Are You Better Off Than You Were Four Years Ago?

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On October 28, 1980, in the second presidential debate, Ronald Reagan asked a question that resonated throughout the campaign that year: "Are you better off than you were four years ago?Â? During this election season, many members of Â?Republicans for KerryÂ? are asking themselves the same question.

Veronica Reynolds, age 80, a registered Republican and a retired local high school secretary, will vote for John Kerry this year. When asked for her reasons, she quotes a question that Reagan asked 24 years ago. "Are you better off than you were four years ago?”

“Four years ago, I took a wonderful trip to New Zealand,” Reynolds tells, “and now I can no longer afford to travel out of this country. In fact, I have six children, four of whom live in states other than Ohio. It concerns me when I pay for the air fare to visit them.” Like many retired people, Reynolds has suffered a tremendous loss in her retirement savings over the past three years.

Also like many older citizens, Reynolds takes prescription drugs for a medical condition in her case, a chronic pre-cancerous condition for which she takes two tablets three times a day. She opted not to participate in what she called “Bush’s worthless prescription help for Medicare,” however. “I had to laugh, sadly, when the pharmaceutical companies raised their prices,” she says, adding that she was appalled at media reports that Bush’s new plan will reduce her Social Security benefits by 17%, and increase her Medicare premiums in 2005.

At a personal level, Reynolds knows that she is worse off than she was four years ago, but she is even more fearful for the nation if Bush is given four more years in office. “He will continue to destroy our country,” she says, noting that “if we disagree with his policies, we are accused of being un-American or not supporting our troops. Separation of church and state is on its way out. Foolish amendments to the Constitution are on their way in.”

In a neighboring state, 46-year-old Republican Debra Vanderpool, her husband, and their sixteen-year-old daughter, live in Towanda, in northeastern Pennsylvania. Like Reynolds, the Vanderpools are struggling day by day. “We wonder sometimes where we are going to get the money for groceries next week, ” Vanderpool says. “Four years ago, we had less money a month then we had now,” she recalls, “and we were making ends meet. We were getting groceries and paying bills and getting to go out to dinner or a movies once a while. So I ask myself am I better off than I was 4 years ago. Well the answer is no.”

Vanderpool is also concerned that the US entered into the war in Iraq under false pretenses, and believes that has destroyed our relationship with our allies. Our brave soldiers are dying everyday “For what?” she asks. “Many people were for the war because we believed in the existence of the WMD. Bush has lied to the people of this country. There are many reservists and Guard families out there that are about to lose everything because their spouses are out fighting in Iraq…. They and their families are clearly much worse off than they were four years ago.”


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Bruce Mackinlay
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