Are We Better Off?

'From Recession to Success, There Are No Easy Steps'


'From Recession to Success, There Are No Easy Steps'

Photograph by Matt Mawson/Getty Images

As part of our special Election Issue, we’re asking Bloomberg Businessweek readers to tell us: are we better off than we were four years ago?

Submit your story on Facebook or through our Tumblr, or leave your response in the comments section. We’ll feature our favorites in future posts in this blog.

Annette Daley, student:

“I have a chronic illness and am disabled. Thanks to the Obama administration, I have been able to secure health insurance and fulfill my dream of completing my Bachelor’s degree thanks to the increase in student Pell grants. Thanks Obama and to Bloomberg Businessweek for highlighting this story—that took guts!”

On Facebook, recent graduate Anthony Harmon:

“I graduated from college in May this year with a BS in Accounting and in Business Administration. I’ve looked for a job in three major regions within the state of North Carolina, and I’ve applied for jobs in adjacent states as well.

No one is hiring. They have jobs posted, but they also have 500 other people applying for them. Everyday I notice that the amount of new jobs that they post are slowly dwindling.

No. I am NOT better off, although I SHOULD be better off because I have degrees.”

Reader mined-overmatter:

“From Recession to Success, There Are No Easy Steps

When one door closes, another one opens. That which does not kill you makes you stronger.

These and a dozen other platitudes and pick-me-ups were uttered from the mouths of well-meaning family and friends when the recession caught up with me in early 2009. A magazine editor with an electronics trade pub, I was laid off in February of that year from an already bare-bones staff after 10 years of writing, editing, traveling, and generally making the magazine sound good in the ears of its 100,000+ readers.

I was scared. This wasn’t like the last time, in 1996, when I was still living at home, still going out with my friends and partying, and still dodging responsibility. This time, I had a wife, a rent, car payments, vet bills, and all the other things that come part and parcel with, dare I say, maturity.

I quickly filed for unemployment benefits, deposited my final check, and fired off e-mails and phone calls to all the contacts and friends I had made during my career. Now they knew my job status, and they knew I was out there, looking. I felt good. People I had worked with had an eye out for me, and some actually came up with solid leads that led to good-paying freelance work.

By May, three months later, I had enough freelance work to stop collecting unemployment. And by July of that year, I was contacted by the HR person of a software developer who had found my resume on an online job site. “Wow,” I thought, “those things do work.”

For eight months, I was involved with two major freelance projects in Manhattan, and doing really well financially. I was able to pay down some of my debt, and aside from finding a job, that became my main focus. It felt so good watching credit cards fall by the wayside, with zero-dollar balances and such.

Finally, in March 2010, the software company offered me a full-time position. My official starting date was on my 39th birthday, and I’ve been here ever since. I’ve made great friends here, get to hang out in NYC, and get to do work that really engages and pushes my skills. Plus, when all is said and done, I’ve effectively doubled what I was making at the Long Island-based trade magazine.

But it hasn’t been all great: I still have a two-hour door-to-door commute on the Long Island Rail Road to deal with.

I know my story is an anomaly for these times, but it does happen.”

Reader Tyler Tobin:

“Personally, I have less money saved then I did 4 years ago. So, I would say that I am worse off. I worry about my long term goals and plans. Will my hard work pay off to live a comfortable life? I do not know and that is VERY concerning. Living in Montana limits me to know what actually is happening in other parts of the country. I know people have it much harder and far worse which is unfortunate and things don’t seem to really be changing. However, I could be wrong. I am simply going off of the information I have in front of me. The media, in my mind, has become an inefficient animal that mis-informs people on what is important and accurate. It seems as though the United States needs a major overhaul on many things. The bureaucratic red tape could likely stretch from here to the moon and I wish our elected officials would come together on several issues for the betterment of society.”

Farzaneh Faalzadeh:

“Obama pluses in a nutshell: Delivered the security of affordable health care to every single American in every corner of this country after 90 years of trying. Brought Osama bin Laden to justice. Ended the war in Iraq, and is ending the war in Afghanistan. Ended “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Made equal pay for equal work the law of the land. Respects the rights of women voters. Saved the American auto industry from extinction. Added 5 million private sector jobs to bring unemployment below 8%. In short, I think this guy should keep his job. Yes, we are better off than 4 years ago. Let’s go forward, not backward!”

Sandra Wrenn, retiree:

“I am better off. My investments have recovered, my prescriptions cost less, I have great medical care on Medicare and no other coverage, my four children are employed, my youngest just got a Pell grant, I pay my taxes and expect to for several years as I use 401 K plan money and have to pay taxes. I am proud of my family and I do not agree with the GOP. I care about all of us in this country and will support President Obama.”

Reader Jace Loggins:

“Yes. At the small company for which I work, we’ve added 10 jobs in the last 6 months. That puts us at more employees than we had 4 years ago.

My boss is a hardcore Obama hater, so I’m sure he’s perplexed and confused as to how to explain why.

Plus my mortgage rate has gone down. My paycheck up because of a tax cut. My 401K and IRA have increased at crazy yields, even accounting for the money I’d put in.

How much does Obama have to do with this? Who knows… but I’m not going to go back to tax cuts for the rich, outrageous defense spending, and saber-rattling foreign policy that will most likely lead to unnecessary and costly military intervention.

I don’t like Romney’s ideas or what he says, but as I’ve noticed over the last 10 years in his career of running for president, I should just wait a few weeks: his position will most likely change.”

Are we better off? Submit your story on Facebook, through our Tumblr, or leave your response in the comments section. We’ll feature our favorites in future posts in this blog.

Keller is director of social media for Bloomberg News and Bloomberg Businessweek.

Steve Ballmer, Power Forward
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