In the final 1980 presidential debate, Ronald Reagan famously ended with a question to the American public: are you better off now than you were four years ago?

The folks at the Center for Economic and Policy research wondered, what would our answer be today? So they pulled together a whole range of economic indicators and compared today’s numbers with the numbers from eight years ago, at the beginning of the Bush administration.

The results are … striking. Check it out:

Economic Indicator 2000 2008
Unemployment rate Image4.0% 6.1%
Inflation rate Image3.3% 5.4%
Job Growth (preceding 8 years)
  Total nonfarm employment Image21.4% 4.3%
   Private sector employment Image23.6% 3.6%
  Manufacturing employment Image2.9% -22.2%
Employment rate (% of population)
  All, age 16 and older Image64.4% 62.6%
  Men, age 16 and older Image71.9% 69.1%
  Women, age 16 and older Image57.5% 56.5%
  Real wage growth (preceding 8 years) Image8.2% 1.8%
  Minimum wage (July 2008$) Image$6.58 $6.55
Family income
  Median, 2007$ $61,083 Image$61,355
  Growth (preceding 8 years) Image14.7% 0.4%
Poverty
  Rate (% of population)  Image11.3% 12.5%
  People in poverty (millions)  Image31.6  37.3
Uninsured (health insurance)    
  Rate (% of population)  Image14.0%  15.3%
  People without insurance  (millions)  Image38.7 45.7
Personal savings (% of disposable income)  Image2.3% 0.6%
College tuition (average per year, 2007$)    
  Private four-year college  Image$19,337  $23,712
  Public four-year college  Image$4,221 $6,185
Gasoline (gallon, 2008$)  Image$2.03 $4.09
GDP growth (preceding 8 years)  Image34.2% 19.6%
Productivity growth (preceding 8 years)  15.9% Image21.9% 
Trade balance (% of GDP)  Image-3.9%  -5.1%
Federal debt (% of GDP)  Image57.3% 65.5%
Net foreign debt (% of GDP)  Image13.6% 17.9%

It’s going to take more than a $700 billion blank check to Treasury to fix this. We need a new source of jobs and growth.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Hm … if only I could think of one!