Are you better off?

By Andrea Raby & Helene Dryden

Leading up to the Nov. 6 election, City Pulse is taking to the streets to ask residents from all walks of life this inherently loaded — or plainly simple — question: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”

— Edited by Andy Balaskovitz

Andy Farmer

Age: 53

Residence: Lansing

Occupation: Associate state director for health at AARP Michigan

“The idea of asking people if they are better off than they were four years ago can’t be pinned to anything meaningful about how people should be voting, how they should be learning about issues and policy, and how they should be digging into the complicated solutions that need to match up with the complexity of the problems we’re facing. Their voting should be turned that way, not around some kind of artificial measure about whether things are better for them or not, based on four years, when the reasons we are where we are stems from way, way before four years ago and will continue flowing that way four years after this, too. So, I think that’s how I’d answer that question: We’ve got to stop asking that question.”

Thrishanna Martin

Age: 20

Residence: East Lansing

Occupation: Student/retail worker

“Financially, no: far from it. I’m an out-of-state student, so the tuition here has gone up in the last two years, and that made it difficult. I was in high school four years ago, so it was a little bit easier back then. Just living on my own and everything is harder. So I would have to say I was better off four years ago than I am now.”

Dave Reinhart

Age: 70

Residence: East Lansing

Occupation: Retired

“Absolutely, because the auto industry didn’t fail, because the banks didn’t fail, because Wall Street didn’t fail, and because I think jobs are beginning to increase. There’s still a lot to do, but unfortunately much of the nation isn’t better — like 49 percent of them, which is appalling. It will really only improve when people have some empathy for their fellow human beings and are willing to sacrifice some of what they have for what people don’t have. And that seems to be harder and harder for people in this country.”