Are you better off than you were four years ago? Anyone who answers “no” is either lying or has had incredibly bad luck that has nothing to do with President Obama.
Earlier this month, the Center for Economic and Policy Research wrote, “‘Are Americans Better Off Today Than They Were Four Years Ago?’ The Question That Exposes Incompetent Reporters.” I hope they’ll forgive me for republishing the short piece here:
While the source is not clear, someone developed a simple way to identify incompetent news reporters. If you hear a reporter ask people in President Obama’s administration, ideally in a belligerent tone, “are the American people better off than they were four years ago?,”the reporter is trying to tell you that they are not qualified to do their job.
The reason we know that the questioners are incompetent reporters is that this is a pointless question. Suppose your house is on fire and the firefighters race to the scene. They set up their hoses and start spraying water on the blaze as quickly as possible. After the fire is put out, the courageous news reporter on the scene asks the chief firefighter, “is the house in better shape than when you got here?”
Yes, that would be a really ridiculous question. Hence George Stephanopoulos was being absurd when he posed this question to David Plouffe, a top political adviser to President Obama on ABC’s This Week. Bob Schieffer was being equally silly when he asked Martin O’Malley, the Chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, the same question on CBS’s Face the Nation.
A serious reporter asks the fire chief if he had brought a large enough crew, if they had enough hoses, if the water pressure was sufficient. That might require some minimal knowledge of how to put out fires.
Similarly, serious reporters would ask whether the stimulus was large enough, was it well-designed, and were there other measures that could have been taken like promoting shorter workweeks, as Germany has done. That would of course require some knowledge of economics, but it sure makes more sense than asking if a house is better off after it was nearly burnt to the ground.
Even if you fall for the question, or see others who insist on posing it, do you actually remember four years ago? Do you remember the stock market and world markets in free fall? Do you remember people losing their entire savings, most of the value of their stock portfolios and 401(k)s? Do you remember all the stories you heard of friends and family — and maybe you — losing their jobs? Do you remember walking or driving around town and seeing small family-owned stores closed — for good? Do you remember people fearing bread lines, losing their homes — or leaving their homes because the value had dropped so much it wasn’t worth it to them to pay the mortgage?
Do you remember the fear and despair and and hollowness so evident on peoples’ faces, and in their spirits?
Above is a chart of the DOW — the main indicator of how the stock market is doing — under President Obama.
Say what you want about Obama vs. Romney. But you cannot say you’re not better off than four years ago, and blame Obama for it.
For more, read Ezra Klein’s “Are You Better Off Without Dumb Campaign Questions?”
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