Are We Asking The Right Question About Four Years When Looking At The Presidential Election?

One of the themes of the election has been around the question “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”  If I’m correct, I believe that this was started by Ronald Reagan when he attempted (successfully) to oust then-President Jimmy Carter from office.  In the current election, Mitt Romney has used this for the same reason, trying to oust the incumbent president from office.

Regardless of what your answer is, it occurs to me that we’re asking the wrong question.  The question you really need to be asking yourself does not pertain to the past four years, but instead on what you think will happen over the next four years.

We aren’t electing a president to lead our country for the past four years, we’re electing a president to lead for the next four years, and those are the years people should be asking about.

I think you have to look at it just as you do a mutual fund or any other type of investment where there is always a warning along the lines of:  Past Performance Is Not Indicative of Future Results.

If I were to look at answering the question as to whether I’m better off, here are some of the things I’d look at, but also how it plays into whether it would tie into a presidential vote:

  • Making roughly the same income – Worse. I think we’ve gotten one raise over the past four years.  Would a stronger economy have helped push this along?  Perhaps.
  • Welcomed two beautiful children into our world – Better. Four years ago, we just found out we were going to be parents.  Now, we have two beautiful children.  Though this changes our lives, what does it have to do with the president? Nothing.
  • Net worth – Ah, this has to tell something, right?  Well, not so fast.  Our overall net worth is higher than what it was in 2008.  Most of this is from the stock market recovering most of its losses from the big crashes that took place that fall.  But, I doubt whether the outcome would have been different had McCain been elected.  Everything else is just as it would have been otherwise as they tie into saving, spending, etc. which would have taken place no matter what.

Personally, looking at what the areas where I might judge better or worse off tells me nothing as to who I should vote for in the upcoming election.  Instead, I will spend the next few weeks looking at what I believe from each candidates rhetoric and use that as my basis for whom I cast my vote.  Unfortunately, early returns aren’t looking good for either of the two big candidates as this is probably the first presidential election since I’ve turned 18 in which both candidates seem more unqualified for the job than they do qualified.

Do you think the question of whether you’re better off than four years ago applies on Election Day?

13 thoughts on “Are We Asking The Right Question About Four Years When Looking At The Presidential Election?”

  1. I think it does, but only to a slight and certain degree and not as much as Romney would have us think. It can be useful to look at it from a leadership perspective, but in the end the past four years is history. We need to know how each is going to deal with what’s going on now and how they’ll handle future events.

  2. That question doesn’t apply to me. My personal standing is anecdotal at best and may not reflect what a president has done for the masses. Plus I think voters apply this question too much. Presidents have little–if any–control over the economy. They have even less control on gas prices, something voters seem to think changes when the president pushes a button (I’m exaggerating). Yes they’re powerful, but they’re not all-powerful.

    It’s tough, but voters to need to ask what a president is going to do for them and for the greater good.

    -Christian L. @ Smart Military Money

  3. I think you touched on this in the ‘net worth’ section, but an even better question is “would we have been better under _____ alternative?”. As a follow on, would that alternative have set us up for even better gains over the next 4 years?

    I think you need to judge people on their relative merits more than absolute.

  4. “which both candidates seem more unqualified for the job than they do qualified.” – Many people in Canada are saying the same thing esp. since our economy fluctuates somewhat when the US one does.

  5. I think the president can affect things like jobs and the economy, but not in four years. I think when we look at our elections we should think about the very long term. Our politicians just want us to focus on the short term because it is easy to convince people that a politician has that much influence.

    • That’s the most frustrating thing about politics is that after getting re-elected, the candidates spend just as much time thinking about getting re-elected as they do actually doing the job for which they were elected to do!

  6. I think you are right, we are asking the wrong question. Politics has become distorted with lies. Everything need fact checking by a non partisan organization. Neither candidate presents ttheir skills very well. Again, I have a choice between which one will harm me the least.

  7. You’re right about the past being the past. Both seem unqualified. We’re almost left with having to choose the lesser of two evils.

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