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.

Waiting and Watching

Around 9:00 last night, I got sucked in to watching C-SPAN of all channels. And yes, I was watching the Health Care “Debate” — if you can call that circus a debate.

I am a supporter of national health care and, frankly, I think this particular round of legislation is a pale shadow of what health care should be in the wealthiest industrialized nation on this green earth.  But putting that aside, my great hope is that the minimal protection provided by the Bill will prevent such health insurance financial fiascoes as happened in my family being thrust on another.

My suspicions are that this debate was not so much about health care as it was about other changes that some factions — loud ones as it turns out — cannot tolerate.  I felt ashamed and mortified that grown adults lobbed disgusting epithets in the direction of Representative Lewis and Representative Frank. What is wrong with us that we can’t have a civilized disagreement? That once a vote has been taken, those of the opposing opinion cannot accept what the majority has decided.

Last night’s vote was mesmerizing. But now there is more to come with the Senate debate. Will there be less acrimony? Doubtful. And what happens from here, no one can know for certain.