four years later, the cost of gas has more than doubled to an average of $3.82 a gallon.

When it comes to jobs, the Administration and their surrogates like to brag about the “creation” of 4.3 million jobs.  However, as CNN has recently reported, they conveniently forget to tell the American people about the 4 million jobs that were lost and that the private sector has only created a net 300,000 jobs since 2009.

Moreover, the unemployment rate has been stuck at near 8.3% for more than 40 straight months and there are now 23 million Americans who can’t find a full-time job or any job at all.  Adding insult to injury, the unemployment rate for Hispanics has remained consistently above the national average and is currently at a staggering 10.3%.

The most disturbing numbers are the poverty figures.  The USDA recently released a report stating there are now over 46 million people who receive food stamps, an increase from 31 million people in January 2009.  This is an astronomical 46% increase.

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Additionally, 1 out of 6 Americans live in poverty with more than 1 out of 4 (26%) Hispanics living in poverty, including, six  million Latino children.

We have also seen a significant decrease in the number of American small businesses.  According to the U.S. Census, close to 300,000 small businesses have closed shop in the last few years adding up to a loss of 3 million jobs.

Americans have also seen a sharp increase in debt and regulations coming from Washington.   As the Democrats celebrated the beginning of their convention, the U.S. debt hit $16 trillion, a 50% increase since the beginning of 2009. Our nation’s debt has now surpassed 100% of the economy and in the next five years the interest alone will cost over $1.5 trillion. In other words, this burden of debt costs each American over $51,000 and close to $140,000 per family.

In addition to debt, onerous regulations have exploded.  During President Bush’s second term the Small Business Administration (SBA) reported that federal regulations cost small business owners over $7,000 per year, per employee, in time and money. Currently, the SBA reports that federal regulations cost small businesses over $10,000 per year, per employee, a 30% increase.  Additionally, there are now close to 170,000 pages of red tape that all Americans must meet in order to comply with federal laws.  The number of pages will only increase once the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is completely implemented.

Speaking of the ACA, a recent poll found that close to 1 in 10 businesses say they will drop their health care coverage for employees due to the cost and complexity of the President’s health care act.

The foregoing numbers have not only hurt America domestically but internationally as well.  For the first time in our history America’s credit rating was downgraded.  Additionally, the World Economic Forum reports that the U.S. fell for the 4th straight year in the global competitiveness index dropping from 5th to 7thlast year.

These facts are more than just pure statistics.

These are human stories.  Americans today pay a lot more for groceries, energy bills, commuting to work, driving their children to school or to a soccer game. Travel and vacations for many across the country have become a thing of the past.

To put it simply, rising energy costs raises the cost of everything else.

Washington’s debt is the biggest threat to our economy that will lead to less money in the economy, higher interest rates and a potential recession that will further exacerbate unemployment and poverty rates.

It wasn’t long ago that Hispanics and all Americans were accustomed to celebrating the news of a friend or family member getting a new job or receiving a well-earned raise.  We now live in an America where many people live in fear of getting laid off or settle for a job they are overqualified for just to survive.  Our parents or grandparents didn’t risk moving to America in order for us to live like this.  We deserve leadership, not blame-game politics.

Americans deserve to fulfill our parent’s dream that the next generation would do better than the previous one.  We deserve better than what we have had to live with for the past four years.

So, are we better off? My answer is no.