Green Room

Are You Now, Or Have You Ever Been Better Off?

posted at 6:03 pm on September 5, 2012 by

At last! The reanointment campaign of President Barack “You didn’t build that” Obama is finally ready to detail exactly what way Americans are better off now than they were four years ago. In a New York Times piece, they finally get down to the nitty gritty of economic, cultural, and national-security improvement since January 20th, 2009.

Here’s the lede:

A day after fumbling a predictable and straightforward question posed by Mitt Romney last week — are Americans better off than they were four years ago — the Obama campaign provided a response on Monday that it said would be hammered home during the Democratic convention here this week: “Absolutely.”

That answer, “absolutely,” comes from Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign mangler, at the Democratic National Convention on Monday:

In fact, on Monday the campaign settled on a definitive answer of, as the deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter put it, “Absolutely.”

There it is, in black and white (or whatever colors you’ve chosen for your font and background): Stephanie Cutter has categorically, unequivocally, hysterically answered that “better-off” question for all time: Ab-so-lootely we’re better off now than when Obama assumed the position. Absolutely!

Who could argue with that?

Let’s not be unfair; Cutter did go on to give detailed and specific reasons why we’re better off:

Followed down a hallway by a local news crew asking the “better off” question in the convention center here, Ms. Cutter described the economic scene four years ago — the auto companies teetering near bankruptcy, bank failures — and said, “Does anyone want to go back to 2008? I don’t think so.”

I’m not so sure: Perhaps those voters who lost their jobs under the Obama administration long for 2008, which they might see as the golden age of employment.

Today’s real unemployment/underemployment rate — what the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls the U6 labor underutilitzation rate — includes those unemployed and actively looking for a job, those unemployed who would like to work but have given up in despair, and those who are working part time but want to work full time.

That U6 unemployment number is significantly higher now than it was when Obama seized the reins of power.

Back then, on January 20th, 2009, the U6 rate was 14.2%. It had been rising in the waning days of the Bush administration; and it continued rising throughout Obama’s first year, hitting a peak of 17.1% in December, 2009.

That big run-up of 2.9% represented nearly 4.5 million more people unemployed or underemployed than when Obama was inaugurated.

The U6 rate stayed more or less around that point for another year, then finally began to drift downward a little in December, 2010. It wafted back towards the “inauguration rate” over the next year, hitting 14.5% in March, 2012; but then the U6 unemployment number took off again. Today it hovers at 15.0%… still noticibly higher than it was when Obama was sworn at by the Chief Justice. The 0.8% rise in the U6 rate from 2009 corresponds to 1.24 million more Americans out of work or underemployed than when Obama’s term began.

At no point has total unemployment/underemployment dropped back down to Obama’s inauguration rate; on employment, the president is still underwater. Those hoping for employment are certainly no better off today than they were four years ago… and I doubt the extra one and a quarter million unemployed/underemployed Americans are mollified by the fact that Barack Obama seized General Motors and gave huge bailouts to his Big Banking cronies.

Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland echoed Cutter’s claim anent Obama’s stellar record on job creation, though he offered a slightly more cautious version:

Mr. O’Malley provided another answer on Monday on CNN: “We are clearly better off as a country because we’re creating jobs rather than losing them. We have not recovered all that we lost in the Bush recession. That’s why we need to continue to move forward.”

But they’ve also “not recovered” all the extra jobs lost in the Obama recession; they’re still short, as we noted, by 1.24 million jobs since inauguration.

Forward! Progress! Ab-so-lootley!

Let’s press on, guvnor. Surely there must be some objective measurement to back up Stephanie’s cutting ejaculation of “Absolutely!”

Oh, here we go; Slow Joe Biden issues an unanswerable proof:

Speaking in Detroit on Monday, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said during a union rally, “You want to know whether we’re better off?” He answered: “I’ve got a little bumper sticker for you: Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.”

Well, yes; it’s true: Osama bin Laden is dead. On the other hand, his organization, al-Qaeda, and its kissing cousins in the Taliban, are significantly more powerful today than they were at the end of Bush’s term. So there is that.

Throughout all of 2008, 151 Americans were killed in Afghanistan by enemy action, according to the notoriously right-wing news source, the Hufflepuffington Post. But last year, that number had exploded to 398, down from 492 in 2010. Seems like quite a lot more Taliban/al-Qaeda activity, especially for a war whose expiry date has already been announced.

And of course, radical Islamism in general (Egypt, Syria, Iran, Iraq, et al) has been on the march for the last couple of years. It’s true that one extremely bloody mass murderer was finally taken down — by U.S. Navy SEALs, by the way; not by Barack Obama personally, no matter what he may fantasize. But as George W. Bush warned during his presidency, bin Laden, or even al Qaeda, is not the entirety of radical Islamism; in fact, Iran is the most dangerous radical-Islamist power, and it has been since the 1979 revolution.

President B.O. has done virtually nothing to check the overarching threat of jihadism and its related components, from nuclear weapons; to massacres of Jews, Christians, and Animists; to subversion of democracies or emerging democracies; to cross-border warfare; to “lawfare” and other elements of dawa, supporting sharia law by means short of violent assault. In fact, Obama reserves his strongest condemnations not for radical Islamists, but for Israel, the lone fully democratic nation in the Middle East.

With the uninhibited rise of radical Islamism across the world and even here in the United States on Barack Obama’s watch (the Fort Hood massacre, for example), we are not better off on terrorism than we were four years ago… even with the death of an old man hiding in Pakistan.

Joe Biden’s second point is technically true: General Motors is, in some sense, still “alive” (though I don’t quite see how the attribute of “life” comports with the general Democratic Progressivist rejection of corporations as “persons” under the law). However, all those former stockholders of GM — millions of Americans (including a great many retireees) in their 401K plans and pension funds — might not feel better off… as their holdings were looted by Obama to give his Big Labor pals a stock jackpot. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Maybe the Democrats are happy to stand on bailouts for bankers, “Government Motors,” and claiming credit for the heroic deeds of America’s Special Forces; but it does seem just a little squirrelly to me.

Their next point… oh. Oh dear; I’m afraid we have managed to plod all the way through the triumphalist New York Times article. There is nothing else in the article.

Yet isn’t it peculiar that in this entire litany of reasons in the New York Times why we’re better off today than we were four years ago, not a single Democrat points to ObamaCare or the trillion-dollar “stimulus?” It’s as if the two signal achievements of the Obama administration have faded, like the Cheshire Cat, leaving only their deficits behind.

NB: In the photograph accompanying the Times article, we see two people sporting “I ♥ ObamaCare” bumper stickers; alas, those two “people” are in fact cardboard cutouts — with no faces. I don’t think they’re any better off either than they were fours years ago, when they might have been living spruce trees. (I also find it amusing that Obama himself now accepts the derisive term “ObamaCare” for his MIA government medicine program, which used to be called the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” Heh.)

We began this inquiry with the Reagan/Romney Riddle: “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” I reckon we’ll just have to watch the debacle spectacle unfold to see what evidence they can cite, besides that already (?) introduced, to justify Cutter’s Comprehensive Confirmation: “Absolutely!”

Cross-posted on Big Lizards

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so forget GM…let’s focus on Osama…$4 trillion in debt to get 1 guy!

as long as I’m on the topic, I gave a serviceman a ride a few years ago and asked whether we knew where Osama was…without skipping a beat, the answer was “YES…the enemy we know trumps the enemy we don’t”. But in a time when Obama’s approval ratings were tanking, they decided to play the trump card.

teejk on September 5, 2012 at 6:22 PM

My family has never been worse off than during the past 4 years. Recently I was in an accident that was not my fault. My car was totaled, we had to hire a lawyer to make the other driver’s insurance pay, and in the meantime I have no car because we cannot afford to replace the car. At any time other than these last few years we would have had the money to replace the car while waiting for insurance to pay. Our son turns 16 in November. He doesn’t know it yet but he will not be getting his drivers license. My husband and I are both unemployed and we cannot afford to pay the increase in our car insurance if he gets his license. He is just going to have to renew his drivers permit and hope that one of us finds a job before his next birthday. If not he will not be getting his drivers license next year either. I feel bad for him but there is nothing we can do.

sherrimae on September 5, 2012 at 11:41 PM

Good luck to you and your family, sherrimae. Hopefully things will start turning around soon.

DrAllecon on September 6, 2012 at 9:16 AM

Heck yeah we’ve been better off.

The sad part is there’s really no hope for improvement…Republicans have been long on propaganda and promises but short on solutions.

MelonCollie on September 6, 2012 at 10:00 AM

Some people have been able to get the blip on their income up to what it was, but you can’t make up for the losses during the four years, and the things you have cut, and the places you have consolidated your debt or given up a credit card that you used to be able to pay, since many of your other payments kept going up during this recession. My cell phone bill? 40 in tax or something like that on it now.

I am in NE, and here we just got a winter oil bill for $5 per gallon. Any minute now, the Kennedy’s are going to be whining that the federal government needs to pay that $5 per gallon for the poor this winter, and be expecting you to come up with it, when the answer four years ago was Drill Baby Drill, and it has not got better for home heating oil. They need to take all taxes off home heating oil.

Fleuries on September 6, 2012 at 12:29 PM