August 7, 2012

My Point Is...Are you better off than four years ago?

By Nita Johnson
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — As television news broadcasts consistently post current rankings of Presidential candidates Barrack Obama and Mitt Romney, the question that usually surfaces regarding political campaigns is “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”

After careful deliberation and some Internet research, it was somewhat alarming to realize the situation our current President faced during his first year in office.

Taking the helm of the United States in 2008, Obama was faced with an economic crisis which reflect the highest gas and commodity prices in our nation’s history. Kentucky reflected gas prices ranging between $4.69 to $4.87 per gallon that Sept-ember.

Milk had record-high prices in 2007 and 2008, reaching $3.19 per gallon for 2 percent milk and as high as $6 per gallon for organic milk. Regular whole homogenized milk ranged from $3.49 to more than $4 per gallon.

Bread products also saw record high prices, with prices for a loaf of bread ranging between $1.60 to $3.70.

Unemployment rates continued to rise during 2007 and 2008, with Kentucky’s unemployment rate increasing from 5.5 percent to a then-record high level of 6.4 in 2007. But the worst was yet to come when Kentucky’s annual rate during 2008 with Kentucky reached 7.8 percent by December of that year. Laurel County itself saw a rise in unemployment during this time frame, up 2.4 percent from the last quarter of 2008 through the last  quarter of 2009. Statewide, Kentucky’s unemployment statistics showed steady increases from 5.5 percent to 6.4 percent in 2007.

A news release from the Kentucky Farm Bureau in October 2008 said food prices were up for the third quarter of 2008 at 1.8 percent although the statewide food index reflected prices more than 15 percent above the previous year’s levels. Reasons for the continual increase were attributed to rising costs for energy, labor and raw products.

The survey done by Farm Bureau showed the costs of 40 basic grocery items had increased by $2.06 from July until October. Of the items compared during this time, 21 products had increased in price and 18 decreased from July’s numbers. Only bacon remained at the same price between July and October 2008, although that price has soared since then.

The costs of beef skyrocketed during 2008 — a one-pound rib-eye steak jumped from $1.01 to $9.90, roll sausage rose from $1.03 to $5.15 for a two-pound package, T-bone steaks went up 64 cents to sell for $10.05 a pound and a 10-pound bag of potatoes sold for $5.78, up 49 cents.

While we cannot blame all these incidents upon our current President Barrack Obama, we can question why our federal government — regardless of which political party is in charge — cannot exercise some sort of control over prices that threaten the well-being of its citizens. I remember well when gas rationing was imposed during the early 1970s, and prices did not run amuck in those pre-technology days by rising 20-plus cents per day as we experience now.

Every administration has challenges and the economic crisis we still experience and recover from can be traced back to prior administrations far beyond George W. Bush. Even states have their own economic crises to deal with — most frequently the mandated furlough to our court system that penalizes its non-elected workers of three days’ pay to balance the budget while it continues to pay elected court officials for a day in which they cannot work due to their employees having to take the unpaid day. Although the state may ‘save’ money with the hundreds of everyday workers living without their pay, why shouldn’t the elected officials — whose salary is much higher — also be asked to sacrifice a day’s pay for the Commonwealth they serve? Currently, our own court workers give a day without pay while our governor is on a European tour that most likely will contribute nothing to the financial betterment of our own state.

When we vote this November, it should be imperative that we reflect not on the past four years but instead to focus on the coming years and how our vote will affect the rest of our own lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren.

Are you better off now than you were four years ago? That is a question that only you can answer. The choice will be known this November.