Ronald Reagan made famous the question “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” The Washington Post (we know, we’re shocked too) has delivered yet another piece of evidence suggesting that Americans are not better off than they were four years ago – our incomes have fallen nationally and, specifically, in Colorado. The chart below outlines swing state income decreases.
From the end of 2008 through the end of 2011, Coloradans lost $4,333 in yearly income. The median income in Colorado is $55,387, as of the end of 2011. This means that Coloradans lost approximately 8% in income over the last nearly four years. It could be worse, we could be Nevada. At the end of 2008, the median income was $58,833, and plummeted to $48,927 by the end of 2011. (And, that includes the raises Las Vegas mogul Steve Wynn gave his employees.) That is an incredible 17% loss (or, a nearly $10,000 loss ) in income for Nevadans.
While Colorado’s numbers are poor and Nevada’s numbers are just appalling, the United States as a whole hasn’t fared quite as badly. At the end of 2008, the median income, nationally, was $54,197. At the end of 2011, it was just $50,502. This loss represents a 7% or $3,695 in income.
For Coloradans, that 8% translates to decreased savings. It’s recommended that one saves at least 10% of income (and maybe more), which means that Coloradans’ personal savings are nearly entirely wiped out. Good thing social security is solvent for retirement. Oh…. Right.
Or, perhaps, $4,333 is the cost for a child to attend a private grade school in Denver. In Denver, the graduation rate for high school students is just 56%. The ability to remove a child from a failing school can make a huge difference in an at-risk child’s life.
But, this is what happens when the economy crumbles. It not only saps money from families’ pockets, but also opportunity and financial security.
It all comes back to the question – are you better off than you were four years ago? Again, even the Washington Post, bastion of liberal ideology that it is, thinks perhaps not.
So, just for fun, let’s revisit Reagan’s iconic speech asking if we’re better off than we were four years ago. His words could have been spoken yesterday, and described the perilous situation we are in today. Let’s hope that the past few years of economic misery will be followed by economic prosperity akin to the 1980s.