I don’t know too many ways that we can measure all of the disputes about the current economic environment in the United States and determine who is to blame for it; but I have one very personal measurement that seems to reflect my own status, and I think it is a valid reflection of our economy in general.
When George W. Bush took office at the beginning of his second term (January 20, 2005), I already had retired. Part of my retirement package was a 401(k) account with my former employer. That account has been invested continuously in an array of mutual funds through all of these years with no deposits and no withdrawals. I think my 401(k) probably represents pretty well the status of our economy’s growth and tribulations during the last seven-and-a-half years.
On George W. Bush’s second inauguration day, the value of my 401(k) exceeded its cost basis by 4.7%. That’s nothing great, but it did show some growth had occurred through the years of ups and downs in the market. When George W. Bush left office on January 20, 2009, and Barack Obama became president, the value of my 401(k) had dropped from a positive 4.7% to a negative 21%. In other words, my retirement account had lost $1 out of every $4 during Bush’s last term. As of today, three-and-a-half years into Obama’s term, my 401(k) account has not only regained the 21% loss , but it now stands at a gain of 9%. In other words, I now have $4 in my account of every $3 I had when Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2009.
I know these results only reflect the investment environment, and I’m sure that many working people (and especially those who have lost their jobs) have faced a much different financial situation. Yet the reality is, that in spite of a hostile opposition party that has refused to take the obvious blame reflected in the losses of the second Bush administration, Barack Obama’s leadership has provided a turn-around in investors’ confidence in the future of our economy. I suspect that if we had a collegial atmosphere in Congress instead of an intransigent, uncompromising Tea-Party stalemate, we would have seen even better results in our economic progress.
I cannot in good conscience support a party or any candidates who think that they can get elected if they injure the economy and place the blame on the opposition party. In my eyes, that is “killing the goose that laid the golden egg.” Aesop recognized the fallacy; I hope the American public can as well.