Despite what we're hearing from liberal pundits who have already crowned President Obama the winner, pocket book issues will still determine the election on Nov. 6.

The questions Republicans hope voters will ask themselves is whether or not they are better off now than four years ago and if they think Obama has us on the right course.

In the upcoming debates and over the next 40 days of the campaign, President Obama will be spinning the numbers, indicating how the economic recovery has been slow, and that his policies need more time.

Mitt Romney, meanwhile, will be asking voters to look at the results over the last four years and then make a judgment on where we are headed. Republicans have plenty of ammunition to skewer this administration, including higher gas and food prices, an increase in personal debt and stagnant wages. Just by opening the wallet, Americans can see how fast discretionary income, which is what you have left of your income after you subtract your taxes and your necessary expenses and obligations, has tumbled under Obama's watch.

Another key indicator of personal wealth is our homes. Consumers did receive a rare bit of positive news earlier this week in a report showing home values trending up in some of the larger cities, places where the housing market has been distressed, even though we were told that the Great Recession "ended" three years ago. Metro areas like Tampa, Fla., Denver, Detroit and Charlotte, N.C. have shown some positive movement.

The depressed housing market produced a surge in renters, especially in areas like San Francisco, where the average apartment this summer cost about $2,734 a month, a 13-percent increase over last year's rent.

In order to make renting more affordable to the city's single residents, San Francisco supervisors are studying the possibility of changing the city's building code to allow construction of apartments as small as 220 square feet.

Talk about your downsize!

These micro apartments, which would rent for about $1,200 to $1,500 a month, would include a kitchen, bathroom and closet. Just double the size of some prison cells, the units planned for one neighborhood would include window seats that turn into spare beds and beds that turn into tables.

"Although in our fantasy world everyone would live in a single-family home or a huge spacious flat, the reality of life is that not everyone can afford that," said San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener who drafted the legislation for the smaller apartments.

The plan has its critics. Some feel that the units would boost the city's population density, thus burdening public transit and other city services.

Sara Short, executive director of a tenants' rights group in San Francisco, said there needs to be a pilot project to further study the plan or the Bay City could end up like the city-state of Singapore, which recently had to raise its minimum dwelling sizes because of congestion concerns.

The micro apartment plan serves as a microcosm of Obama's economy. Consumers are being squeezed by having to pay much more, but receiving much less return for their buck.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com