Talk about timing. I started this blog in December 2008, just after Barack Obama had been elected president but before he took office. Since this is a finance blog and I was tracking things at that time, I can easily go back through the archives to see what was going on back then and compare it to now to see if the country is better off than it was back then. And I can do it impartially, although those who disagree with the president and don’t want him to win reelection will find some way to disagree anyway.

New York New York in Las Vegas
Werner Kunz via Compfight

So be it; that’s what America is all about. Anyway, with what’s chronicled on this blog in reserve, I can give you 5 reasons why America is better off now that it was 4 years ago.

1. Job losses. Yes, the unemployment rate is still very high. We’ll get to that in a minute. Back in 2008 and early 2009, this country was losing hundreds of thousands of jobs a month. There were 693,000 jobs lost in December 2008. In the last week of January there were over 100,000 jobs lost; you can’t blame that on Obama since he’d just gotten into office. And there was talk about just letting the automobile makers declare bankruptcy and lay off tens of thousands more people; it was a scary time.

Instead, there was a stimulus package and a bailout of banks and that stemmed the tide of massive layouts and gave banks a chance to get their act together. Whether it really created a bunch of jobs or just saved some is immaterial; what happened is that many businesses got a sense of peace and the high layoff rates declined drastically within six months.

2. Unemployment. Now it’s time for unemployment. In November 2008 unemployment got to 9.5%; by January it was around 10.4%. As of August 2012 unemployment nationally is around 8.1%. Now, naysayers are saying that’s because a lot of people have dropped off the rolls and aren’t looking for jobs anymore. The truth is that’s always how it’s been. The unemployment figure has always been somewhat suspect because there are always people who don’t find jobs within the time they were on unemployment, and some of that happened when there weren’t unemployment extensions. So, using the same lousy data, there’s still been an improvement of 2.3%; just the facts.

3. Bank closures. When the stimulus package to save banks went through, it was only the mega banks that got help. By the beginning of September 2009 there were 84 banks that had been closed, and many of these were large banking systems. By September 14th of 2012 there have been 41 banks that have closed. This doesn’t say that the economy is perfect, but it’s improved a lot.

4. Housing market. Back in 2009, more than 2.8 million homes were foreclosed upon. Not only that, but both Freddie Mac & Fannie Mae were booted from the NYSE. Housing prices were dropping an average of at least 50% across the country; in Florida, Arizona and California, some properties lost 75% of their value.

In 2012, foreclosures are still around but nowhere close to what they were. States that were in great distress are starting to rebound as housing prices are starting to go up, and the building of new homes has started to occur again. Sure, interest rates are still very low, but how many people are complaining about that?

Inventory is also down as home buying has scooped up a lot of what was existing out there. And one more thing; some of those people who got kicked out of their homes via foreclosures will be getting a lot of their money back because of the government working to get settlements for many of them, supposedly as many as 500,000 families. Frankly, I see that as a win.

5. Health care. Yeah, I know, this one is debatable by some people. But the reality is that by the time this thing is enacted less than 10% of people won’t have insurance, but everyone will have the ability to get insurance.

And some of the benefits have already kicked in, and there’s almost no one mad at them. Pre-existing conditions have long been a major issue for everyone (including me back in the 80’s), and the ability to help cover young people to the age of 26 has to be a godsend.

Being in health care finance, I have to say that this is a great thing for medical facilities, even if some of them are trying to scare people because no one’s really sure how reimbursements will be yet.

But bad debt will decrease, fewer people will have to declare bankruptcy because of medical debt (you did know that 61% of those that declare bankruptcy have a large medical bill that they owe, right?), the condition that insurance companies have to spend at least 82% of your premium to pay medical claims, and the government’s push towards trying to make sure frivolous tests aren’t being performed (something that was the government’s fault to begin with), there should be all sorts of savings all around.

6. Stock Market I know I said only 5 reasons but leaving this one out wouldn’t make much sense. Just before President Obama took office, the stock market was in a free fall. In January 2009, the market was in danger of falling below 6,500, and it barely missed that figure. Last Friday the Dow closed at just under 13,600, which is near the highest close in history. I’m just sayin’…

There you are, six reasons, all of them legit, none of them slanted because of party lines or politics. Still, people will believe what they want to believe, facts or not.

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