One of the anecdotes one hears about Ronald Reagan is he famously asked voters if they were better off after he was elected president than before. What he meant by 'better off' was whether their incomes had risen. If voters were pleased with having more money in their pockets, they were to vote Republican. It would not be a good idea for George W. Bush to borrow that ploy from the Reagan play book. Because some liberal said so? No, the source of the information is much more formidable than that. The Internal Revenue Service has spoken.
The New York Times has the story.
I.R.S. Says Americans' Income Shrank for 2 Consecutive Years
. . .The overall income Americans reported to the government shrank for two consecutive years after the Internet stock market bubble burst in 2000, the first time that has effectively happened since the modern tax system was introduced during World War II, newly disclosed information from the Internal Revenue Service shows.
The total adjusted gross income on tax returns fell 5.1 percent, to just over $6 trillion in 2002, the most recent year for which data is available, from $6.35 trillion in 2000. Because of population growth, average incomes declined even more, by 5.7 percent.
Adjusted for inflation, the income of all Americans fell 9.2 percent from 2000 to 2002, according to the new I.R.S. data.
The report credits two factors for the decline in income:
•The fall in the stock market in 2001, and
•The unavailability of enough well-paying jobs since the turn of the century.
But, will the Bush administration take a Reagan-like approach in the last months of the campaign season? The resounding answer to the question of whether one is better off since Bush took office is 'no,' for most Americans. That even applies to many who are wealthy, who were unable to recoup their losses through tax breaks. Considering the source of the data, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for the Bush administration to discredit it. Perhaps they will ignore it or try to get people to look elsewhere instead.