Americans Do Not Believe They Are Better Off Than They Were Four Years Ago

Some unpleasant news for the Democrats in a new poll.

While Democrats struggle to recover from their fumble on Sunday regarding the “Reagan question,” and indeed spent most of yesterday trying to do damage control on that issue, a new poll says a majority of voters do not believe they are better off than they were four years ago:

A majority of voters believe the country is worse off today than it was four years ago and that President Obama does not deserve reelection, according to a new poll for The Hill.

Fifty-two percent of likely voters say the nation is in “worse condition” now than in September 2008, while 54 percent say Obama does not deserve reelection based solely on his job performance.

Only 31 percent of voters believe the nation is in “better condition,” while 15 percent say it is “about the same,” the poll found. Just 40 percent of voters said Obama deserves reelection.

The results highlight the depth of voter dissatisfaction confronting Obama as he makes his case for a second term at this week’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

As I’ve said before, results like this highlight the problems that Obama and the Democrats face heading into the final stretch of the General Election notwithstanding the problems that the Romney campaign may have over the next two months. That’s why the Obama campaign has tried to shift the election from a referendum on the President’s performance to a “choice” election between two competing visions, which they clearly think puts them in a stronger position. Whether it works or not is still an open question, but it’s worth nothing that the “are you better?” off question has been dominating the campaign news cycle since Sunday. While it’s likely to be pushed aside by convention coverage, it will return again on Friday morning when the jobs report is released. If it contains more bad news, that will not be a good way to start off the post-convention campaigning for the Obama campaign.

As I noted above, Obama campaign surrogates spent most of yesterday asserting that, yes, America is better of than it was four years ago. In an interview with a local Colorado television station, though, the President had a slightly different answer:

Incomplete? That doesn’t strike me as the kind of answer you want to give when you’re running for re-election in what are, at the very least, challenging economic times and it just seems to point out even further the extent to which the Democrats have mishandled this question:

Democrats start their convention on Tuesday in Charlotte dogged by the unforced errors of not one but three top Obama advisers and allies who muffed a fundamental question that’s been utterly predictable ever since Ronald Reagan asked it during his campaign against President Carter more than 30 years ago.

The Obama campaign is scrambling to regain its footing, and party strategists predict that the Sunday-show flubs will be forgotten by week’s end. “Speeches by Clinton and Obama will be just what the doctor ordered,” said veteran communications strategist Doug Hattaway, referring to the former president, who is slotted for Wednesday night, and the current one, who will accept the nomination on Thursday.

But the display on TV had to be less than reassuring for Democrats, particularly since two of those who struggled with the question—senior White House adviser David Plouffe and chief campaign strategist David Axelrod—would theoretically be the coaches preparing top-tier surrogates such Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who answered “No” on Sunday when asked if the country is doing better than it was four years ago.

The question was inevitable, said Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis. “Every reelection campaign is about that question. The Reagan campaign immortalized that question,” he said. “That is not a surprise question.” Kofinis called it a fantasy to believe that the country isn’t better off and asserted that there is plenty of evidence for Democrats to make a full-throated defense of Obama’s tenure.

One longtime party operative who receives talking points from the campaign said that the two latest sets of guidance, on Sunday and Monday, did not include anything specific about the “better off” question. The thrust instead was looking forward and discussing what Obama would do that Republican nominee Mitt Romney would not do, said the operative, an Obama ally who sought anonymity in order to frankly discuss the documents.

Some party strategists said they could understand the campaign’s instinct to play down the administration’s accomplishments. “The challenge is that, with people still hurting, it’s tough to point at the successes, because it sounds like you don’t feel people’s pain,” Hattaway said.

There seems to be some belief among Democrats that this question will fade away by the end of the week or so, but I think they’re being way too optimistic in that regard. Not only will the jobs report bring it back to the forefront at 8:30 Friday morning, but it seems fairly clear at the moment that Republicans are not going to drop the issue either. The bigger issue, though, is that one needs to remember when dealing with a question like this one that it isn’t just a question of citing current economic statistics or what’s happened since 2009. It’s a matter of what people feel as well, and there’s plenty of evidence of economic and personal insecurity in the nation that is likely influencing the way people feel about the “better off” question and what it means for November. You simply cannot respond to this question with dry economic statistics, and if you do they you risk coming across as being callous. President Reagan wasn’t asking Americans in 1980 about GPD growth rates, or the CPI, or anything like that. He was asking them about how they felt, and right now, it seems clear that many Americans don’t feel very good about their current situation, or the future. Because of that, this is a question that’s going to be dogging them all the way from here to November.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Campaign 2012, Economics and Business, Politicians, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. PJ says:

    Two things not mentioned in this post:

    1. That the poll was done by Pulse Opinion Research.
    2. That Pulse Opinion Research is Rasmussen.

  2. Menzie Chinn just did a good article. It look like the economics show everyone better off, by many measures.

    Are You Better Off Than You Were at the End of the Bush Administration? A Data-Based Assessment

    Perhaps the problem is that people don’t feel better off, and the campaign has to strategize around feelings.

  3. (I’m not sure that I agree with you that the right path is to reject the data, and embrace the feelings. People outside the campaign, the press, should educate on the economics.)

  4. Miguel Madeira says:

    The tltle (“Americans Do Not Believe They Are Not Better Off Than They Were Four Years Ago
    “) seems to say exactly the opposite of the content (“a majority of voters do not believe they are better off than they were four years ago”) – the “Not” changes everything, I think.

  5. Ben Wolf says:

    @Doug Mataconis

    You’ve got one too many “nots” in the title.

  6. @M:iguel Madeira: @Ben Wolf

    Yes it’s been that kind of morning. Fixed

  7. @john personna:

    My point isn’t that the data should be rejected, but that you aren’t necessarily going to convince people they are better off based solely on the data. This is as much an emotional question as it is one based on raw economic statistics, I think

  8. @Doug Mataconis:

    We may not convince them, but if our data is good, it’s the good fight.

  9. C. Clavin says:

    I’d like to see more detail from this poll…what the questions were…what the sampling was.
    It sounds like a Rasmussen deal to me.
    The idea that we are not better off is staggeringly simple-minded.
    4 years ago my firm was in the process of shedding 35% of the staff. Today we are hiring…slowly…but surely.
    4 years ago my 401K was decimated…today it’s back to looking healthy…having regained what was lost.
    I re-financed my home early in the spring. The appraised value was down…but we all knew, or should have known, the values of 5-6 years ago were hyper-inflated. Now I have a 3-something% mortgage as opposed to the 6-something% I took out in 2001.
    The rights of same-sex couples have greatly expanded. As has the outlook for children of illegal immigrants.
    We are safer today from the threat of terrorism than we were 4 years ago.
    Is everything roses and ice-cream? No. But considering we were on the brink of a second Great Depression…how could anyone think it’s not better? That’s just stupid.

  10. Stonetools says:

    So the economy sucks. We know this, people know this, everyone knows this.
    The issue is what can de done to get the economy moving again and to restore the economy.
    The President has to how that he hasa plan to restore the economy and that the Republicans are standing in the way. He has the convention to do it.

  11. C. Clavin says:

    Oh yeah…now in Connecticut I can buy beer on Sunday.
    It has nothing to do with Obama…but I am much better off now.
    (Thank you Dan Malloy!!!)

  12. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Sun rises in east and earth orbits around sun.

    But how is this not already priced into the outcome?

  13. mattb says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    This is as much an emotional question as it is one based on raw economic statistics, I think

    THIS.

    And in part this is Obama’s fault to the degree that his campaign rhetoric set up unrealistic expectations. And most likely even if the Republicans had cooperated, he couldn’t possibly have met those expectations.

    Romney, should he win will most likely have the same problem, those on a smaller scale.

    But more than that, it’s our own faults… again I think Noah Millman really hit it on the head when he wrote:

    Think about that: immediately after the biggest economic crisis since the great depression, Americans deserved to have “the best years ever.”

    I guess that’s what makes America special, what makes us an exceptional nation. This is the only place where nothing bad is ever allowed to happen, where you are entitled to the “best year ever” because you want it.

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/millman/an-infantilizing-speech/

    We’ve lost our perspective because we continue to think that everything should be “better” by leaps and bounds.

  14. @Stonetools:

    I think we are at a turning point. The Great Recession is receding. We should be addressing long term trends (both opportunities and problems).

    As much as I think stimulus could have been better, I think we have to admit the Republicans ran the clock, and that game is over.

    At this point we should be restructuring for better long term growth. For me that would mean reducing spending wherever possible (eliminating farm and energy subsides), and carefully exercising cost-benefit analysis in domains like defense, education and health care (where we need investment but cannot afford over-investment).

  15. C. Clavin says:

    In other news…the Obama campaign has recieved donations from 3.1M unique donors…which is up from the 2008 campaign. So clearly not everyone is feeling worse off.

  16. C. Clavin says:

    “…Sun rises in east and earth orbits around sun…”

    Of course Republicans fought that too.

  17. Clanton says:

    Most everyone around thinks things are worse. The local mill is still running, but not as much as it used to. This is because of all the imports The president ought to stop all that. People are worried if the mill ever goes then the whole town goes, store, school, everything. Our leaders need to look out for this country and quit trying to help everyone else. Everybody feels the country is going down hill fast; the economy, but also morally. It’s just not the same as it was when we were kids. Back then things were so much better: prices, jobs, schools, our leaders were good, honest people, and people felt safer. Everybody feels things are just going to get worse before they get better.

  18. C. Clavin says:

    “…It’s just not the same as it was when we were kids. Back then things were so much better: prices, jobs, schools, our leaders were good, honest people, and people felt safer…”

    And therein lies the problem. People yearning for a different America…one that never actually existed…but one which Republican Politicians are always promising. “Take America Back” as they say. Back to the world of Nickleodeon.

  19. Smooth Jazz says:

    “Two things not mentioned in this post:
    1. That the poll was done by Pulse Opinion Research.
    2. That Pulse Opinion Research is Rasmussen. ”

    Too funny. Would you feel better if The Hill had commissioned DailyKOS pollster PPP or Pew or the pollsters that NYTimes/CNN/CBS/etc use that ususally oversample Dems versus Rep by 10%+. The bottom line is what is the partisan breakdown and demographics assumed in the poll: Dem versus Rep versus Ind, Women vs Men, White vs Non White. Regardless of who is doing the polling, the question is do the demographics seem representative of who will vote on election day in Nov?? I will add that “The Hill” is a left of center publication, so I doubt they would juice a poll to help Repubs.

  20. Stonetools says:

    Many liberals will disagree with me, but I really think that Obama just didn’t realize just how crucial reviving the economy and restoring full employment was to his re-election chances. It is THE issue that people vote on, in a way passing universal health insurance , ending the Irag War, and ending discrimination against gays in the military is not.
    Obama has done a lot to improve. Things both here and. Abroad, but when ou are unemployed, in danger of becoming unemployed, or a love one is unemployed, you just don’t care about any of that stuff.
    It’s the reason for the enthusiasm gap. It’s hard to summon up enthusiasm when your economic prospects are bad, even when you objectively know the President is doing a good job overall.
    Obama didn’t seem to realize this in 2010. I think he was genuinely shocked when he announced the end of the Irag War in September 2010- a notable foreign policy achievement – and NO ONE CARED. The Republicans swept in on a “where are the jobs” platform , even though they had ( and have ) no ideas whatsoever about restoring full employment.
    The good thing now is that it’s abundantly clear that Republicans have no answers about restoring economy. It’s up to the President to articulate his plan and to strive to implement it. A major problem is that he just did not defend the original stimulus or explain to the American people how it was successful and why a further round might be needed. He will have to do that now.

  21. JKB says:

    He was asking them about how they felt, and right now, it seems clear that many Americans don’t feel very good about their current situation, or the future.

    Precisely, people don’t digest economic data or operate rationally. It is how they feel. Four years ago, they wanted to feel hope, they wanted change. Now their hope has waned and they feel short-changed.

    Obama shot his bolt and it seems like he has not more arrows. It would be different if he could argue stay the course, point to some big effort that needed his continued attention. But instead, the argument is give me another chance. A mulligan.

    We shall see if he can make a good argument of how things will be different this time. So far he’s been repeating the same old promises unfulfilled.

  22. @JKB:

    Way to decry economic illiteracy and then to demonstrate it.

  23. @Stonetools:

    Many liberals will disagree with me, but I really think that Obama just didn’t realize just how crucial reviving the economy and restoring full employment was to his re-election chances.

    I am not a liberal. I may actually be an “Obama moderate.” Perhaps for that reason I see this as exactly as he intended to play it, given the realities of the battlefield.

    Given an unproductive Congress, he decided to push just so far, hope for just enough economic growth, and win on a low risk and low margin strategy.

  24. Fiona says:

    @mattb:

    We’ve lost our perspective because we continue to think that everything should be “better” by leaps and bounds.

    Exactly! We suffered the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and yet people seem to think that the economy should be growing by leaps and bounds. This notion is particularly laughable given that the last two recoveries were sustained by bubbles that masked economic changes that have been occurring over decades.

    Romney’s speech, asserting that Americans deserve better, was an ode to the entitlement mentality that often afflicts us. The Millman piece that Matt cited was spot on. So yes, the notion that we’re not better off than we were when Bush left office will bedevil the Obama campaign even though it’s based on a lot of false assumptions and misinformation. Unfortunately, the campaign will have a difficult time getting past it in part because they share with Republicans so many false assumptions about limitless economic growth in an era when they should be concentrating on sustainability.

  25. mattb says:

    @Clanton:

    Everybody feels the country is going down hill fast; the economy, but also morally. It’s just not the same as it was when we were kids. Back then things were so much better: prices, jobs, schools, our leaders were good, honest people, and people felt safer

    While @C. Clavin has already said most of what can be said about this comment, there’s one thing in particular that’s worth nothing:

    “Prices”

    The fact is that prices on most durable goods are, adjusting for inflation and taking account for credit, lower on most items than they’ve been in the past. Just look into what national discount big-box stores have done (Walmart in particular). But it’s the quest for those very low prices that have led to the off-shoring of a lot of work and a move towards larger scale manufacturing and retail.

    We pine for local five and dimes and resturants, but refuse to pay their higher prices and deal with their limited selection. We miss good truly made in the USA, but won’t buy them when we have the chance.

    And we look for unsustainable year-over-year growth in the economy, but don’t want to accept the fact that much of that growth came from short term account tricks and downsizing domestic workforces.

    We don’t have the American we want, but *sadly* we have the America we deserve.

  26. Stan says:

    Two thirds of my family’s retirement income comes from the sale of assets in my retirement fund and my wife’s. In the early days of the Obama administration the stock market was depressed, and so was I, as I looked at our personal finances. The stock market is now about 60% higher than it was then, and the two of us are again back to wasting our money on consumer goods. We’re not the only people in this situation. There are plenty of well-off retirees whose incomes are markedly higher than they were in 2008. The paradox is that they seem to be Tea Party types. Truly, no one can understand the American mind.

  27. JKB says:

    @john personna: Way to decry economic illiteracy and then to demonstrate it.

    Your comment makes no sense in the context of my comment you reference. Are you sure you aren’t just attacking to be attacking? If not, perhaps you could provide some rationalization for your statement? Perhaps you could start with how my observation that people don’t use economic data or act rationally condemns economic illiteracy?

  28. Stonetools says:

    @john personna:

    Given an unproductive Congress, he decided to push just so far, hope for just enough economic growth, and win on a low risk and low margin strategy.

    Well, that didn’t work in 2010. Like it or not, people hold the President responsible for reviving the economy. He should have worked harder at restoring full emplyment and explained how and why the Republicans were preventing him from doing that. You just didn’t get the impression that this was the President’s top priority.
    Back in the 1930s, FDR gave people the impression that reviving the economy and helping the unfortunate were his top priorities and that the Republicans were actively working to thwart his efforts to achieve those goals. You don’t get that impression with Obama. You get the impression it’s one of many items on the agenda and maybe not the most important one. That’s the way to a lost election in a time of economic crisis.

  29. Carson says:

    @Stonetools: Stimulus: successful? On what planet? Are you talking about the pork barrel projects to nowhere, the $500,000 grant to study tricycles, money to MSNBC, $500,000 to a public relations firm, $1 million grant for “genital washing study” that went overseas to Africa; $3 million for a turtle crossing in Florida; and you say another round needed is needed?
    Go to: http://www.heritage.org/issues/economy/stimulus
    http://www.judicialwatch.org/corruptionchronicles
    These sites give example after example of the outrageous spending that occurs when the President gives Congress a blank check writing authority. The government can’t spend this country out of a recession!

  30. David M says:

    @Carson:

    The stimulus was a large program, the amounts you listed are rounding errors in it. Here’s a good summary of why most GOP claims about the stimulus aren’t serious.

  31. JohnMcC says:

    For an actual analysis of this factor in the election, with — you know — data. And historical precedents and stuff. Mr Nate Silver covered it yesterday. “In looking back four years, voters have short memories.” Fivethirtyeight.com. Sept 3d. You can sort of see what our host was fumbling around trying to say.

  32. @JKB:

    You said people don’t understand the economy, and then you said everything should be peaches, without engaging reasonable counterfactuals at all.

    If you want to see how the economics of it are done, see the Minzie Chinn article above, and tell us where he goes wrong.

  33. @Stonetools:

    Are you saying that teaching the economics of it is not the good fight?

  34. Rob in CT says:

    @Carson:

    Stimulus spending was ~$500 billion (with the remainder being tax cuts). So even if I assume that the $3 million “turtle crossing in FL” was, as it sounds, wasteful, it’s a pittance. [quick googling reveals this is the “Lake Jackson Ecopassage” with a sticker price of $3.4 million).

    Here’s a news story from when the controversy first came up:

    http://www.wtsp.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=108131

    Also: economists have studied the stimulus and yes, it helped do what it was designed to do: plug a yawning chasm in aggregate demand. That doesn’t mean it was perfect. It means it was helpful.

    the President gives Congress a blank check writing authority

    While I know Presidents are a key part of budgetting and all, Congress is the arm of the government with spending power. POTUS doesn’t “give” Congress that authority.

  35. @this:

    I thumb-nailed it that way, because I see 2010 as the opposite, an angry and irrational reaction to the crash and responses both.

  36. PJ says:

    @Smooth Jazz:

    Too funny. Would you feel better if The Hill had commissioned DailyKOS pollster PPP or Pew or the pollsters that NYTimes/CNN/CBS/etc use that ususally oversample Dems versus Rep by 10%+. The bottom line is what is the partisan breakdown and demographics assumed in the poll: Dem versus Rep versus Ind, Women vs Men, White vs Non White. Regardless of who is doing the polling, the question is do the demographics seem representative of who will vote on election day in Nov?? I will add that “The Hill” is a left of center publication, so I doubt they would juice a poll to help Repubs.

    So PPP is a bad pollster because they do polls for DailyKos, that’s your argument?
    Guilt by association?
    Personally, I judge pollsters on their work, not on who they do polls for.

    Do you know what information Rasmussen/Pulse Opinion Research generally don’t release without you having to pay for it? Their crosstabs. And I’m not sure I’ve ever seen information on their likely voter screening that they, unlike other pollsters, do years before an election.

    Too funny indeed.

    Adding to that, if I oversampled Democrats from Appalachia, I would according to you, still get a representative sample, but what I actually would be able to get, is a poll that would show a lot less support for Obama.

  37. Rob in CT says:

    Basically, the feds passed a bill that provided spending money for states. The state of Florida took that and decided how to spend it. Florida got a bit under $1.5B in money for their DOT. DOT allocated $3.4 million of that to build a pair of tunnels under a busy highway so animals, including turtles, could go under instead of crossing and getting squashed (or, in the case of a deer, causing nasty accidents). While I’m open to the possibility that such a project may have been a poor choice, I don’t think that’s immediately clear (and if it was clear, the FL state DOT allocated the dollars).

  38. Me Me Me says:

    I’ve heard absolutely nothing from Romney that makes me think I’ll be better off in four years if he wins.

  39. Herb says:

    @JKB:

    “It is how they feel. Four years ago, they wanted to feel hope, they wanted change. Now their hope has waned and they feel short-changed.”

    While that does seem to describe a lot of people in this country, I don’t think it describes very accurately the people who will be tempted to vote for Romney.

    As for this being “bad news” for Obama, I think it’s more likely that it’s “good news for the people who want to spin it as ‘bad news’ for Obama.” If we want to make this a case of America declining because we elected a bad president, then we should acknowledge that had already happened before Obama was even inaugurated. So it’s taken more than 4 years to recover.

    To me, that’s a big blinking bright sign that says, “Don’t elect another Republican just yet.” As Remo Gaggi said in Casino, “Why take a chance?”

  40. C. Clavin says:

    There are two rather glaring structural problems to this question.
    First…Obama hasn’t been President for 4 years. Between August 2008 and January 20th, 2009 when he did become President we suffered the biggest economic crisis since the Depression. If you ask if we are better off since January 20th, 2009 there is no credible answer except yes. Emotionally or otherwise. If you instead wish to blame Obama for the Bush Contraction…then it becomes more ambiguous.
    Second…the question itself is a rip-off from Reagan. But even then the answer was not so simple. The economy was measurably better off from the end of the Ford Presidency to the end of the Carter Presidency…but because the recovery had leveled off it felt worse to people. Reagan was able to capitalize on this by appealling to peoples emotions in a positive way. But in the end Carter had as much to do with improving the economy as Reagan did. He ended price controls on fossil fuels…and he appointed Volcker.
    Should Romney take office he will do the same thing…benefit from what Obama has already done…essentially riding the coattails of an improving economy. In addition he’ll juice it up by spending money and growing Government…which Republicans in Congress to date have refused to do for purely political reasons (read treasonous). But it won’t have much to do with his mathematically impossible economic plan.

  41. David M says:

    @Rob in CT:

    DOT allocated $3.4 million of that to build a pair of tunnels under a busy highway so animals, including turtles, could go under instead of crossing and getting squashed (or, in the case of a deer, causing nasty accidents).

    And that’s essentially a construction project, hardly shocking it was part of the stimulus.

  42. Stonetools says:

    @john personna:

    No, I am saying precisely that Obama didn’t teach the economics of it- possibly because he didn’t understand it himself. If you are facing Great Depression Two, you don’t play it as a routine recession – you make it clear that you are facing an existential economic crisis that may take years and repeated rounds of stimulus and economic restructuring to fix. You also make it clear that there is a distinction between short term deficit and long term deficit and that you have to incur increased short term debt in order to revive the economy and resolve long term deficit.
    In short, Obama really did not articulate a detailed economic PLAN. He sort of just announced a few isolated economic goals – the stimulus, universal health insurance , deficit reduction- without articulating how things fit together. I think Obama came in with a very well formed FOREIGN policy-which he executed well and explained well. I don’t think he had a well formed economic policy and just tacked on economic revival to his agenda

  43. rudderpedals says:

    I can understand the appeal to GOPers but quite frankly Reagan’s question wasn’t relevant then and isn’t now. In the voting booth it always comes down to who will do a better job for me prospectively. But for the Iranians we wouldn’t be talking about Reagan (and the Nixon retreads wouldn’t have been re-emplaced and we wouldn’t have had to suffer the bushes etc).

  44. @Stonetools:

    I understand what you are saying, but I continue to believe he “played the ball as it lay” to use another analogy. When he had the (irrational) Tea Party leaping forward in the polls, he couldn’t simply flip a switch and make it stop, and certainly moving left would have fed it in entirely the wrong way. So he ratcheted down to a holding game. That game, as I say, had risks of its own. It depended on eking out just enough growth for this election.

    … but we repeat ourselves.

  45. jan says:

    @Stan:

    …and the two of us are again back to wasting our money on consumer goods. …

    Basically what you are saying is, “I’m ok so you must be ok, and why are you complaining?”

    Then you drag in the tea party people, who have been off the radar pooling their energies and actively finding outlets for their concerns by productively running for public office.

    In the meantime, there are lots of families out there who are not as well off as you are. And, there are also folks, who while not fiscally suffering themselves, do have their eyes open enough to see how little opportunity there is for others to prosper — including their own children. I don’t know how well the statistics and polls are reflecting these ‘other’ people. Sometimes it seems as if they are being under-polled and under-represented in order to keep Obama’s image propped up, at least until he is reelected.

    But, given our own growing deficits, the upward bound poverty levels and welfare programs, the disinclination of business investment in this country, the pending tax increases, the nanny states overseas continuing to wobble, I would hazard to say your portfolio will not be in such great shape next year, especially if your guy retains his seat in the Oval Office.

    Do you think if Obama is reelected and the economy continues to disintegrate and fail, that you all will still be in the retroactive state-of-mind saying it’s “Bush’s Fault?” It reminds me of children who, when they reach middle age, continue to blame their parents for any lack of success in their own lives.

  46. @jan:

    Basically what you are saying is, “I’m ok so you must be ok, and why are you complaining?”

    The Minzie Chinn article has lots of data on everyone. Household net worths are up. Wages have been more problematic, but are up a little as well.

    I think the “why” of that now goes back to longer term trends, things that have been happening over the last 10 or 20 years, regardless of who is President: automation, globalization.

  47. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Clanton:

    Back then things were so much better: prices, jobs, schools, our leaders were good, honest people, and people felt safer.

    Just an observation but, you didn’t grow up in the ’60s-’70s, did you?

  48. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @jan:

    Basically what you are saying is, “I’m ok so you must be ok, and why are you complaining?”

    You know Jan, when you are going to put words in other people’s mouths, you shouldn’t do it when it is quite easy for people to see exactly what it is they actually said?

    @Stan:

    The stock market is now about 60% higher than it was then, and the two of us are again back to wasting our money on consumer goods. We’re not the only people in this situation. There are plenty of well-off retirees whose incomes are markedly higher than they were in 2008. The paradox is that they seem to be Tea Party types. Truly, no one can understand the American mind.

    (my emphasis)

    Hope that cherry you picked tasted sweet while it lasted.

  49. Fiona says:

    Jan–most of the trends you’re talking about have been ongoing since the late 1970s and have found full expression in the growing inequality of income in this country, inequality not seen since the 1920s. Large parts of what constituted middle-class life have become increasingly costly, far exceeding inflation (think health care, college, housing). Meanwhile, income growth has been stagnating and decreasing for most everyone except the top ten percent. Globalization has cost us huge numbers of manufacturing jobs, and now even white collar and professional work is being outsourced overseas. Neither party is addressing these trends; both are largely enthralled to large corporate interests and to a paradigm of limitless American economic growth that no longer fits reality.

    If Obama and the Democrats did nothing else, they managed to stave off another Great Depression. It’s hard to see how doubling down on Bush economic and foreign policy, which is essentially all Romney has proposed of yet, would have improved our economic position. Instead, our deficits would be bigger, we’d be prosecuting more wars, and the safety net that kept a lot of people afloat during awful economic times would have been slashed dramatically.

    Even though Americans might subjectively feel less well off than they did four years ago, I think the fact that Romney is offering more of the same nonsense Bush offered, as well as his mendacity and general unlikeablity, explain why he hasn’t been able to gain much traction in this race. Yeah, we may not be better off but do we really want to risk going back to the Bush policies that helped bring us here? Perhaps if Romney was actually proposing something new rather than simply exhorting us to “believe in America” he’d be well ahead in the polls.

  50. Ben Wolf says:

    @Stonetools:

    However, the notion that if the government would simply deal with spending that confidence would be restored and the economy would right itself, seems to lack empirical confirmation to date.

    The Great Recession wasn’t recognized by the President or his advisors at the time. The dominant school of economics denies the possibility of a recession caused by too much private debt, which is exactly why the response was too tepid.

  51. Ben Wolf says:

    @Ben Wolf: Oops, that’s a quote from another thread. Sorry.

  52. Doubter4444 says:

    @Smooth Jazz:
    I will add that “The Hill” is a left of center publication, so I doubt they would juice a poll to help Repubs

    Really? What a hack.
    That’s a lie. A pathetic one at that.

  53. Ben says:

    @Me Me Me:

    I’ve heard absolutely nothing from Romney that makes me think I’ll be better off in four years if he wins.

    +1

  54. Eric Florack says:

    there is no good answer for the question if you are a Democrat. On that basis the idea that the Democrats mishandled the question is something of a misnomer.

  55. Me Me Me says:

    @Eric Florack:

    there is no good answer for the question if you are a Democrat.

    Sure there is: yes, I am in fact better off now than I was in 2008 when the previous Republican Administration tanked the economy and my 401K. Furthermore, I see absolutely no reason to believe that I will be better off four years from now if Mitt Romney is elected.

  56. David M says:

    For many people the answer should be yes, simply due to the passing of Obamacare. Medicare’s finances were strengthened and benefits improved for seniors, and something like 30 million people are going to have better health care coverage as a result.

  57. An Interested Party says:

    That’s why the Obama campaign has tried to shift the election from a referendum on the President’s performance to a “choice” election between two competing visions, which they clearly think puts them in a stronger position.

    Well, that strategy certainly worked for Bush in 2004…

    As for this being “bad news” for Obama, I think it’s more likely that it’s “good news for the people who want to spin it as ‘bad news’ for Obama.”

    Indeed, people like Doug…

  58. Stan says:

    @jan: The gist of my remark is that much of the opposition to President Obama comes from people who have benefitted enormously from America’s conversion into a two-class society. I can’t understand why they’re so mad. Taxes, particularly taxes on wealth, are the lowest they’ve been in 80 years. Income inequality is greater than it’s been since the late 20’s. CEO’s make 400 times the wage of an average employee. It’s heaven for the rich. Yet they, and you, go on endlessly about the threat of socialism, and seem to feel that salvation for our economic problems lies in even greater inequality. I simply don’t understand it.

  59. george says:

    I think a lot of folks really aren’t better off than they were four years ago. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s much that Obama (or McCain if he’d been elected) could do about it under any circumstances. The economy is global and complex.

    I don’t think Obama did a very good job, but even he’d done a much better job, it might not have made that much difference. And just given Romney’s promises (particularly wrt military spending increases and his interest in starting a war with Iran while lowering taxes), I suspect Obama is still going to be the lesser of two evils.

    Sometimes things are just going to get worse for awhile before they get better, no matter who’s in charge. All you can do is to try to choose the leader who’s going to screw things up the least.

  60. C. Clavin says:

    @ Jan..

    “…Do you think if Obama is reelected and the economy continues to disintegrate and fail, that you all will still be in the retroactive state-of-mind saying it’s “Bush’s Fault?…”

    The economy is not disintegrating…except in your right wing fantasy world. It is recovering slowly…with the Republican Caucus doing everything it can to sabotage it.
    It’s facinating to me that you do not realize whenever you complain about people “blaming Bush” what you are actually doing is refusing to accept any sort of accountibility or responsibility…exactly like the children blaming their parents. Facts are facts Jan…they aren’t feelings. George Bush left the largest economic crisis since the Great Depression in his wake. What is it about that you are incapable of understanding? Only people with child-like minds look at that and think it has no bearing on todays situation. The two things are inseperable…except to people like you. Bush took a surplus and turned it into a $1.3T deficit. He did that by not paying for tax cuts, or entitlement expansion, or wars he chose to fight. They remain the biggest driver of the deficit and debt today. That’s a fact. You think that’s Obama’s fault??? Today, almost 4 years after Bush, the deficit is still $1.3T. So you want to blame Obama for the deficit that hasn’t grown under Obama? He’s the smallest spender since Eisenhower.
    Are you capable of understanding the concept of FACT vs. FICTION? Your fiction…that it’s all Obama’s fault…is in direct opposition to the facts.

  61. Drew says:

    Looks like the narrative has changed in the comments section.

    A couple weeks ago it was all Bushs fault, but of course the ongoing stinky stats generated “what can a President do about it, anyway?” And Europe is tanking so that why our economy sucks.

    Now? Everything is great. Everyone is better off. “Obama fixed it.”.

    Man, an economy that can turn on a dime, and the amazing powers of a previously impotent office…………or is it partisan hackery?

    No need to answer.

  62. mantis says:

    @Drew:

    Watch as Drew battles two strawmen at once!

  63. rudderpedals says:

    @Drew: A couple weeks ago it was all Bushs fault

    And it still is because a couple of weeks ago it was about the Bush deficit and he Bush debt.

  64. john personna says:

    @Drew:

    I’ve pointed to polls. People blame Congess first, Banks second, then Corps, then … I can’t remember if Bush or foreigners are next, then Obama, then themselves.

    You and I might reorder that a bit, but it is not at all inconsistent with Obama claiming “some improvement.”

  65. C. Clavin says:

    @ Drew…
    Please point to the source of “Obama fixed it”.

  66. mantis says:

    @C. Clavin:

    The economy is not disintegrating…except in your right wing fantasy world.

    Wingnuts have internalized many “truths” thanks to their inability to think for themselves and the warm cocoon of talk radio/Fox. One of these truths is that every day that Obama is in office, everything gets worse. It doesn’t matter how much reality conflicts with this truth, it is true because the wingnut collective says it is true.

    Other such “truths” include “We don’t know anything about Obama,” “The stimulus failed,” “The bailouts all happened under Obama,” “Obama apologized for America,” and on and on. No amount of factual evidence will convince them that these are anything but true. They are like young earth creationists. There is so much evidence to the contrary, but none of it compares to the ultimate source of truth. For creationists it is the bible; for Obama-haters like jan it is right wing media. There is no point in trying to bring them to reality. They don’t want to go there.

  67. al-Ameda says:

    This situation is somewhat analogous to the Great Depression, when the economy crashed on Republican President Herbert Hoover’s watch, and FDR was left with the rubble. I’m sure if you polled the public in 1936 as to whether they were better off than they were in 1932 the answer might have been “no.” But that did not mean that they wanted to go back to the GOP.

    The 2008 crash of the housing and financial markets caused the loss of $14 Trillion in wealth and income. People who thought that we’d be over the immediate effects of the 2008 crash in a matter of a year or two were unrealistic, to say the least. The fact that we avoided another Great Depression and that unemployment is down from the peak of 10% to about 8% is good, the fact that the economy has not been in recession for over 2 years is also good. It is not enough good news for most people but it is better than it was when the crash was underway and we were at the precipice.

  68. The Q says:

    The honest answer for both the dems and the wingnuts should be:

    “yes the patient’s recovery from coma to walking upright and talking is a little bit disappointing since some think he should be running a marathon, but electing R&R will only make the patient lapse back into a coma.”

    Obama has been pathetic in putting jobs as the #1 priority ahead of everything else, but he is only reflecting the sell out of the dem elites to aholes like Larry Summers and Geithner etc.

    The old FDR influenced libs like Krugman were spot on in their initial stimulus plans which were double what Obama settled for.

    Obama in a landslide if unemployment is under 7%. The deficit, inflation, the DOW would be irrelevant issues if folks felt true improvement.

    Also, the dems have been piss poor in explaining how things are better. When friends start to tow the wingnut line about how Obama has “destroyed” things, I quickly rattle off the following which stops them in their tracks:

    “Wnen bush was first elected the dow was over 14,000, when he left it was 7000. The last 6 quarters before Obama was elected we had NEGATIVE GDP, since 2009, we’ve had 12 straight quarters of growth and the dow has doubled, which means most 401ks are up too. Also, the months before Obama, we were shedding 750,000 jobs a month, the banking system was near collapse and unemployment was heading to 10%. Since then, we’ve added 3.5 million jobs.”

    Jan and the other wingnuts remind me of the joke about the old jewish grandmother at the beach with her grandson. She watches in horror as a giant wave takes the kid out into the sea.
    She begs the Lord, “please god, bring back my little Jimmy, I will worship you and be a much better person. Please, please bring him back, I beg you.”

    Just then little Jimmy is washed up on the shore, safe and sound……the woman then looks up to God and says, “he had a hat?”.

    And that explains the wingnut insanity, no matter what Obama does, the wingnuts will always find the negative

  69. Herb says:

    @Drew:

    “Now? Everything is great. Everyone is better off. “Obama fixed it.”. “

    A close-up magician skilled in legerdemain can control a situation without seeming to control the situation. They place two stacks of cards on the table, tell you to pick one. You think you’re making a choice, and yet…pick this stack, the magician does the trick one way. Pick that stack, they do the trick another way. It’s manipulation, not actual magic.

    This “are you better off?” question is somewhat similar. Answer “Yes” and David Blaine will bring out the debt charts and start citing GDP figures. Answer “No,” and David Blaine will say, “Then vote for Mitt Romney.”

    It’s a card trick. Pure and simple. I know I’m not going to be the dummy who mistakes it for actual magic…

  70. David M says:

    It’s a complicated question, as people’s individual experiences do not directly track the performance of the economy, as the unemployment rate was at 5% in early 2008 before the economy tanked. So it’s understandable for people to think they were better off “about” 4 years ago, as people were better off before the unemployment rate went up.

    Of course the question is nonsense though, as the GOP policy proposals before and during the recovery have consistently been worse than Obama’s.

  71. C. Clavin says:

    “…No amount of factual evidence will convince them that these are anything but true. They are like young earth creationists. There is so much evidence to the contrary, but none of it compares to the ultimate source of truth…”

    This gets right to the nut of it. (pun intended)
    The Republican party has become more of a religion than a political party. They have their ideology and their theology and nothing else matters…not facts…not actual history. They are…like Jan above…incapable of acknowledging their past, or their errors, or their mistakes. If your supply-side economic theology is proven to not work…don’t re-think it…double-down on it.
    When questioned on anything the answer is “Trust Us”. It’s an un-thinking un-wavering zombie conservatism – arms out-stretched moving stridently in the one direction their ideology allows. Failure.

  72. Drew says:

    Is Obama playing golf today, or meeting with his jobs counsel.

    No need to answer.

  73. Drew says:

    I’d actually like to ask a serious question. The mantra is “what’s a President to do?”. It Congress, you see.

    Who controlled Congress in the mid – late aughts. Oopsey.

  74. Herb says:

    @Drew:

    “Is Obama playing golf today, or meeting with his jobs counsel.”

    Oooh….burn!

    Obama’s caddy says, “Don’t ask me….I’m working.”

  75. @Drew:

    Who controlled Congress in the mid – late aughts. Oopsey.

    Strangely, Republicans were much happier with that Congress, at the time, than Democrats.

    Democrats gave that Congress less than 20% approval.

  76. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Herb:

    Obama’s caddy says, “Don’t ask me….I’m working.”

    See? I told you Obama was a “job creator.”

  77. Eric Florack says:

    @Me Me Me: only 1 problem; that’s nowhere near what happened.

  78. jan says:

    @Fiona:

    Fiona,

    I both agree and disagree with the contents of your post. However, you stated it very well, and for that I give you kudos. I enjoyed reading it.

  79. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Obviously you don’t believe in the magical powers of the stack market.

  80. Me Me Me says:

    @Eric Florack:

    only 1 problem; that’s nowhere near what happened.

    OK, Eric, here is a recap of my points:
    1) I am in fact better off now than I was in 2008
    2) In 2008 the previous Republican Administration tanked the economy and my 401K.
    3) I see absolutely no reason to believe that I will be better off four years from now if Mitt Romney is elected.

    Tell me which of these three things are “nowhere near what happened”.

  81. mantis says:

    @Me Me Me:

    Florack is a rather dimwitted racist who believes the CRA caused the financial collapse. It’s in the Bible.

  82. bill says:

    so if you don’t agree with the poll it must be a “conservative poll”? luckily steven taylor added some graphs (in his blog) for your viewing displeasure.

  83. C. Clavin says:

    Bin Laden is definitely worse off under Obama than he was under Bush.

  84. anjin-san says:

    Don’t be too hard on Florack, he needs to have someone to blame his shortcomings on. “It’s the governments fault” is one of the key GOP marketing hooks. Blame Obama, or take a hard look in the mirror? For the Floracks of the world, it is an easy choice.

  85. bill says:

    @C. Clavin: i’m not religious but i know what party tried to keep blacks and women from voting, supported the kkk and maintains some sort of inner-city strangulation on minority voters. i grew up surrounded by them- i also know what party freed the slaves and MLK’s family belonged to. history is a good thing, never discount it.

  86. mantis says:

    @bill:

    i know what party tried to keep blacks and women from voting, supported the kkk and maintains some sort of inner-city strangulation on minority voters. i grew up surrounded by them- i also know what party freed the slaves and MLK’s family belonged to.

    Ok, do you know what decade it is now?

  87. bill says:

    @mantis: the “time heals all wounds” defense, really? get a clue and enjoy the wonderful views espoused in Charlotte- at bank of America arena, how apropos.

  88. Herb says:

    @mantis:

    “Ok, do you know what decade it is now?”

    That was good.

    Although, Bill, it’s not really a “time heals all wounds” defense so much as the people who did all the stuff you mentioned are long gone. The folks at BOA stadium….they’ll be around for a while.

  89. anjin-san says:

    the “time heals all wounds” defense, really?

    No. Democrats faced their dark side and cleaned up their act. It’s not a defense, its a fact. Meanwhile, in the year 2012. the GOP’s unofficial mottos is “a dog whistle a day keeps the black folks away”…

  90. anjin-san says:

    i also know what party freed the slaves

    Ah, the “we did something for black folks a century and a half ago” defense…

  91. mantis says:

    @bill:

    the “time heals all wounds” defense, really?

    No, just pointing out that things change over time. None of the people living in your party today freed the slaves. None of the people on that stage this week supported Jim Crow.

    The parties have changed. These days, yours is the party that elects senators who oppose the Civil Rights Act and legislatures all across the country who are passing voter ID laws intended to disenfranchise minorities.

    You can pretend the party you belong to is the party that freed the slaves. It’s not. Those folks are long gone. The crew you’ve got now more closely resembles the Southern Democrats of the past than the current Democratic Party. Things change. You’re on the wrong side of history.

  92. C. Clavin says:

    @ bill…
    You are confusing people by what they call themselves. The Democrats that voted against the civil rights act would now be Republicans and vice-versa. A little knowledge of history is useful.

  93. bill says:

    @C. Clavin: sure, keep telling yourself that if it makes you feel better about it. reality sucks when you avoid it. “coulda, woulda, shoulda”- really!?

  94. C. Clavin says:

    @ bill..
    Your response makes no sense other than on a “na-na-nana-na” level.
    This isn’t something that’s really open to interpretation…it’s a fact. Today’s Republicans…the voter supression Birtherism self-deprtation Republicans…are not the party of Lincoln.

  95. Monala says:

    @C. Clavin:

    It’s just not the same as it was when we were kids. Back then things were so much better: prices, jobs, schools, our leaders were good, honest people, and people felt safer.

    Really? When did you grow up? I grew up in the ’70s and ’80s, in the era of high inflation, prolonged teachers strikes, Watergate fallout and fear of the Cold War igniting into World War III.