Opinion: Are you better off now than you were four years ago?

Ava Gallagher

GOP Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan hope to sway voters who may still be on the fence.

During Mitt Romney’s Republican National Convention speech, he asked the audience, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” But for most Americans, this question requires more than a simple yes-no answer.

There has been significant progress in many respects in the last four years, but many Americans are still left thinking about the change that President Obama promised. Most of us wish that there was more to show for it. One of the greatest things President Obama did was pass the Affordable Care Act, which will undoubtedly provide better health care for U.S. citizens. Unfortunately, not enough people truly know what it entails. All they know is that the Republican Party claims that taxes will be raised to pay for it. People don’t know that they will never reach a lifetime cap on insurance, or that they will never be denied coverage if they have a pre-existing condition. People don’t know that emergency rooms across the nation will no longer be jammed with people who should have seen doctors long ago, and that ERs can now be devoted to emergencies.

However, despite 30 consecutive months of private sector job growth, the economic free-fall endured at the beginning of Obama’s presidency – which was mostly out of his control – has made our economy far weaker than it should be. The unemployment rate sits at 8.3%, which is much higher than the 6.1% that it was at when Obama took office in 2009. The national deficit has also increased by almost $5 trillion since President Obama was sworn in. Granted, he had to spend large amounts of money on stimulus plans and bailouts to help revive the economy after the worst recession since the 1930s, but a $5 trillion increase spells disaster for many Americans. In order for the deficit to be reduced now, taxes must be increased across the board and spending must be cut. The federal budget is already too small to finance all of the projects that benefit the people, so what gets cut? Unfortunately, nobody knows. President Obama has not explained what he would do to help decrease the deficit besides taxation.

This year at the Democratic National Convention, instead of explaining Obamacare and spelling out a plan to decrease the deficit (among other things) Mr. Obama instead chose to identify with the people. It worked well, but an approach more rooted in policy is needed. Earlier, Mr. Romney undoubtedly gained supporters with his rousing speech that implored Americans to reflect on the last four years. Many Americans would, after reflecting, decide to vote against Obama. Yet during his speech, Obama begged those Americans to stick with the course and believe in the slow but sure re-growth of America.

Is it too late for that? Just as in the last presidential election, the people are pining for change. They want a bold statement from a bold person who promises to turn America around and place her back atop the world. Romney’s speech didn’t exactly express that, but neither did Obama’s. And with the past four years as a track record, Obama needed that bold statement much more than Romney did.