Ramirez on the Democratic "better-off" dance

Actually, the entire editorial staff at Investors Business Daily dissects the Democratic avoidance of the “are you better off” question, which is easily the most predictable query in presidential politics after Ronald Reagan used it to devastating effect in 1980.  Their lead editorial counts all the ways in which that question has to be answered with a resounding “no”:

• Median incomes: These have fallen 7.3% since Obama took office, which translates into an average of $4,000. Since the so-called recovery started, median incomes continued to fall, dropping $2,544, or 4.8%.

• Long-term unemployed: More than three years into Obama’s recovery, 811,000 more still fall into this category than when the recession ended.

• Poverty: The poverty rate climbed to 15.1% in 2010, up from 14.3% in 2009, and economists think it may have hit 15.7% last year, highest since the 1960s. …

• Misery Index: When Obama took office, the combination of unemployment and inflation stood at 7.83. Today it’s 9.71.

There are more reasons, so be sure to read the rest.  I pick up the same theme for my column at The Week, and explain why even the media should be able to figure out the answer from the avoidance strategy of the Democrats:

The chart above shows the actual direction taken on jobs. Further data on incomes only underscores the decline that characterizes the Obama recovery. Median household incomes dropped faster during the recovery than they did during the recession, according to a study published last week by Sentier Research based on Census Bureau data. Small wonder that consumer confidence as measured by Gallup on the day that the Democratic convention opens has dropped back to a year-long low, roughly at the same level as the beginning of the recovery in mid-2009.

Obama’s new strategy has its pitfalls. To convince voters to accept an “incomplete” as a first-term grade, Democrats need to put forward a detailed agenda for a second term that addresses the shortcomings of the first Obama term. So far, though, Obama has said little about his second-term agenda, focusing almost entirely on pointing out Mitt Romney’s flaws as a potential president instead. Neither the president nor his party has offered much more than “Forward,” the campaign slogan, and National Journal‘s Major Garrett reported this week that Democrats in Charlotte are as bemused by the question of a second-term agenda as anyone else. Democratic strategist Joe Trippi couldn’t define “Forward” for Garrett either, admitting that “nobody really knows what that means.”

This is why Democrats want to avoid the Reagan Metric. Just the existence of this question frames the election as a referendum on a failed administration. Obama needs to convince people that Mitt Romney is such a bad alternative that the only answer is another four years of economic policies that Democrats won’t defend now. If Obama succeeds in winning a second term on that basis, with no agenda for new policies, while less than a third of likely voters believe that he has won the Reagan Metric, it will indeed make history — and set a record for cynicism and despair in American politics.

Finally, Michael Ramirez applies his Pulitzer Prize-winning talents to present the Democratic response to the question in one single frame:



This is not just the question in this presidential election; it’s the question of every presidential election.  The inability of Democrats to address it makes it clear that the real answer is no.

Also, be sure to check out Ramirez’ terrific collection of his works: Everyone Has the Right to My Opinion, which covers the entire breadth of Ramirez’ career, and it gives fascinating look at political history.  Read my review here, and watch my interviews with Ramirez here and here.  And don’t forget to check out the entire Investors.com site, which has now incorporated all of the former IBD Editorials, while individual investors still exist.