As economic issues move to center stage in the election contest between John McCain and Barack Obama, two new studies are asking a key political question: Are people better off in 2008 than 2000? The simple answer, both studies conclude, is no.
The question, which echoes a famous query by Ronald Reagan in a 1980 presidential debate, is aimed at coming to a verdict on eight years of the Bush administration's economic stewardship.
Both studies came from Democratic-leaning groups. Whatever the motivations, the numbers are grim. A study by liberal think tank Third Way found that, of 18 indicators, including income, home equity, and healthcare costs, 16 worsened between 2001 and 2008, leaving the average postmillennium family worse off by $94,929 than a decade earlier. Similarly, a report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that 23 of 25 economic indicators were lower in 2008 than in 2000.