Oct. 3: This post has been corrected.
With tonight's debate focusing on domestic policy, we've rounded up some of the best coverage of the critical economic issues in the presidential election. (Don't worry; they're not all long reads.)
State of the Economy
Romney Better Off for Not Asking as Economy Improves Since 2009, Bloomberg, September 2012
The Romney campaign often asks the question, are you better off than four years ago? Bloomberg looked at 70 indicators of economic well-being and according to 51 of them — including growth, hiring, housing starts and the stock market — things are indeed better now than when President Obama took office. Of course, the economy was in big trouble four years ago, the recovery isn't exactly rip-roaring, and it isn't often clear what can be attributed to Obama's policies.
The Fiscal Cliff, In Three and A Half Graphics, NPR Planet Money, September 2012
On New Year's day, spending cuts and tax increases are set to go into effect, unless Congress votes otherwise — what's known as the "fiscal cliff." Leave it to Planet Money to create one of the clearest explanations of the cuts and tax increases: three graphics break it all down.
Debt and Deficits
Obama vs. Boehner: Who Killed the Debt Deal?, The New York Times Magazine, March 2012
Last year, Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner almost hashed out a "grand bargain" to cut the deficit by $2.8 trillion over the next decade. This is the best account of how that deal fell apart — what ultimately put U.S. on the path to the fiscal cliff it faces in January. Short on time? Check out the short video explainer that accompanies the piece.
The Three Best Charts on How Clinton's Surpluses Became Bush and Obama's Deficits, The Washington Post, September 2012
As the national debt hit $16 trillion last month, the Post's Ezra Klein rounded up three charts to explain how that happened. Each chart accounts for how the debt built up slightly differently, but they agree on one thing: "The primary drivers of the debt predate Barack Obama," Klein writes. "The post-9/11 wars and security build-up, the Bush tax cuts, and the 2001 and 2008 recessions simply began before Obama became president."
Bank Lobby's Onslaught Shifts Debate on Volcker Rule, Bloomberg, March 2012
Though the financial reform bill known as Dodd-Frank was passed in 2010, details are still being hashed out — and in cases weakened — amid a flurry of lobbying. (As the New York Times reported, Congress members themselves are still working behind the scenes to influence how the law is enacted). Romney has pledged to repeal Dodd-Frank.
Bailout — for Banks and Homeowners
Bailout Tracker, ProPublica, ongoing
Four years later, how much are taxpayers in the red from bailing out companies during the crisis? We gave the latest tally last month, showing how the government is likely to lose billions on General Motors, and has actually profited from the bank bailouts.
The Great American Foreclosure Story: The Struggle for Justice and a Place to Call Home, ProPublica, April 2012
A deep dive into the causes and consequences of the housing crisis, and how many of Obama's policies have fallen short of expectations. Some pin the failure of those policies on the banks: A recent study says that some of the country's biggest banks failed to help some 800,000 homeowners get loan modifications through a government program. As Businessweek pointed out, Romney's housing plans, while still vague, appear similar to Obama's.
Jobs and Stimulus
Work, Esquire, March 2012
We often hear the numbers, but Esquire showcased the human side of long-term unemployment with this collection of profiles. (Yahoo! also explored the issue using a selection of readers' own stories, in July 2011. They showcased the thousands of submissions on a Tumblr, which is still being updated.)
Number of Green Jobs Fails to Live Up to Promises, The Bay Citizen, August 2011
While President Obama once promised the stimulus and other programs would create five million green jobs over 10 years, the Bay Citizen says the "results so far suggest such numbers are a pipe dream." In addition to scandals like Solyndra, some clean-tech companies simply didn't produce as many jobs as hoped. SolFocus, featured in this article, employed 90 people, and outsourced the construction of its solar panels to China — another key issue in the campaign. (ProPublica also has a database letting you see how stimulus money has been spent in your community.)
The Safety Net
Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend On It, New York Times, February 2012
In 2010, spending on programs like Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid consumed 66 cents of every dollar of revenue, up from 37 cents for every dollar in 2000. This money has increasingly gone to the middle class. This piece provides a good primer on the safety net and its expansion, surveying several sides of the debate — including those who collect benefits while voicing their support for cutting assistance.
'Back At Square One': As States Repurpose Welfare Funds, More Families Fall Through Safety Net, Huffington Post, June 2012
Welfare reforms gave more control over allocation and eligibility requirements to individual states. Many have since used funds to plug budget holes, and some have ended up creating hurdles for the unemployed to find jobs. This piece chronicles one woman's plight in Georgia, where it's particularly difficult to obtain benefits.
Correction: We originally said the government lost billions on General Motors and AIG. While the government is currently $2.6 B in the hole on its AIG investment, it's likely to turn a profit. The GM investment is likely to result in a loss, but they're still recouping funds.