The New President's Economy Problem

Your paycheck is shrinking, gas costs $4 a gallon, and your house is losing value. Here's what can be done

Anthony Suau for TIME

Traders on the open outcry Euro/Dollar pit of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

In the waning minutes of his only TV debate with Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter in 1980, Ronald Reagan looked straight into the camera and asked, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"

It was a defining question of the campaign — and of late 20th century American politics. It was also pretty easy to answer. The "misery index," a then popular measure that added the unemployment rate to the inflation rate, had skyrocketed during Carter's tenure. Taxes had risen sharply. There were other issues on voters' minds, like the...

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