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Blogger Better Off Than Four Years Ago; How About South Dakota?

Dr. Blanchard notes Team Obama's difficulty in addressing the old campaign question, "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" That may not be the right question. It may be an incompetent question. Paul Krugman suggests that, after the cliff dive the economy performed in 2008 and the first half of 2009, the proper question is "Would a Republican President have done better?"

But I'm curious: how might we answer that question in South Dakota?

First, let me give a purely anecdotal answer: yes, I am better off than I was four years ago. My primary salary is 12% higher. I have a better, more enjoyable, more satisfying job doing greater service for the people of South Dakota. My blog traffic is up 370%, and I have more advertisers. I have a more reliable and fuel-efficient automobile with a CD player. I have better access to groceries and entertainment. I can bike and run in the Black Hills on a daily basis. My daughter is completely potty-trained and can read.

How many of those improvements did President Barack Obama make happen? None. But I'm just answering the Republican question, and they aren't asking us to think hard past correlation to causation.

But what about South Dakota in general? Let's look at the most recent statistics available for certain economic indicators (italics for arguable negatives, plain for positives):

  • Population (July 2007 to July 2011): up 4.1%.
  • Unemployment (July 2008 to July 2012): up 1.3 percentage points.
  • Number of jobs: down 1.1%.
  • Available workforce: up 0.25%.
  • State GDP (2007 to 2011): up 15%.
  • Quarterly personal income (2008 Q1 to 2012 Q1): up 8.3%.
  • Per capita personal income (2007 to 2011): up 12.4%.
  • Gasoline price (Sioux Falls, Labor Day 2008 to Labor Day 2012): up 3%.

So how are you doing, South Dakota? I welcome further anecdotes and sourced statistics, as well as explanations of how those changes relate to our President and how we should vote in November.


  1. Michael Black 2012.09.04

    Imagine how much better off you might be financially if you would've finished that doctorate dissertation.

  2. amanda 2012.09.04

    We are absolutely better off than we were four years ago. I have doubled (yes, doubled) my income, gotten married, bought our first home, and have the most adorable baby boy one could ask for. Sure, life kicks me in the teeth sometimes, but overall, I'm happier, healthier and just a bit wiser than I was those short four years ago.

  3. Bill Fleming 2012.09.04

    Better. Much better. Some of it is even due to Obama.

    I've been trying to think of an apt visual for this Cory. Four years ago, we as a nation were hanging off the edge of a 2500 foot cliff with one hand.

    Today, we're back on solid ground, have move backed from the precipice, and have started the bridge repairs.

    We should finish the job, and meanwhile, take the car keys away from the vandals who blew up the bridge.

  4. Rorschach 2012.09.04

    Good mixed mataphor Bill! Speaking of car keys, I got a great deal on a new American-made car in the program commonly known as cash for clunkers, while getting rid of my worn out gas guzzler. I am better off than 4 years ago in a number of ways.

    But I like the question, "Would a Republican President have done better?" We will never know, but with John McCain as President I highly doubt it. President Obama has done the best he could do given the political realities in Congress.

  5. Bill Fleming 2012.09.04

    R, if you watched John McCain's speech at the GOP convention, you have your answer. We would be involved in at least 5 wars right now.

  6. Rorschach 2012.09.04

    Does the GOP's war on women count?

  7. Jana 2012.09.04

    Rorschach, given the gender bet the war on women counts!

  8. Dougal 2012.09.04

    Mitt Romney opposes Obama’s plan to remove the costly Bush tax cuts to those making more than $250,000 because Mitt doesn’t know anybody who makes less than $250,000 each year. He thinks a $250,000 income IS middle class!

    As to your question, Cory, my household income improved dramatically under Obama. We were a $75,000 per year household and now we’re at the $172,000 level. My parents saved for retirement and do well with Social Security and Medicare. My in-laws live on his teacher’s retirement plan plus Social Security and Medicare and live comfortably in a small town. Thank you President Obama!

    My siblings and their children are doing well. My children are doing well despite challenges in the recovery from Cheney/Bush’s parting gift, known to us all as the Great Recession, two wars and Osama bin Laden running loose and unchallenged. And since the GOP likes pinning blame on anything that happens during a president’s watch, I think they would strongly agree that the events of 9/11 are entirely the result of Cheney/Bush’s negligence. Right?

    President Obama doesn’t have a remotely similar list of failures, starting with Cheney/Bush’s 9/11 disaster and ending with The Great Recession, Katrina snafus and the mortgage collapse, to apologize for.

    If there is anything I am disappointed with was all the time Obama wasted playing nice with the jerks in the Republican Congress when they made it clear since he took office that they would obstruct every attempt he makes to recover from their Great Recession. He should have taken the case to the people right away and steamrolled the creeps, just as Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Harry Truman did.

  9. Jana 2012.09.04

    But Bill, looking past the "Bomb-Bomb-Bomb Iran" candidate...just think we would have had Sarah Palin one heartbeat away from the most powerful office on the planet. (Ewww...that gave me shivers just to think of it.)

  10. South DaCola 2012.09.04

    Oh, the old bait and switch campaign of the GOP. Make sure everything is going badly by voting against bills that would help repair our nation. Like single-payer healthcare, bank regulations, and tax hikes for the rich. The Republicans have done nothing and have offered nothing to help get this country back on the right track. They know Obama inherited a turd from GW but they are in denial.

    Has Obama been a great president? Not really, but compared to the alternative, he is the second coming of Christ or at least sliced bread.

  11. Erika 2012.09.04

    As for my family, we are without a doubt doing better than we were four years ago when due to a family crisis and the economy crashing we found it necessary to "batten down the hatches". My husband does freelance work and because of the economy we saw an immediate and steep decline in billable hours so we eliminated all unnecessary expenditures like our health club membership, various lessons, dining out, entertainment, etc.

    Four years later and his billing time is up and, on some days, beyond what it was, we're back at the gym, the kids are back in various lessons, and we're dining out again (supporting local restaurants!).

    One of my biggest concerns now is wondering what education will look like for my kids in the years ahead.

  12. Donald Pay 2012.09.04

    My own situation is much better. Here in Wisconsin where we've had severe economic problems due to Governor Walker's incompetence. If we had had a Democratic Governor this state would be gaining jobs, not losing them.

  13. Bill Fleming 2012.09.04

    Jana, bite your tongue.

  14. Troy 2012.09.04

    I guess if it is all about you, these stories mean something.

    For 23 million under-employed or unemployed, not so much.

    For those concerned that the national debt has grown from $90,000 per household to $136,000, not so much.

  15. Dougal 2012.09.04

    How much money did South Dakota take from ARRA? I believe the Republican legislature and governor drooled with gratitude when they dug in and spent the money. They weren't happy? Really! Did they think going bankrupt was a better alternative? Why did they take the money?

    You'd think they would have sent a thank you card.

  16. Rorschach 2012.09.04

    Troy, I don't understand. Does the GOP care about the deficit or not? When they were in charge they created the Medicare prescription drug benefit without paying for it, and banned the federal government from even negotiating drug prices. The GOP started 2 wars off-budget and instead of raising taxes to pay for them they cut taxes. The GOP is still pushing for lower taxes, and hasn't proposed a balanced budget. So GOP rhetoric doesn't match GOP actions. If the GOP were seriously trying to solve this problem, party leaders would acknowledge the need to both cut spending and raise taxes, but they don't do this. So I cannot help but conclude that the GOP is more interested in demagoguery than in real solutions. I say when GOP leadership grows up they can join Democrats at the adult table and talk seriously about balancing the budget through a combination of cuts and tax increases.

  17. Bill Fleming 2012.09.04

    Troy, yes the question is a selfish one. That's the way Reagan posed it. You're starting to sound like a socialist, brother. LOL. But either way you look at it, we are in far better shape than we were 4 years ago. Four years ago, the whole country had a (fiscal) gun to its head. The country was hemorrhaging over 500,000 jobs a month with no end in sight. The stock market was in the tank, all the big banks about go belly up, the auto industry ready to fold... Come on. It's better now. Admit it. Romney did.

    The clincher:

    When Laura Ingraham asks Romney if it is hard argument to make that 'Obama is making the economy better, but vote for me,' Romney says 'Do you have a better one Laura?'

  18. grudznick 2012.09.04

    I am older fatter poorer in worse health grumpier and closer to death than I was 4 years ago. I have been getting pretty good breakfasts lately, but I don't credit that to the Obama and it seems like more of my things have been taken away.

  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.09.04

    We are all closer to death, Grudz; the Second Law of Thermodynamics marches on independent of politics.

    Crises and failures—that reminds me, Dougal: whatever happened to the McCain backers who were warning ominously in 2008 that an Obama election guaranteed we'd see civil unrest and more terrorist attacks?

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.09.04

    Erika, I'm glad to hear your husband is getting more billable hours! If I may ask, is the boost coming from any particular industry or region?

  21. Owen Reitzel 2012.09.04

    I'm getting laid off at the end of October and I haven't been able to find a new job so I guess I'm worse off then 4 years ago. But I don't blame Obama. It's the atmosphere set up by Bush and extended by the obsructionist Republicans in Congress that have caused the problems I have plus the greed that permiates coporate America.
    I think the independents have to realize that the Republicans only goal is to keep Obama from a second tewrm and they'll tank the economy to do it.

  22. Stan Gibilisco 2012.09.04

    My economic situation has deteriorated in the past four years. But it doesn't have anything to do with President Obama.

  23. Stan Gibilisco 2012.09.04

    Oh, and a Republican would, in my opinion, have done worse.

  24. Rorschach 2012.09.04

    Is Romney better off than he was 4 years ago? Ha! This is too easy. I think I just wrote President Obama's first debate stinger. "We know you're better off now than 4 years ago."

  25. Erika 2012.09.05

    Troy, we were asked about our own situation so that is how most of us responded.

    Cory, he has a variety of clients, but the greatest increase or "return to normal" has come from those who are manufacturers of products used in residential and commercial construction in both local and national markets.

  26. Steve Sibson 2012.09.05

    The more important question:

    Do you think your children and grandchildren will be better off with trillions more debt in 4 years, 14 years, 40 years?

  27. Justin 2012.09.05

    What a joke Steve

  28. Justin 2012.09.05

    Coming from a party supporting massive revenue cuts that won't even consider trimming our military budget to the levels the Joint Chiefs want.

  29. Steve Sibson 2012.09.05

    Justin, both parties have worked and continue to work to buy votes with your children's money. This is a bipartisan issue. I for one do not want the rich or anyone else to support a bigger governemnt. Know any rich Democrats Justin? May I introduce you (poetically) to George Soros?

  30. Justin 2012.09.05

    So now this is about PACs? You don't have much of an argument there either, the vast majority of PAC money is going to reduce tax rates, damn the consequences.

    The GOP is the deficit party. When given the choice to cut the deficit between raising taxes and cutting spending or both, they almost always choose cutting taxes and raising spending.

  31. Douglas Wiken 2012.09.05

    On CBS Morning blather a few days ago, somebody said the GOP Convention and Ryan are all about feelings and the Democratic case is all about facts and data.

    The GOP is all about imaginary sizzle and the Democratic Party is all about real steak and families bringing home the bacon. Families don't want trickle-down on their bacon.

  32. Steve Sibson 2012.09.06

    Justin, have you bought license plates lately? Do you pay property taxes? And this state is lead by the GOP. Both parties want bigger government. Daugaard's economic development main goal is to raise tax revenues.

  33. Justin 2012.09.06

    Of course I pay both. And it is a fraction of what it has cost me any other place I have lived in the U.S.

    That has nothing to do with the GOP economic plan to cut the deficit by decreasing revenue and spending more on military than the generals asked for.

    Did you see the poem dedicated to you by Q? It is fun.

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