Am I Better Off?

If you listen to the pundits, the coming presidential election is boiled down to a single question: Am I better off today than I was 4 years ago?

I think it’s more complicated than a “yes” or “no”.

Certainly my family’s monetary worth is not better, however, I do not blame presidential policy for this. The damages were done long before the 2008 election.

Speaking of my own income, compensation has not increased much over the last several years. After 4 years of Mitt Romney gutting Massachusetts education funding (through state aid, etc.), there were and are draconian cuts to local school budgets. At one point in the last contract negotiations, a school committee negotiating member proposed a NEGATIVE raise. Several years lapsed with either a 0% raise or without a new contract, effectively a 0% raise as teachers worked at salary levels negotiated 1, 2 or more years earlier.

But that’s only the obvious. As school budgets were cut and personnel essential to supporting students disappeared, every line item was slashed. That includes supplies – supplies that teachers need to implement the very curriculum that we are held accountable for. Does this sound like Catch 22? The materials had to be procured somehow; guess where the funding came from? If you said out of my personal money, you would be on target.

In the last year, I’ve seen some improvement to school funding. There is a price to be paid for that – some of that policy I disagree with – but some positions have been restored. And for this change, I can say I am better off. Not restored to what things should be as there is much work to be done – but the fiscal improvements toward funding education are a step in the right direction.

My opinion is that the state of our country’s fiscal health was well-hidden by the previous administration.  The recovery process is only in its beginnings; the US economy – tied as it is to world economy and coming from a state of near collapse 4 years ago – is going to need a long recovery.

A simple yes or no answer to “Am I better off” really isn’t that helpful.

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