Thirty-two years ago, Ronald Reagan asked voters a simple question that devastated Jimmy Carter’s chances for a second term, and that presidential candidates have had to answer ever since: Are you better off now than you were four years ago?  In 1980, voters overwhelmingly said no and gave Carter the heave-ho.  When times are good, incumbents ask that question, and when times are bad, challengers ask it.  It’s a personal question, one that has a different answer for each voter.

Overall, though, the Washington Post reports that the answer isn’t just no, but hell no.  Household incomes have dropped 4.8% during the Obama recovery, and are now at a level below the recession:

Household income is down sharply since the recession ended three years ago, according to a report released Thursday, providing another sign of the stubborn weakness of the economic recovery.

From June 2009 to June 2012, inflation-adjusted median household income fell 4.8 percent, to $50,964, according to a report by Sentier Research, a firm headed by two former Census Bureau officials.

But — but — but — Obama inherited this decline, right?

Incomes have dropped more since the beginning of the recovery than they did during the recession itself, when they declined 2.6 percent, according to the report, which analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. The recession, the most severe since the Great Depression, lasted from December 2007 to June 2009.

Overall, median income is 7.2 percent below its December 2007 level and 8.1 percent below where it stood in January 2000, when it was $55,470, according to the report.

And while the decline differs by employment type, it turns out no one is better off than they were at the beginning of the recovery.  However, one class managed to do less worse than the others:

Households led by the self-employed saw their income drop 9.4 percent, to $66,752, the report said. Households headed by private-sector employees saw wages drop by 4.5 percent, to $63,800, and households led by government workers saw median income decline by 3.5 percent, to $77,998, the report said.

Yes, you read that right.  Government-worker households earn 17% more than the self-employed, and 22% more than private-sector workers.  They also suffered less of a decline than those other classes of workers.

What did Barack Obama say at the beginning of summer?

The truth of the matter is that the Obama “recovery” feels like a recession because on a household-income basis, it is.  And compared to the private sector, it’s the public-employee households that are “doing fine,” at least relatively speaking.