For months now Mitt Romney has been asking the question “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” The insinuation is that the choices Barack Obama made over the past four years have been the wrong choices.
Ignoring the fact that Mitt Romney has never offered an alternative course to prosperity other than cutting taxes, just like Barack Obama did, there is a major problem with this question. It provides almost no context.
Unfortunately we can neither prove nor disprove the implication that had Mitt Romney been president the recovery would have been more swift and robust. But even if a Romney recovery had been better, there are plenty of people who would still not be better off today than they were four years ago, and this anecdote would still apply.
According to a report by The Guardian the U.S. experienced a recession that was twice as large as any recession since the great Depression.
This means if you really want to analyze the success or failure of the Obama recovery you shouldn’t compare it to some mythological Romney recovery. You should compare it to other countries and how they have performed under similar circumstances with different tactics.
With this in mind, it should be noted that since Barack Obama assumed office, the United States has experienced greater GDP growth than Austria, Germany, Greece, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Norway, Portugal, Belgium, Bulgaria, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Luxembourg and Malta.
And while the U.S. has experienced a drop in the unemployment rate, many countries have seen their unemployment rate increase over the last four years, including the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Cyprus, Spain, Greece, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Belgium, Bulgaria, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and the Czech Republic. With others seeing a downward trend that mirrors the U.S., such as Austria, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Malta, New Zealand and Latvia.
Additionally the U.S. stock market was one of the only exchanges in the world that fully recovered to above prerecession numbers, outpacing China, Russia, India, Hong Kong, Australia, Sweden, Switzerland, New Zealand, Denmark, Taiwan, Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Norway, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Finland, Greece, Ireland and Austria.
If should also be noted that the current recovery compares favorably to other recessions and subsequent recoveries in the U.S. and other countries.
So are you better off than you were four years ago? Maybe, maybe not. But if you live in America, odds are you are surviving the global financial crisis better than most. Because time after time, America outperforms the rest of the world and our current recovery under Barack Obama is no exception.