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Are You Better Off?

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Remember four years ago?

Q3 2008: GDP -3.7%
Q4 2008: GDP -8.9%
Q1 2009: GDP -5.3%

The country and the world were in the midst of a massive global economic crisis the likes of which the planet hadn't seen in some 80 years. Q4 2008 on its own was the second worse quarterly contraction in recorded history (quarterly GDP data goes back to 1947). There was a very real chance the global economy would go completely off the rails, touching off a repeat of the Great Depression of the 1930s. The chance of that didn't fully lift until the spring of 2009.

Remember this chart?

In Q3 2008, the US economy shed a net 967,000 jobs. In Q4 the number was 1,801,000. Almost a million more (net) jobs were lost in January 2009.

That was four years ago. The facts speak for themselves. The operative political question President Obama has to tackle is whether, three and a half years on, things shouldn't have improved a good deal more than they have. That is likely the question the election will turn on. But if you're asking, are we better off now than four years ago, the facts are clear.

And it wasn't that long ago. People remember.