The Reagan Test and Donald Trump

A picture of Donald Trump with the words "Are you better off today" superimposed over him.

Original photo of Donald Trump by Gage Skidmore, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY-SA 2.0).

John ScalziIn 1980, which is now — Jesus — 40 years ago, Ronald Reagan asked a question of the American people: “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” Reagan asked this question because he was running for president against Jimmy Carter, and it was in his interest to make the election a referendum on the incumbent. And while it would be inaccurate to say the question won Reagan the White House, it is accurate to say the question was a particularly useful framing device for Reagan: It took the election campaign and set it on personal terms for every voter, in a way they could easily quantify and apply to their own lives.

Now it’s 2020, and Donald Trump is president and running for re-election, and aside from any over-arching political issues with, or my own personal opinion of, the man, I think it will be interesting and useful to apply Reagan’s question to my own personal life: am I, in fact, better off today than I was four years ago?

Well, let’s see.

My income has been stable for the last four years, thanks mainly to contracts signed more than four years ago. Like the economy at large (until the coronavirus struck, at least), my generally robust economic condition was a continuation of Obama-era practices and strategies, rather than new conditions. Likewise my investments have done fine: more or less on the same path as they were four years prior, minus of course that significant divot earlier in the year. The government has propped up the stock market during the current economic blowout, and there will probably be a reckoning for that, but that’ll be later, not today. I hope Future Scalzi has figured that one out. For Present Scalzi, it’s fine.

Four years ago I paid higher income taxes. In my real-world experience this doesn’t mean I’m better off; the marginal utility to me of the money that no longer goes to taxes is relatively small, and meanwhile the national deficit has skyrocketed, which will almost certainly have significant economic and quality of life issues later on. But that’s another economic problem for future Scalzi, I guess. Today Scalzi is no worse off because of the tax cuts.

Oh, and my local internet provider finally upgraded my internet speeds.

So, those are the positives! Now, let’s see about everything else, involving me on a more or less personal level:

Four years ago, I could leave my house without wearing a mask (I mean, I guess I could leave the house without one, if I was an asshole who didn’t care about the health and safety of others as well as myself, but I’m not, so I wear a mask).

Four years ago I could go to a restaurant or see a movie or go to a party or get on a plane without worrying about possibly contracting a disease that could put me on a respirator, kill me or give me serious, chronic, long-term health issues.

Four years ago I didn’t worry about sending my kid to school.

Four years ago I didn’t have family and friends who had to choose between exposing themselves to a disease that could kill or seriously debilitate them, or being able to pay rent or buy medications.

Four years ago I had a federal government that actually had a well-thought out plan for dealing with highly-infectious, potentially pandemic-level diseases like the one we’re currently living through.

Four years ago I could trust the information from the CDC (and NOAA, while we’re at it) to represent the best available scientific information, not the information that was deemed the least damaging to the president, according to political apparatchiks installed into those organizations by the White House.

Four years ago I didn’t have a president who lied about the severity of a pandemic to the public while privately acknowledging that severity.

Four years ago tens of thousands of people more than there should have been weren’t dead, and even more sick, of a disease that they might have avoided if accurate information and a well-formulated plan had been offered at the federal level. These numbers include people I know and care about.

Four years ago there were far more countries I could travel to with an American passport than ones I could not, including the one directly north of us.

Four years ago, I could go to conventions and have book tours to promote my work and to make connections with business associates.

Four years ago I could get nearly any kind of soda I wanted in an aluminum can.

Four years ago there were no shortages of basic home necessities.

Four years ago I did not have a president who championed white supremacy and conspiracy theories over science and the well-being of all Americans.

Four years ago I didn’t worry whether my vote, or the votes of family members and friends, would be counted fairly and accurately.

Four years ago my health insurance cost less and covered more.

Four years ago I didn’t think about whether my mail would be sent or arrive in a timely manner.

Four years ago I had a president who hadn’t insulted the work and sacrifice of service members, who include both friends and family members.

Four years ago I didn’t worry whether my access to the services and function of the federal government, in an emergency or at all other times, would be contingent upon whether the president had decided someone in my state state was his friend or his foe, or had flattered him enough that he felt inclined to do the job that he was in fact required to do, by law and by the Constitution.

So, no. I’m not better off today than I was four years ago. I am in fact rather worse off: I have a little bit more money, at the expense of an actual, functioning country and society. This is not a good exchange. I will vote accordingly.

Who is better off today than they were four years ago? The ultra-rich, grifters and white supremacists (there are no small overlaps amongst those circles), although since the latter group also highly correlates with people who don’t wear masks in public, possibly not even them for long.

Now, the card that Reagan was palming 40 years ago was that not everything that was bad then was the fault of the president; likewise, not everything that is bad today is the fault of Trump. He is not responsible for COVID-19, for example. What he is responsible for is his and his administration’s response to it, and the effects that response has had on the lives of the American people. Likewise his and his adminstration’s choices at various junctures over the last four years, when it had the choice to make people’s lives better, and didn’t, unless they were ultra-rich, grifters, or white supremacists. That’s more than enough, in this case, for Trump to have made things worse than they were, four years ago.

So, again, no. Trump fails the Reagan Test for me. For that among so many other reasons, he doesn’t deserve a second term. I am well aware that there are millions of people who are worse off than I am after four years, who will still be voting for Trump. I would suggest they have not honestly answered for themselves the question Reagan asked Americans forty years ago. Perhaps they should, before they cast their vote.

— JS

94 Comments on “The Reagan Test and Donald Trump”

  1. Notes:

    1. Political thread, mallet is out, yada yada yada, you know the drill.

    2. For anyone about to pull out a list of accomplishments of the Trump administration, remember that the Reagan Test here is about your personal life, not about a general tout list. So, for example, there are some things the Trump administration has done regarding transparency in medical costs which are a general positive, but which also don’t apply to me directly due to my insurance (and also are counterbalanced by the administration’s general undermining of the ACA). So remember, if it’s not about you, it’s not about the Reagan Test.

    3. Along this line, let’s keep comments here focused on the Reagan Test, not just have this thread become a general grouch session on politics. I thank you in advance for your cooperation.

  2. Four years ago I wasn’t stressed by the news to the point where I don’t want to know.

    Four years ago I didn’t have a nagging concern that my neighbors might go berserk after the election.

    Four years ago ago I wasn’t worried that I, a woman, might once again be considered chattel.

    Four years ago I wasn’t worried that I might be persecuted because I wasn’t a Christian.

    Four years ago I had faith in the citizens of this country to do the Right Thing by all..

  3. Having asked that question of Trump voter I got this shocking response.. “No I am not, but with Biden everything will be horribly worse”. THIS is the message the GOP is effectively selling – yeah, its not great now, but we’ll make it less bad and the Dems will bring forth Armaggeddon. This is of course counter to any actual reality, but they believe it.

  4. It’s much worse than that. Watch #Unfit This president is mentally ill. That is not partisan. That is a frightening reality. Too many people think he is making conscious choices, when he has little control over his actions. He HAS to do many of the things he does. There are four aspects to malignant narcissism and the one people tend to ignore is sadism. He enjoys our suffering. Including the suffering of his supporters.

  5. I think I have a similar list (minus the book contract). Personally I got a promotion and a raise, my 401k is fine, my house bills are paid, etc. etc.

    On the other hand, my ex and half of our family have lost their jobs and the extended UE benefits are long gone. The weekly max in Georgia is $365 and that doesn’t even cover the mortgage or the rent for these folks. At least one person I know has taken an emergency Covid-related withdrawal from their 401k to be able to pay their daily bills and that’s going to hurt in another 20 years when they have to retire. Another family member has had her pay cut by 25%, but heck at least she’s still employed.

    I’m sending $$$ each month to my cousin who is a disabled vet and hasn’t received his stimulus check yet, much less any UE benefits. His job prospects have also dried up.

    My partner is having anxiety attacks over not being able to socialize at all – and that’s beyond weird because he’s the introvert in our relationship.

    Half the shelves in my grocery store remain unstocked, although it’s not always the same shelves. But supply chain issues are making themselves felt every time I go shopping. Last week it was milk and bacon. This week who knows what it will be. Oh and my weekly shopping bill is half again as much as it used to be for less food. But at least there’s toilet paper. Yay?

  6. Regan test, to the point, yes. Much better off than 4 years ago. Financially my investments are crushing it and I’m spending less money going out to eat and shopping so more money in my bank account. I’ve not been laid off nor furloughed so I still have income. My real estate holdings are up more than ever. I’ve gotten all the chores done at home that have needed doing.(yard irrigation not withstanding) The inconvenience of wearing a mask and being restricted in my travels is annoying especially for an extrovert like myself. But this too shall pass. (I feel I am more patient in my older years)
    More concerning is the hourly and younger generations just starting out, The Regan test for them would decidedly be negative. Rent they will owe once the eviction moratoriums are lifted will need to be paid back along with all the other debt incurred along with the need to find jobs in their field. I am a mentor to many at work and feel for them that a class of people is being created that will be in debt for years to come. I fear that bankruptcy is in the future for many.

  7. My four years ago list is remarkably similar to yours — except that I don’t have any investments to speak of. I would also add, four years ago I did not worry that my house would be egged or otherwise vandalized if I put up a campaign sign for The Idiot’s opponent. So on that test alone (though I would argue its validity) The Idiot fails. (An aside, the test I prefer to use is, How did the incumbent handle the hand he — someday she, we hope — was given? The Idiot fails that by a huge margin. I used the same reasoning to vote against H.W. Bush, after I had voted for him in 1988.)

    Unfortunately, I think somewhere around 40% of the country will think along the lines of the person with whom Jeff L spoke, or will be thinking, Four years ago I couldn’t own the libs and use racist language in public, so yeah, my hate is much better off than it was.

  8. I really don’t think it’s a useful question for basing a voting decision on. Our biggest problems are all long-term and cannot be solved, by anybody, in four years; I wish Americans would get better at long-term thinking.

    But, definitely, the country is in far worse shape, in every way, than it was four years ago, much of it in direct consequence of having a horrifically incompetent gang of criminals in charge, and if the election goes the wrong way, it’ll be a fucking hellscape four years from now.

  9. In one sense, yeah, sure, I’m better off. I was about to become homeless, and now I’m in my own tiny studio apartment.

    And I have anxiety and sometimes full blown panic attacks when I have to go out. Trump is trying to kill my health insurance, and also to defund Social Security, my only source of income.

    The pandemic is completely out of control in the US because Trump has undermined every effort to contain it.

    White supremacists, neo-Nazis, and QAnon are feeling empowered and entitled.

    The world is less safe, including the world in which I have to go out and get groceries while trying to avoid a panic attack.

    Yes, definitely worse off.

  10. Your whole list is pretty much mine too, plus the significant damage to ally relationships across the world and the lack of attention paid to climate change. While I can’t blame the current administration for starting the fires, the lack of policy directed to climate change mitigation in the last four years has put fuel on the fires that are currently burning my state, Oregon, to the ground.

  11. Forty years ago you were eleven years old so you don’t remember how it was then. At that time I was twenty-seven and it sucked. You never experienced 12-14% inflation where prices rose daily, a Cold War that was hot, the Iranian hostage situation, the armed forces in pieces after Vietnam, civil unrest with violent domestic terrorism and in no way would the government send you any money because government just didn’t do things like that. This time it’s very different. The virus came out of the blue and the reaction was to shut everything down rightly or wrongly. which was the cause of the economic problems and this time government, on both sides of the aisle, voted enormous sums of money to keep people and the economy alive. Those who don’t like Trump will blame him. Those that do like him won’t. However many independents will not use your logic because they have no memory of Reagan. Will they compare 2020 to before of will they compare 2019 to before? Your guess is as good as mine.

  12. You forgot about having governmental officials inciting violence on their neighbors (Michael Caputo).

    Climate change also directly affects me and my income. I have never seen a storm like Sally; thunderstorm off Miami on Friday morning, Tropical depression Friday afternoon, Tropical storm on Saturday, Hurricane on Sunday.

    I am doing better than fine on income. My business is booming, but it is because of the virus and I don’t want it to be so.

    I had met Trump before even the Apprentice days, and could not stand him or his way of doing business. I still cannot understand how he got there. I want him gone on many different levels.

  13. Four years ago I didn’t wake up crying in the middle of the night having dreamt about children torn from their parents, locked in cages with inadequate resources to stay clean and fed and healthy and not-terrified, trying desperately to help each other survive an unspeakable, unimaginable trauma at the hands of my government.

    Four years ago my teeth weren’t eroding from the rage and stress gnashing when I read news about women seeking sanctuary in the US from appalling violence to themselves and their families in their country of origin, and being subjected to involuntary sterilization.

    Four years ago I didn’t get a stress/trauma reaction at the sight of any kind of law enforcement vehicle, worrying about whether it was seeking some potential victim for the rage-filled, resentful, mental bunker-dwellers trying to protect their “thin blue line” of power and control rather than serve their communities.

    Four years ago I had hope that we might be on the verge of taking real action to diminish gun violence in America.

    Four years ago I had hope that we might be about to take some concrete actions to mitigate or even reverse climate change and ensure that my grandson will have breathable air, drinkable water, food that will nourish rather than simply provide calories, and a generally more-sustainable world to live in.

    Four years ago I had hope that we were making slow but meaningful progress in building a world where we all value each other and are erasing the “other” lines that disunite us and sow fear and hate.

    I miss the hope most, I think…

  14. Looking down on the U.S. from 3400 feet altitude in the Canadian Rockies (that’s 1045 meters to the rest of the world) four years ago, I was like a self-respecting New Mexican who didn’t want to be caught sounding like a Texan. Meaning: I was well aware of the faults, in the eyes of others, of U.S. citizens. This may have contributed to my glee at the human comedy of the U.S. voting for Trump.

    Every day cheered me as I laughed to think of prominent republicans begging and pleading with Trump to please stop tweeting. The tweets were like a movie so bad it’s good. Cheered me.

    I still dislike the average Yankee’s “plausible deniability” for (never mind) but I am no longer entertained. My sense of humour gone, my mouth has a straight line all the time, like Buffy in the last episodes before she lay down her burden of being a slayer and went to fight Glory.

  15. All of the above AND I’m like, totally cowering in fear some mean dude will call me a snowflake.

  16. You said “Four years ago I didn’t worry about sending my kid to school.”

    In my case – college aged sons, and living in Texas – I took the opposite approach, sent them off to college. One is at a large school in Virginia (not Liberty U, duh), living off campus, and schooling remotely. They have cases in his city, on campus, but so far he’s safe. The other is a freshman at a small school in upstate NY, no cases on campus so far, and he is also taking classes remotely but is getting some sense of the college life.

    In both cases, they are safer where they are than here in Texas, where Texas routinely tout their rights to not wear a mask and where they are mostly armed, too.

    It is tough for me, and their mom, with the kids away, but believe me, we did a sincere analysis of the current state of things here in east Texas and decided to send them both to school.

  17. I mean, sure. I’m better off in some ways — reasonably financially secure, reasonably mentally and emotionally stable, and despite COVID, I’m healthier than I’ve been in years. But you know what? All of that had absolutely zilch to do with Trump.

    If there’s anything to do with him, it’s that me and my friends and family have been targets of his various colors of hate and bigotry over the last four years. If he’s proven anything, it’s that he’s brilliant at doing absolutely the wrong thing at the worst possible moments. So yeah. November can’t come too soon for me.

  18. I always use LBJ’s Misery Index (the sum of the unemployment rate and the rate of inflation), in part, when I answer President Reagan’s question – which I do when contemplating for whom to vote.

    As of 31 August 2020, the Misery Index was 9.710. The Index on 31 August 2016 was 5.963 – info courtesy of

  19. Four years ago I didn’t have to worry about crazies (other than the usual ones) in New York feeling entitled to throw glass bottles at black joggers and yell, “Go back to Africa, n—-er!” and think Trump made it OK.

    Four years ago I didn’t have to worry about a woman getting into the elevator in my building and not only refusing to wear a mask, but tell me to take the mask off! She also informed me the only way I would get sick was germs from wearing a mask.

    Four years ago my wife and I ate out in restaurants five or six times in most weeks. Now you wouldn’t catch me dead (so to speak) risking that. But that pales compared to getting on a plane, which we can not do for our Fiftieth anniversary next month.

    Four years ago we went to Broadway and off-Broadway shows ten to twenty times a year, and rock concerts a dozen times.

    So yeah, personally we are at least as well off financially, but in other ways, not even close.

    You hit most of my points, and the responders have filled in the gaps.

    Four years ago I never thought we’d be living through a possible episode of THE DEAD ZONE.

    Be afraid, be very afraid.

  20. I think the very racist Trump voters have racism as such a huge part of their utility function that none of the other ways their lives are worse matter so long as we’re torturing and killing refugees and black people. All they care about is being able to say, “at least I’m better off than people with brown skin.”

  21. Four years ago I didn’t have to wake up at 5AM to be at the grocery store at 6 to shop when it was empty of people to reduce the chances of catching a disease likely to kill me (immune suppressed person here). Honestly, I get the same feeling when I walk up to the supermarket automatic entry doors that I used to get waddling up to the ramp of a C-130 in the pre-dawn, all kitted out for that day’s parachute jump along with 63 my best friends.

  22. Speaking as a highly privileged white male,
    Feeling depressed, that racism is resurgent in America and the world. There is a large group of Americans who are filled with so much hate. And they express it by lashing out. That claiming to be a victim of (list of white grievances here) allows them to do things which are deplorable.
    And the large number of Americans who will be blinded to the Reagan Test.

    Hey, West Virginia, those coal jobs did not come back. They went away. Can you sallow your pride to say Hillary was right and we have to change our careers? Because the guy who stopped the war on coal, has made the peace harder.

    Experiencing the inequities of the criminal justices system. I got arrested for the first time in my 53 years. And when my name is type in the first result is the arrest published in the local paper. How do I make that go away? After my year long non -supervised probationary period, I will be found not guilty, on Sept 22. Will the newspaper publish that? I doubt it. Arrest and conviction are different words with different meanings.

  23. Financially, neither here nor there. Income has increased steadily, investments have done okay. Which is a continuation of a prior trend (2012-2016), and therefore irrelevant.

    Not being able to travel for work, which I do extensively, has had a slight negative $$$ impact. Our household qualified for a tiny net tax cut, but not for the COVID-19 check. In any case, I can’t say that the Trump administration made things great for me, or devastated me financially.

    In the long run, however, there’s no telling what the effect of the pandemic and the absence of response to it will be. The economy, which should be in recovery by now, is nowhere near that point, and won’t be for at least a couple of years. As purchasing power continues to diminish, it’s anybody’s job on the chopping block.

    Overall, my quality of life has decreased. Four years ago, I could go out to a restaurant, or travel for pleasure to foreign lands other than the Cook Islands (without risking my life to do so). Friends and family members have lost jobs, and it’s unclear when they’ll get them back. Everyone talks about the infected and the dead, but the horrific issues experienced by a significant % of those who “recover” are conveniently swept under the rug. Look them up. Or don’t – you’ll sleep better.

    What worries me most are future, more lethal pandemics, and our now-proven incompetence in dealing with them.A minor-league virus with a relatively tiny death rate has put us completely out of commission. Our government’s reaction to this is to downplay the most deadly situation on American soil, and to amplify the voices of idiotic conspiracy-theory followers. We are in a more precarious position today than we were four years ago thanks to emboldened morons.

    Rightly or wrongly, people around the world used to look up to the US. For all of our historical evils and injustices, we were innovators, thinkers, problem-solvers. Now we’re a laughing stock, and those who used to admire us are embarrassed for us. No amount of extra income can make up for that.

  24. aluminum cans are getting harder to find because people are drinking at home (cans) rather than drinking at a bar/restaurant (on tap from a barrel).

    As for Reagan, for all the central american murder squads he trained, he should be considered a war criminal. That caravan of people that came to the southern US border that Trump demonized? They’re a result of all the carnage Reagan created in central america, back in the 80’s. All the civil wars, destabilization, and ensuing poverty in Central America for the last 40 years can be laid at Reagan’s feet.

    Reagan is also the reason Saddam Hussein had WMD’s. He gave them to Iraq because he didn’t want Iran to win the Iran/Iraq war. And when Saddam used them against Iran and the Kurds in the 80’s, Reagan had our UN embassador make sure the UN could not condemn Iraq for using WMD’s.

    He also armed the Taliban in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets. Gave them stinger-fucking-missiles. The same group of people that we’ve been fighting in afghanistan since 9/11 and can’t seem to force into any kind of peace treaty with the afghan central government. That’s Reagan.

    So, I don’t think the real question is “Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago”.

    I think the question is, “Will making this man (Reagan or Trump) president for 4 years damage the nation and create problems that we will be dealing with for decades to come?”

    8 years of Reagan created chaos that is the ultimate source of several current world problems. 4 years of Trump has created damage the effects of which we will be dealing with for better part of a century. Another 4 years of the cheeto could possibly destroy this nation to the point of never recovering.

  25. Four years ago, I was not worried that the Great Experiment of “Government of the people, by the people and for the people” would perish from the earth.

  26. Not better off either. Your summary is good: “I have a little bit more money, at the expense of an actual, functioning country and society. This is not a good exchange. I will vote accordingly.”
    Four years ago, I could go to the theatre regularly and was not worried that a pandemic would destroy live theatre (and music and dance …) for good.
    Four years ago, the government wasn’t trying actively to harm my LGBTQ+ family members and strip them (and me) of civil and health care rights.
    Four years ago, I could travel to visit my family without endangering their health (or they mine).
    Four years ago, I didn’t feel daily disbelief and grief that the national government of my country would do nothing to protect all the people’s lives and health (in all senses, including economic) from a global pandemic – or feel ashamed that said government was actively disrupting global efforts to cope with said pandemic.

  27. doomed2repeat:

    “So, I don’t think the real question is ‘Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago’.”

    Actually it is the real question, as it was the one I said was under discussion here. What your post is saying is “I don’t want to actually pay attention to what you’ve said this comment thread should be about an instead wish to make is a more general discussion of politics, despite you asking specifically for that not to happen.” Which, you know, doesn’t make me all that happy.

  28. On the financial side, I’m better off. I’m retired and investments have done well.

    On the personal side, I’m a wreck. I’ve never handled anxiety well. I feel like crap every hour of every day. I dread what president shithead is going to do next and fear that we’ll never be rid of him.

    So…. overall I can’t decide. I’m too wrapped up in my own fears.

  29. My investments are doing well, but they’re not the reason I was finally able to retire at the end of March. (I’d set that date last year; gotta admit I timed it pretty well, if not for reasons I was expecting.)

    My fear is that stocks and investments are doing TOO well. The numbers remind me of 2008 before that bubble burst. One of my investments began as a small account I put $1500 into about 30 years ago (thanks, ST:TNG money!) and have let ride ever since. In the last quarter of 2019, the value increased 38%. In a *quarter*, not a year. That plain terrifies me; it’s unsustainable, and I can’t see how it’s being driven by anything but speculation and cronyism in high places, not any actual increase in value of companies or products.

    I think that new bubble will burst, and burst badly. Tulip Fever 2020.

    What I actually depend on for retirement income is my pension, and our Social Security income. But the pension is from the US Postal Service, and if USPS ends up being gutted and privatized, the next step will be looting the USPS pension funds. And since Trump has made it clear he (or the people behind him) wants to drown SSA in a bathtub, there’s a chance that income might also go *poof*. Which would leave us in a…bad…position.

  30. My community has been the sight of two major Trump parades and is home to multiple white supremacists, xenophobes and social Darwinists who, emboldened by dear leader, decided that those who refused to join said parade are anti-American socialist/communist pedophiles who should be jeered at, spat on, and knifed.

    While home invasion has always been a thing, I fear it now more than ever, not simply because SHTF looms but because my local Trumpists have articulated and demonstrated their willingness to use violence and other modes of intimidation to A, keep the “libtards” in line, B, protect the community from “ghetto trash”(synonymous with brown-skinned individual, of course) and C, ensure that the “right” votes get cast.

    This and surrounding neighborhoods are rife with Amy Coopers, Barbeque Beckies and Karens (it’s recognizability notwithstanding, this meme is unfortunate for all sane people named Karen and for women in general) who delight in siccing the police on “suspicious”(synonymous for brown-skinned individual) people who “don’t belong in this community” and with husbands who don’t mind using a little physical persuasion to deal with the explosion of homelessness that I’ve seen since the fallout of covid began.

    For the first time in my lifetime, I am terrified of what society will become as election day draws near.

    There are dozens of fires raging in my state and across the country.

    If the rumors are true (I doubt this but wouldn’t be surprised), many of these are part of a Trumpist protest.

    In a general sense, of the foods that are still accessible, there are at least half a dozen that are unsafe to eat because salmonella.

    Food acquisition, be it through delivery or in-person shopping, is an exercise in futility, as “me and mine first” panic buyers (ironically, these are the same ones who drag the “lying lib media machine”) use the truth as an excuse to buy food in such quantities that no one but them and theirs is properly stocked.

    In short, whereas Obama’s election and reelection restored my faith in our nation’s humanity, the last four years have shown me why I lost it in the first place. ☹

  31. Four years ago I had many living family members over the age of 80, I had not ever met an actual live literal Nazi sympathizer in person, and did not feel the need to own pepper spray.
    Four years ago, I planned to retire in 2022 to a part of Oregon with trees on it and blue (or gray, but definitely not orange) sky.

  32. I am pretty much in the same boat. Financially, I’m doing as well as I ever have, and that has generally been true for every year of my life once I started earning a paycheck.

    But everything else? Oh hellz no. I have shipped my family to a different continent for fear of their safety. That is one of those “Shit that would never occur to me” things that I am now dealing with on an almost day to day basis.

    Honestly, I’m pessimistic about the nation’s future. I don’t believe the damage done not just by Trump, but by the 40 years of damage since Reagan that led to Trump, can be repaired. Our international standing is forever lost as is trust in our government institutions. The system is designed assuming people act in good faith, and it is clear just how powerless and fragile the system is when people don’t. I don’t think it gets better for anyone no matter who is in office. We fought the good fight, but ultimately we lost. The bad guys have won. The only question now is how we deal with that.

  33. Not just NOAA, but look at the damage he’s done to the EPA and the roll back on environment regulations. Freaks me out.

    WRT cans, it is suddenly obvious why the administration changed their mind on levying tariffs on Canadian aluminium imports earlier this week!

    I really wish Reagan was on the Republican ticket rather than Trump. He wasn’t perfect, but he wasn’t a selfish sociopathic egomaniac.

    In terms of the test, slightly better financially due to hard graft over the last 4 years, but mentally and emotionally spent due to everything going on and worry for how we’re going to get my two sons off to school and hold down a job.

  34. suggest: someone build a 4YA.COM site

    4YA: struggling to regain medical coverage;
    now? I’ve given up; without med’s, health sliding slowly downwards; if I get the virus, 20+% probability it will kill me; gone back to sipping booze to take edge off my PTSD since I cannot get SSRIs; all the craziness is amp-ing ,y PTSD in ways quite novel;

    4YA: as a Jew, my biggest complaint was ‘secret ingredients’; irony of ironies, a Jew who does not keep to kosher who is allergic to pork and related products and must avoid ’em; since then never quite knowing which products had pork flavoring; turned out cannoli shells are fried in lard, which explained why I was getting so sick after eating one;
    now? I’ve started seeing postings all over that do everything short of blaming Jews for why cows stopped giving milk

    4YA: food was something I ate with care (and joy) to avoid getting fat; never once occurred to me about supply chain;
    now? I’ve been stockpiling a few extras each week, hoping against hope, there will not be repeated shortages;

    4YA: watching neighbors with some envy for being active and cheerful and relaxed and other positives
    now? they’re all freaking and melting down and I had some of whom used to pity me ask how I’ve been able to cope; lessons in corner cutting and stress management;

    4YA: NYPD were disrespectful to my friends; annoying but bearable;
    now? watching them get in everyone’s face, mocking old folks for slow walking; muttering racial terms just loud enough to carry; smacking my arm because I was holding my phone-as-camera whilst witnessing a minor moment of nasty;

    4YA: never considered there’d be blood in the streets during a presidential election; never much cared about politics;
    now? after 03NOV20 my plan is to hunker down for two weeks, not leave apartment;

    4YA: yeah rude folk in NYC; but they kept themselves on a leash;
    now? screaming fools who refuse to wear masks in stores; pushing me aside because they are impatient (I’m using a cane); and are ever more rude to others too;

    4YA: sadness
    now? fear

  35. Like our host financially there has been minimal change. With one large exception.

    The loss of the state and local taxes (SALT) deduction has lowered my after tax income by thousands of dollars compared to before. The loss of that deduction has a much larger impact than the reduction in tax rates.

    So financially I am still fine but I have a less spare money available for non-essentials. Like eating out which I can’t do anyway.

    My other points closely mirror our host. Plus I have wild fires making the air outside dangerous to breath.

    So I am worse off than I was four years ago.

  36. Am I better off than 4 years ago?
    Let’s see…
    – The town I retired to is blanketed in smoke and I can’t walk my dogs due to AQI warnings. AGW is making this worse. Putin’s puppet is making AGW worse (other commenters have pointed out how)
    – My son seems to be permanently laid off and my wife’s freelance work has dried up due to the publishing industry’s lawn dart imitation. (on the plus side, I’m now working from home, which I suggested to my manager/corp. 5 YEARS ago)
    – My finances are shakier and my wife’s health poorer (see above)
    – Since Trump actually has a shot at 4 more years, I no longer have much confidence in the long-term stability of my country. If the Orange Menace is re-elected. It’s gone.Angst levels up. Can’t go anywhere else even if I could afford it, and i don’t WANT to. I served, I voted.
    – I guess the worst part is finding out how many of my fellow citizens are “Good Americans”. as in “Good Germans” – not resisting, remaining silent in the face of atrocity, and probably (if Biden wins) they will be claiming they never supported the Trump Regime.
    – Oh, and there’s a lady in Idaho, says she’s praying I change my mind and vote for Trump, or just not vote if I won’t vote for him. I’m praying for the US, for all the good an agnostic’s prayer will do. “Please, whatever diety, dieties or anthropomorphic Unmoved Mover should exist, help us past this rough patch to a point where I don’t have to give a rat’s *ss about the people Hannah Arendt and Madeleine Albright warned me about”
    Too long already – needs

  37. BarryF, you have cut right to the heart of it.

    I mean, a lot of the anxiety about the constitution is guff. We have never actually had a government by, of and for anyone except the rich or connected folks who run the show, from the federal level, right down to corrupt local pols and sherrifs, and etc. But, still, the current People’s Executive and his coterie are brazen in abasement of the standard of our–admittedly flawed–republic.

    I mean, the man models himself after Nixon. Unabashedly. Repeatedly. Publicly. Thanks to the Nixonite redhats, we are still fighting a lost, pointless political war. These are people still smarting over busing for criminy’s sake.

    So I can’t better your contribution, BarryF, but I can add, four years ago I was unaware that so many Americans were too petulant to share the tremendous wealth of this country and they’d rather burn it to the ground than share.

  38. 4 years ago I wasn’t worried enough about actual white supremacist nazis to be buying guns and ammo and going to the range twice monthly.

  39. Four years ago:
    1. Obamacare (Independent Contractor) was $1267 per month. Now, with Trump’s option of opting out, I’m paying $642 monthly. Hugh Savings.
    2. Tax savings is significant now, Vs then. We make Under $100k, so Trump’s tax deal worked well for us.
    3. Finding a Church that is Conservative has been a big challenge lately, not so much four years ago. They seem to be socially pressured to lower norms with immigration issues now. I don’t want Tax $ to support illegal residents. RE-Election should solve this issue.
    4. Income based on Commissions. Much improved now, Vs four years ago. The Trump economy really helped with that.
    5. More aware now of wide-spread corruption in Congress and the media, than four years ago. Pay for play is rampant. I find this to be unacceptable going forward. I believe that President Trump with our new awareness as ammunition, will help us to clean up the bad actors in both parties along with the manufactured news narratives.
    6. Better off now. Vote will reflect that.

  40. Until 2020 began, everything (finances, etc.) were doing much better under Trump. They are still doing better under Trump.

    2020 was going to be a bad year no matter who was in the White House. I don’t believe that any aspect of my life is worse off *because of Trump*. I actually see more manufacturing businesses in my neck of the woods under Trump, and a more business-friendly environment. This helps my business, even in this unusual year.

    My big concern right now is the leftwing BLM/Antifa violence which has taken over so many cities. This causes me real anxiety.

    I’m not thrilled with the way Trump has handled the unrest. The rioting in Portland (for example) should have been quelled weeks ago.

    I think Biden’s response will be even weaker, though.

    Therefore, I’ll be voting for Trump as the lesser of two evils.

  41. Four years ago I wasn’t worried about marxists taking to the street and burning looting and rioting in order to start an insurrection. Today I am. I see no advantage in voting for Biden here.

  42. @Riskographer2

    1. Obamacare was a republican plan and did more to protect folks who lack your privilege than Trump ever has.

    2. Good for you and your family, but what of others who aren’t as fortunate?

    3. The so-called founders of this country were “aliens” whose “dreamer” descendants have and continue to commit atrocities against the indigenous populations of this nation.

    3a. Tax dollars paying for things with which we vehemently disagree (wonder who is paying for the forcible removal of female concentration camp prisoners’ reproductive organs) is the American way. Love it or leave it, as they say. 😊

    I’ll also ask whether or not your objections would stand if we were talking about illegals from, say, Norway.

    3b. It’s nice to hear that the majority of churches seem to be actually adhering to the tenets of their faith rather than twisting them to justify harming communities they hate.

    4. Score yet one more for the privileged!

    5. Hahahahahaha! Implicit false equivalencies aside, Trump and his enablers are the architects of their own scandals. The “corrupt” media” isn’t hacking his tweets or speaking his words.

    More importantly, even if I never read or heard a single news story, Trumpist attitudes and behaviors toward groups to which they neither belong nor regard as human speak louder than any journalist ever could.

    Most importantly, news outlets guilty of perpetuating the president’s outright lie about this pandemic are complicit in its profound and far-reaching consequences.

    6. Votes for trump reflect so much more than a need to take care of one’s *own* needs. That vote is also about protecting unearned privilege and controlling/eliminating, by any means necessary, segments of the population bigots regard as undesirable and threatening to the status quo.

  43. @Steve Ish:

    Quick! In your own words, give me 5 (five) concrete parallels between democrats and Marxists.

    While you’re at it, tell me why right-wing insurrections are safer for and beneficial to *all* Americans.


    Are you equally as outraged by the spoiled, white supremacists who, in search of public nights out and beach days, went bare-faced and armed into capital buildings to advocate for the spread of a deadly and highly contagious virus that disproportionately impacted communities of color?

    Are you equally as outraged by the governors of red states whose belief in Trump’s lie about covid has resulted in scores of preventable infections and deaths?

    Do black lives matter to you?

    Do they matter as much as white lives do?

    Will you condemn Kyle Rittenhouse’s actions here and now?

    How do you feel about the Americans who have been lynched by police because of the color of their skin?

    Would there be protests if these things had not occurred?

    Four years ago, did the president of The United States encourage hate crimes?

    Was Trump speaking honestly when he declared that it wasn’t his job or responsibility to care about black pain or anger?

    If you believe that he was, in fact, speaking honestly, do you agree?

    I do hope you aren’t a drive by turd thrower, because I am seriously interested in your answers to the above questions.

  44. Significantly, four years ago you didn’t have a President who’d call you a ‘loser’ for caring about anything beside how much money you’ve got, for example the health and safety of others.

    We should not get our values from our elected officials—ideally, those would be grey functionaries chosen coolly, calmly, rationally, and not as if we were choosing extra members for our families. But that’s not so, and Presidential rhetoric matters.

  45. I don’t really know how to answer this question. I’ve lived overseas for the past 10 years, and up until 2017 I’ve never felt worried about what was going on back home. The U.S. government has been taken over by a criminal narcissist who does not actually seem to want to do the job he was hired for and would rather use his time to enrich himself, his friends, and allies. The day-to-day effect of that on me is minimal, but I worry alot about my family.

    The bottom line for me is that it takes 3-4 years for the changes put in place by a new government to really start to take hold. What we’ve seen in the last 12 months has been a government that does not work. This is what happens when someone who tries to run a democracy the way a petty dictator would run it. I feel like every year from now until 2022 is going to be tougher than the one before no matter who is in charge, and that’s only going to be multiplied if Trump somehow manages to cling to power. So I’m not really going to vote based on the last 4 years, but rather on the last year and on how I expect the next 3 to go.

  46. Four years ago . . . huh. My life has changed a great deal since 2016, but some of those changes were an inevitable part of aging. (Hey, I’m retired and eligible for Medicare, so I don’t have to worry about private health insurance any more. Go, aging!) Financially, I’m–about the same, I guess, or slightly worse off, though I honestly can’t say that that’s Trump’s fault. (It might be; he’s made my financial welfare seem both more confusing and probably more long-term precarious, at least.) I don’t have to worry about health insurance any more–my Medicare supplement is affordable, and Medicare itself seems to be working out for me. However, that improvement happened only in the past year; previously, what Trump did (and is doing) to the ACA left me groping for health care and/or about to give up and go without insurance. I was terrified of having to go back into the private health insurance market; I know from long experience in pre-ACA days just how useless those policies are if I actually need medical care. I also get no tax break to speak of, and I am worried about the long-term health of Social Security and Medicare due to Trump’s plans to maybe make the payroll tax cut permanent. (Well. I was already worried–more worried, might be fairer.)

    The small Christian college I (used to) teach at is being Christian, feeding the hungry and sheltering the stranger. That’s a good thing, but we likely wouldn’t have to be doing quite so much if it weren’t for some of Trump’s policies. (Especially the ones on immigration and DACA, though not only those.) So is that “better” off or “worse”? I mean, I have enough spare change to donate to local food banks, but I really don’t find the fact that the local food banks need donations to be a net positive . . .

    I have to conclude that my life is not better off than it was four years ago. It isn’t all that much worse, either, but I’d say that that is in spite of Donald Trump, not because of him or his policies.

  47. Er–sorry to add this, but the posts that came up while I was typing seem to require it: I am worried about insurrection the streets, so that would also add to being “worse off.” The insurrection seems to be both right-wing and left-wing, wit the violence seeming more right than left, frankly, given the BLM protests were peaceful at first and for a long time thereafter. More importantly, Trump seems to have done nothing to help the situation. If anything, he’s made it worse by encouraging violence, so. (And more than encouraging, really, considering things like the stunt he pulled in Lafayette Park–that definitely made matters worse.)

    As for the pandemic–yes, that has made my life this past year significantly worse. That’s kind of inevitable. I can’t and don’t blame Trump for the existence of the virus, but I can and do blame him for how bad things have gotten. If he’d come out honestly at the beginning and said something like “Yes, this is going to be very bad; here is a plan for coping,” and then followed through, this would still get a check in the “worse off” column but it wouldn’t be Trump’s fault. However, from where I stand and in my life, just about everything Trump has done has exacerbated the problems, rather than helping.

  48. Well, let’s see. For things that are happening right now that weren’t four years ago.

    My mother is locked down in a memory ward of a nursing home, such that we have no communicative access at all. The nursing home is actually doing a good job, they’ve had no cases of Covid get inside, but the price is that not even my father can see my mother, not even through a window, and she just gets confused and distressed by things like Zoom calls – so we haven’t gotten anything but a periodic email from the nursing home telling us she’s still doing okay since March. Four years ago she was there already, but we could and did go visit.

    My husband wasn’t having to go to a wound care clinic weekly – and it wasn’t terrifying for him to do so. (His cancer treatments have caused an unhealing wound in his shin, which has been a deep, open sore for >2 years so far.) Prior to covid the weekly visits were an annoying (and for him painful) necessity, but not a hazard to life and limb. Now every doctor visit he has feels like a serious risk, and he has a lot of doctor’s visits. Being a six years and running survivor of an incurable cancer tends to do that.

    My naturalized citizen friend didn’t have to worry that she would have her citizenship negated and get deported – the rules for who that can happen to have suddenly gotten a lot looser. She didn’t have much experience of random strangers hating on her for being ethnically Chinese either.

    I didn’t have neighbors who openly and gleefully terrorized the Hispanic residents of our neighborhood. And I could have had political signs in my yard without worrying that one of said neighbors would steal them, vandalize our property, or start terrorizing us.

    Four years ago, I had never even touched a gun, and had no intention of ever doing so. Now I’m seriously considering learning to shoot something beyond a bow and arrow.

    Four years ago, if our President made a pronouncement, I could reasonably believe it was factually correct and based in reality. At the very least, I could be certain that he wouldn’t contradict himself later in the same speech. I could also be reasonably certain that he would speak in actual sentences that meant something, and not go off on random fantastical tangents about Revolutionary War airports, or the relationship between the USA and the Roman Empire. AKA – four years ago I was reasonably sure the President was both clinically sane, and reality based, even when I disagreed with him. I am fairly sure that our current one is neither.

    Four years ago, I didn’t have to listen to someone (client at work) rant about people daring to question the President – THE PRESIDENT!!! because to her mind, daring to question the President was tantamount to daring to question God. It was pretty well accepted, even among those who loved Obama, that he was human, and that asking him questions, and to defend his policies and positions was a reasonable thing to do. Having a President who cannot be questioned at all without enraging his faithful seems a dangerous precedent to me.

    I’ll take four years ago, thanks.

  49. Four years ago I was expecting my first (and only) child. I’d just visited home and gone to the Minnesota State Fair and ate more cookies and cold milk than is nutritionally advised. I had a job I loved. I had a spouse who cared for me. I was achey and whale-sized but feeling good about the future.

    Now my spouse is out of the closet and I’m separated-pending-divorce with an almost-4-year-old. I got laid off from my dream job and now I work from home at what could be described as a very well-meaning tire fire. My office/single parent apartment is plagued by ants, rats, and heat (only the kid’s room has air conditioning). Until yesterday the air outside was unfit to breathe; fire season will last at least one more month.

    I can’t see friends or family or my boyfriend or freaking anyone besides my kid from any closer than six feet because my kid is in frigging daycare; I just have to live with the risk that he’ll bring home the bug and my lungs will putrefy from the inside. My stupid cousin went to stupid Sturgis and my aunt and uncle already got COVID at the ice cream factory they work at (fortunately they both survived).

    I have been severely depressed for nearly all of the last four years (hello, election night 2016 with a one month old) with a side order of anxiety; I’m on three different brain meds now and they haven’t made much of a dent. Brownshirts are literally kidnapping dissidents and shooting them in the street; my government is tearing children from their parents, still, and now there’s reports of nonconsensual hysterectomies; and I can no longer leave the country. The torschlusspanik is chronic and constant.

    I had the opportunity to emigrate to Norway two years ago but my then-spouse didn’t want to go, so we didn’t.

    My stocks are doing well (for now). I’m pretty sure my taxes went up slightly.

    Am I better off now? *hysterical laughter*

  50. The only thing I can say with certainty is that Trump is the figurehead who represents the ideals, and long-term goals of the Republican party. They are simply ramping up all their divisive tools to 11, and hope it works for them in the near term. They do not care about people like you or me.

  51. On inauguration day 2017, my husband was fired from a job he loved (and the month before they fired him, he got a stellar review and a raise, but it turned out the new Board of Directors wanted rid of all employees over 55 – we were raising the insurance premiums) in a town we both loved. After 6 months of unemployment, he found a job. He’s grateful to have it, he loves the work, but we had to move to a small town in a backward state. He enjoys the job, the pay is okay, but we hate where we live.
    No, we’re not better off than we were 4 years ago, thank you very much.

  52. A hypothetical US average data point me would be worse off. It’s not really fair that 45 gets blamed for the pandemic economic hit, but it wasn’t fair when he intended to take credit for continuing Obama era OK-Ness either, so maybe it is fair.

  53. I’m retired now, and I wasn’t then, so that’s good.

    However, I’m also transgender, and back then, I had a government that was willing to fight for my rights. Now I have one whose justice department supports a number of forms of discrimination against me, based entirely on my gender identity, including the right to fire me for being trans, to deny me a spot in a homeless shelter, to deny me life-saving medical care, to put me in the wrong prison, and so on. They’re trying to install judges who will rule against me on many of these issues. There’s also the military ban, (though I’m too old for that to matter to me personally.) And many, many more.

    And trans people aren’t even the most victimized under this administration!

    Really, the biggest sleight of hand in Reagan’s question is that it encourages the comfortable majority to vote selfishly. It says, who cares about Black people, immigrants, LGBTQ+ people, disabled people, and so on, as long as you’re white, straight, cis, able-bodied, and making a few bucks more every paycheck than you used to? I’d hate for this to be the question we come back to every election season.

    I’m heartened to see so many answers here taking other demographics into consideration.

  54. My life is not better for one reason. We have a Republican President in a very divided nation. All I can see is that the other side of this two party system is willing to do to win. Just look at what has been done to this country in an attempt to remove a sitting President. I have never seen such selfish division at the cost of so many in my life time. It makes me sick a a Veteran to see, what I fought for just for possession of the US Treasury.

  55. Yes, to a very large degree, with the exception of 2020, I am better off now than I was 4 years ago. I certainly have a lot less stress and better financial flexibility now than I did then. Can’t say the same for the state that I currently live in, because it seems that ship has sailed off to the great unknown.

    Most importantly though, I now have a hidden ace up my sleeve, so if things continue to go downhill at work (state employee), I can do something about and switch careers, which I wasn’t able to do four years previously.

  56. This post & comments have given me a great deal to ponder. For a start, how much does material self-interest drive voter behavior? Is the promise of financial gain enough to nullify a candidate’s otherwise mean-spirited social policy positions?

    As someone who’s more than a little autistic, I’ve always been baffled by dishonesty. Over the decades I’ve come to understand the many, many reasons people lie; and to understand why, in the interest of interpersonal harmony, I might do so myself. Not too often; uttering a deliberate untruth makes me physically unwell. Sparing someone else’s feelings is one thing. I draw the line at lying to gain advantage or to escape blame. A badass with killer instinct I am not.

    For me the standout accomplishment of Trump’s term in office is the breathing space he’s given to unrepentant bullshit artists (himself foremost) who will say anything to advance their own agendas. “Truth be damned; I like my version of reality better than yours.”

    Like it or not, we occupy only this one planet. A butterfly flaps its wings, and knock-on effects ensue. Humans readily find reasons to dislike and torment each other, and to commit acts that can and do cause widespread suffering down the track. When scientific inquiry comes under attack, and when truth – or accuracy, if you want a less loaded term – ceases to matter, humanity’s ability to solve the problems that affect all of us is weakened that much further.

  57. As a European, following the news, I can say without any doubt that I feel a Hell of a lot less safe with Trump in the Oval Office. By sabotaging and shitting on every international body & treaty, by kowtowing to despots and undermining democracies, he is a serious threat to the wellbeing of almost all people* – and, of course, his environmental vandalism is a threat to life on this planet in almost every sense. All of that means I’m** definitely worse off, thanks to him.

    *apart from the super rich and said despots.
    **which isn’t that important compared to the far more serious suffering of others but it was the point of this Reagan inspired exercise.

  58. Four years ago, I was doing well at my job.

    Since then, I got a promotion and a significant raise. Then an executive order took away my promotion and my raise, so I’m busily occupying otherwise productive time for my employer trying to get back to where I was.

    So, on that front, not so good.

  59. I don’t understand the aluminum can soda point. BTW I live in the country directly north of you and we also were a little better off 4 years ago, and part of the reason is also because of the current american administration. Fewer tourists from the south for example. Also we’re scared of visiting the US now.

  60. Yeah, the “this sucks, but it would be worse in my fantasy strawman world under Clinton” contingent is really strong. Sunk cost fallacy and all.

  61. Steve ish/Patrick:

    Interesting how you’re worried about Marxists, black people and anti-fascists when it’s generally acknowledged by federal law enforcement that white supremacist domestic terrorists are much more of a problem, but do go on telling on yourselves.

    With that said, let me remind people this is not a thread to be a general gripe session on Trump. We’re specifically looking at the “are you better off four years ago” question. So if you’re spoiling for a general fight (yes, I’m looking at you, Sarah Marie), please refrain.

  62. I don’t know if I can return home. Like, ever.

    My parents fled the United States in literal fear for their lives and may die abroad as refugees, thanks to the government’s mismanagement of the COVID crisis.

    I haven’t seen the love of my life in close to a year now, and she’s living in fear and unable to come visit me.

    The world once looked to the US for leadership in crises like these, and that’s gone.

    I’m looking at the real possibility of living the rest of my life in exile from America, and it’s the fault of Trump and his enablers.

    So no, I am not better off today than I was four years ago. Even if I had more wealth now than then, I still wouldn’t be better off today than I was four years ago.

  63. Four years ago: I had a share’d birthday party with a few dozen friends. We went climbing, ate cheese, drank beer. There was a whole weekend filled with birthday events.

    This year: I took my wife to see a doctor as a followup to a surgery. Everyone at every doctor’s office is run ragged. The hospital is run ragged compared to when we last visited — all of two months ago.

    So, no: I am not better off now than I was four years ago. Absolutely not.

  64. Canadian here, but your choices are affecting me and my quality of life. Four years ago, I could exercise outside. Today, the air quality is so bad that outdoor activity is discouraged. Four years ago, the CO2 level was around 403 ppm. Today, it is over 410 ppm and rising.

  65. I don’t think the people supported President Trump care about whether they’re better off than four years ago, but only whether the people they hate are worse off now than four years ago, It’s suicidal, but at this point I don’t know what else explains them. Being more powerful or better off doesn’t, and I can’t even think that they’ve improved the status of their desired race and culture. I think they’re hoping to ablate everything and everyone they don’t like before they ablate themselves, and the likely nonsensicality of that goal doesn’t even seem to register.

    The liberal bubble exists, but at some point, there is some level of evidence that will make people in it stop and deal. The Trump people’s bubble doesn’t seem to have such a point, and that’s bad for everyone, because physical and biological reality don’t care what we think or care to listen to. Being immune to evidence is not a trait that gets passed on to further generations, probably because there aren’t any.

  66. Four years ago I had just graduated from college. My partner and I had moved in together and were both working, and saw each other much less than we did in college. We were feeling out this whole cohabitation thing, and getting temporary IKEA furniture. Essentially, we had just started out, but we were optimistic for the future.

    Today, I work from home and have been able to keep my job. I make more money and have more money thanks to frugality and investing. I spend more time with my partner because I work from home so there’s no commute.

    Here comes the but.

    My partner is a trauma nurse. She has been perpetually burnt out for months, and seems to have reached some point past burnt out where she expresses some sort of mental/emotional version of the Thousand Yard Stare. My parents live in Washington and are in essentially double quarantine. Our plans to get married and have a child are on hold indefinitely. Neither of us feel much hope, and even away from the fires there was a deep red sunset last night. Driving my partner to work, she said that it felt like the world is ending.

    Four years ago she had a tired smile, and we ate together at a cheap table. Today we eat together at a much nicer table, but she doesn’t smile anymore.

  67. Also, the US is much less able to be trusted and cooperate with other countries to do useful things. The only country worse off than us in that regard is the UK (which may soon be just England). In terms of US power and respect, we are also far worse off (and that set of chickens will come home to roost).

  68. @ Shrinking Violet:

    “For a start, how much does material self-interest drive voter behavior?”

    There’s no straightforward answer to that, mostly because perceived self-interest and material (real) self-interest don’t always align. In the US, this distortion is especially exaggerated.

    Not sure if you’re USian – non-USians have a very hard time grasping this, because it’s so irrational. Long years of religious backwardness, proliferating in a reason-free vacuum, have created a sort of stigma around being “poor and disadvantaged”. Magic Sky Daddy rewards you based on how meritorious and pious your are. Poverty is shameful and degrading. It’s a scourge only visited upon those who offend the Lord – gays, transsexuals, atheists, women who speak out of turn, people of color who refuse to toe the line of racial hierarchy, etc.

    This is why most USian poor consider themselves to be “middle class”. Good Americans can’t be poor, because God (or, for the less rabid, our infallible meritocracy) wouldn’t allow this. Poverty is reserved for African-Americans, Hispanics, “Marxists”, etc., who are lazy and don’t want to work, or stupid, or hate Our Noble Meritocracy and want to tear it down. So any program touted as “helping the poor” is rejected as a waste of taxpayer funds on the unworthy. People in areas with relatively few illegal immigrants have stronger anti-immigrant sentiments than people who live in border areas. Etc., etc.

  69. Chris P: Please give your partner a (long-distance, properly masked) hug from me. I’m not a nurse–teacher, here–but I’ve got nurses in the family and I am worried about and praying for all of them. I will add her to the prayer list.

  70. As always, comments are almost as illuminating as the original post. Much sympathy for everyone living in grief and fear, and/or economic need, environmental hazards and health problems. Much admiration for everyone who nevertheless gets up and gets through each day, working for good in this strange, hard time.
    I hope all USians here will vote to improve the future for themselves and their compatriots.

  71. I am more hopeful after reading all these comments, only because so many responses start with “yes, financially I am either better off or at least no worse off, BUT…” and then go on to describe the non-financial changes in their lives in the past four years that are negatively affecting not just their own lives but the health and happiness and long-term sustainability of the country as a whole. And they plan to vote based on impact on ALL of us. These are people I want to hang with!

  72. @Scalzi
    “Interesting how you’re worried about Marxists, black people and anti-fascists when it’s generally acknowledged by federal law enforcement that white supremacist domestic terrorists are much more of a problem, but do go on telling on yourselves.”


    Tell you what, John. If next summer bands of white supremacists burn police stations, loot stores, and cause general mayhem in 48 of 50 American cities, I promise to give them my full attention. If next week, two LAPD sheriff’s deputies are ambushed by hooded Klansmen, I’ll gladly eat crow.

    In the meantime, I’m going to call BS on that one. If you actually read the article, you’ll note that it is a federal bureaucrat’s prediction of (potential) threats. The tone of the article also suggests that it is politically motivated.

  73. Speaking of White Supremacists who “burn police stations, loot stores, and cause general mayhem”…

    White supremacist instigated looting at George Floyd protest, Richmond riots instigated by white supremacists disguised as Black Lives Matter, and the alleged suspect in Arson at Minneapolis Precinct During George Floyd Protests ‘reportedly’ has White Supremacist ties.

    Not to mention the Oakland, CA murder of Nia Wilson, a Black woman, by a White man who’d never met her or known her but who walked up to her and stabbed her to death.

    I am reasonably certain I could find examples for quite a few other states, from this summer’s protests and throughout the last four years, but even looking these up has sickened me.

    Concerning the main question: As a Black woman I am far more afraid of being attacked because of my race than I was four years ago, and of the young women in my life losing the reproductive rights that were so valuable to me in my youth. Just two of the many ways I’m not doing better than I was four years ago.

  74. @Patrick

    Until someone who lives in Minneapolis proper takes the podium, I’ll talk, as a resident of a next-door suburb.

    The protests here were peaceful *until* the police started attacking the protesters. Those apprehended for burning businesses, and at least one post office, and that police precinct house? White males, many from outside the city, flocking in to get their jollies from our pain. Friends who do live in Minneapolis, including many *white* friends, have been talking about how problematic and abusive the police there are, and have been for many years.

    So yeah, for at least one US city, we’ve already had the mayhem you cite.

    To bring this back to Mr. Scalzi’s question, we’re in the same boat many have cited. Four years ago I had not yet retired, but was just on the verge of determining that I *could* retire comfortably (which was then accomplished end of 2017). Financially, we’re fine. Amounts have dropped, but cushions were factored in to the question “can we afford to do this now?”.

    Four years ago we had a functioning federal government, and I appreciated it. I was appalled at the election of the racist, corrupt, inept, waste of space currently in the White House but naively thought that the Republicans would eventually rein him in like eventually happened to Nixon. Like I said, naive. And it never occurred to me then that the question of the day about the White House wouldn’t be “what stupidity has he done now?” but “who or what did he hurt or destroy this time?”

    Four years ago we had two cats, not one. We lost Princess last year to diabetes. Obviously, that has nothing to do with the larger situations in the country. Except, we saw first-hand the sky-rocketed prices for insulin–even veterinary insulin. Eternally thankful for that above-mentioned financial cushion so we didn’t even have to think about paying for her care.

    Four years ago I could go to a movie, could go to the library, could go to a restaurant, all whenever we liked. Wonder now if we’ll ever be able to do so again.

    Four years ago I was watching our health care costs creep upwards, but had no concerns that coverage was going to just disappear.

    Four years ago I didn’t even have to think about food and supplies. Things are fairly stable in our area, for now. We’ve been able to utilize delivery for lots of things, like groceries. But there’s that constant anxiety regarding supply chains that could yet easily crumble. And we’re among the lucky ones.

    Four years ago I could use the US Postal Service without wondering if they’d be destroyed and taken away from us all, leaving us at the mercy of private, unregulated carriers.

    Four years ago I wasn’t suffering from low-level anxiety-fueled depression that has kept me from working on most all of my creative projects. I was depressed from the job, but retirement fixed that, and even *that* depression wasn’t enough to stop me from knitting, or drawing, or writing. It’s now been months since I’ve touched my projects.

    I’m way more fortunate than many; privilege insulates us from a lot of the current problems, at least for now. We don’t live in the US West. We’re getting by pretty well. But even keeping the question focused on just our household, NO we’re not better off than four years ago.

  75. 1) Why would they do that? Other people (DHS? local police in some cases) can do it for them legally. Better for them to just stand in front of state capitols with guns to make slightly more subtle hints than do things that might make people remember what they are and might put them in jail with people who remember it.

    2) Instead of trying to stop the riots, Trump decided to incite them, from Charlottesville onward. He needs to show everyone who’s boss to stay in power, which inevitably escalates conflicts. If you wanted a President concerned about your safety and property instead of his (and his party’s) self-interest, you chose…poorly.

    3) Not sure how Trump has prevented the costs of people here illegally. Most of what his Administration has tried to do has been to prevent people from coming here legally – unless the two correlate (which his incompetence on COVID might help, by making no one want to come here). He’s also made it harder for the federal government to cooperate with state and local governments, which might make it harder to reduce illegal immigration. His poop-throwing antics likely make it harder for the US to cooperate with other governments to reduce illegal immigration.

    I blame Bethesda. Trump and his party seemed to have played Wolfenstein:A New Colossus too much and decided that the world that to the protagonists was a nightmare was actually a good place to be.

  76. Patrick:

    “In the meantime, I’m going to call BS on that one.”

    Given that you are provably ignorant in this case, however, your calling of BS means very little.

    Also, unless you can manage to steer yourself back to the discussion at hand, perhaps you should bow out for the rest of the thread.

    Also also, final reminder to everyone to keep to topic, or I’ll just start snipping and/or close the thread. Thank you.

  77. Financially, yes, I am much better off now than 4 years ago. Most of that is due to investments that were made way, way back in like ’08 coming to fruition, so I wouldn’t say the current administration has anything to do with that (and the previous administration had a direct and positive effect).

    I’ve also got a bigger house with AC (thank goodness since now we’re both working from home and you can’t breathe the air here), and we managed to sell our old house in an up market.

    I got to finally take that trip to Europe in 2017.

    On the other hand my company has been through another 3 CEOs, and before COVID there were periodic warnings that I might need to go to China for work, for months, with little advanced warning.

    On the “this year” front I’ve suddenly had to spend a lot of time explaining to friends (and strangers on the Internet) that no, Seattle is not on fire, there are not riots “everywhere”, there is not looting “everywhere”, and we’re not eyeball-deep in Marxists. I mean, there’s so much smoke I can’t go outside, but that’s a climate change problem not a protesters problem.

    Four years ago my immunology science communication hobby was a hobby, and not me fighting for our lives against the rampant misinformation and disinformation that is everywhere today.

    Four years ago the biggest worry I had for Thanksgiving was the menu and if the guests would bring Cards Against Humanity that I would have to play with my in-laws.
    Now I’m trying to figure out how to get to my in-laws without contracting COVID (because it would kill both of them), without trying to drive an RV through a snow-filled mountain pass, or getting an extra mortgage on my house to take a private jet. And worrying that if I don’t figure this out my MIL will get COVID anyway from her careless friends, or her other conditions will catch up with her and I will never see her again.

    So yeah, not better off. I would completely give up the house for the US to have had a real plan for COVID.

  78. I guess I should answer the question. Financially, I’m better off or at least as well off as I was when Trump was elected. My life has gone off the rails in lots of ways, but none that are Trump or his party’s fault (for the most part).

    On the other hand, the government is beginning to malfunction in major ways (USPS, COVID) because one party has decided that it all needs to go away be replaced with kleptocracy. My kids are cranky because schools can’t run safely and they’re stuck at home. They have lost most of the support they would have had because they can’t be with people at church or at school that could support them (their parents are getting divorced). I’m sure that their leaning is not well because I can’t teach them and work (although, as noted, almost everyone’s kids will be behind after this). When Obama left, we had a government that did what people expected (which may be why people thought that Trump couldn’t mess it up). After 3.5 years of Trump, the government is failing in lots of ways, both domestically and internationally. We haven’t paid for it financially, but the debt he has helped run up will need to be paid somehow.

    Psychically, I feel like I’m in a marriage with crazy people and I can’t get divorced. There seems to be no level of evidence that will make them veer from their beliefs, no way to test their ideas against evidence. We can’t separate, and they can’t be convinced. I was terrified when Trump took over. It’s hard to look at so many people and think that they are willing to suspend logic and humanity for this. I would have hoped if I were going to sell my soul that I would have gotten more than the reign of a professional narcissist with delusions of competence and humanity.

  79. Ultimately, I’m less worried about BLM protesters than I am about the aforementioned soldiers in the race war the president is stoking; this is something else for which I didn’t have to prepare pre-Trump.

    One thing still around from four years ago is the pretzel logic and obtuse responses from bigots who, faced with the truth about white supremacy, want to point to extreme examples of and patently ignore the underlying causes of its resistance.

    No lynching’s, no protests.

    Let me be clear; nothing, nothing at all, justifies the murder of innocent people, be they civilians or police officers.

    Still, it would behoove Trumpists to remember what happens when people get tired of being oppressed.

    Unintended consequences can get a bit…bloody.

    Sometimes rage, like the kind that motivated the likes of Kyle Rittenhouse, Dylann Roof and the El Paso shooter, manifests itself in terrifying ways.

    As for Patrick, I can’t believe how right Robin DiAngelo always is about fragility.

    Clearly, you are a racist; I’m glad you cleared that up.

    I’ll take your…interesting reply to John as answers to the questions I posed upthread.

    I wish that just one decrier of BLM protests would come out and admit that violence and resistance are acceptable only if the results benefit them and theirs.

    Sadly, four years out of Obama’s relatively safe, respected and stable America, we’re doomed to whataboutism and hypocritical handwavium of genocidal, white supremacist science deniers whose tantrums in states run by political opponents were praised by Trumpists nationwide.

    Can you imagine the carnage in the streets if even one white woman were forcibly sterilized?

    Finally, four years ago, I didn’t hear hardline antichoice advocates calling for the abolition of Planned Parenthood out of one side of their mouths weren’t championing eugenics out the other.

  80. @Patrick: “If next week, two LAPD sheriff’s deputies are ambushed by hooded Klansmen, I’ll gladly eat crow.”


    The FBI announced Tuesday that Steven Carrillo, the U.S. Air Force sergeant who allegedly murdered law enforcement officers in California during protests earlier this month, was associated with the right-wing Boogaloo movement, and that Carrillo chose the timing of his attacks to “take advantage of a time when this nation was mourning the killing of George Floyd.”