Houstonians Respond To A Familiar Political Question

The recurrent question this campaign season is: "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" Now that both party conventions are over, KUHF's Shomial Ahmad went out and asked Houstonians their answers to that question.


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At least on the political stage, the answer to that familiar political refrain was easy. Here’s Paul Ryan during a campaign stump speech in Greenville, North Carolina.

“The president can say a lot of things, and he will.  But he can’t tell you you’re better off. Simply put: The Jimmy Carter years look like the good ol’ days compared to where we are right now.”

And at this week’s democratic convention, former President Bill Clinton had a different response to the same question.

“Now, are we where we want to be today? ‘No. Is the president satisfied? Of course not. But are we better off than we were when he took office?”

Despite the resounding applause at both party events, the answer to that question isn’t so simple. Take Sarah Matthews, a part-time dog walker who lives in North Houston.

“Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”

“Yes and No. Personally, yes, but I can see the downturn firsthand. And that rates are going up, but my incomes is not also coming up.”

Matthews is an independent voter, and though she’s decided on who she’ll vote for in November, she doesn’t want to share. Mark Smith, an elevator mechanic doesn’t want to share his vote either, but he’ll at least give a clue.

“I expect people to work for a living, and earn what they get.  Not be handed something for free, so that kind of tells you where I’m going to vote.”

Smith says he’s not better off. His salary hasn’t increased, and his money’s not making money. Smith doesn’t entirely blame the shaky economy on President Obama.

“I think Washington in general is our whole problem, every one of them.”

And one thing that that’s not doing better than expected is this week’s jobs report. The economy grew and unemployment shrunk, but not as much as expected. Sandy Poffinbarger from West University has been looking for work since February.  She’s got more education than she had four years ago, but her economic situation isn’t so rosy.

“I’ve never had more education, and I’ve never had such a difficult time finding a job either.”

But Poffinbarger, who typically votes Democrat, doesn’t blame Obama for her problems.  While she doesn’t see a clear light at the end of the tunnel, she’s comforted that the Houston economy is at least better than the rest of the country.

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