Are we better off? Mitt, are you kidding?

The facts show things are better

Sep 12, 2012 at 12:00 am

Last week News Hits ventured deep into enemy territory, appearing on Charlie Langton's talk show over at WXYT, the conservative radio station that airs the likes of Glenn Beck and a few other rabid dogs of the right.

Langton, however, isn't of that ilk. He may be right-of-center, but he pays attention to facts and, in many ways, comes off as reasonably moderate. He also likes to foster debate, which is why he invited the Hits to come on in and respond to the question posed by Mitt Romney at the Republican National Convention: Are you better off now than you were four years ago?

The question itself is a retread. Saint Ronnie Reagan asked it way back in 1980, when he was running for president against incumbent Jimmy Carter.

It may have been a good query for the GOP's candidate to pose back then, but we have a very hard time seeing how it is a particularly wise tack to take this time around. The only explanation is that Romney and crew are banking on America being a nation of amnesiacs.

After all, when Barack Obama took office we were on the verge of a complete economic meltdown. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.1 million jobs were lost in 2008. The expectation on the right that we might forget that could be called the audacity of dopes.

In January of 2009, when Obama moved into the White House, another 818,000 people found themselves standing in the unemployment line. Compare that to the most recent figures from the BLS, which just reported that 98,000 jobs were added in August, capping 30 straight months of job growth.

It is, at best, an anemic number. But, to answer Romney's question with a question: Is it better to be losing hundreds of thousands of jobs a month? 

Only those completely devoid of reason would try to make the case that we are indeed worse off now than we were back then. For those who prefer to keep their evaluations tethered to reality, the trajectory has clearly changed from a path of precipitous decline to one of modest growth.

Nicholas D. Kristof, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The New York Times, put the situation in perspective recently with this anecdote:

"On a backpack trip once, I slipped on a steep ice sheet and began sliding uncontrollably toward the edge of a cliff overhanging an icy river. Luckily, my son pulled me to safety with his trekking pole. Am I better off now than I was when I was sliding toward the abyss? Duh!"

Duh, indeed.

Let's look at another indicator: the stock market.

As a result of the financial collapse — which occurred when the housing bubble burst, exposing once again the massive dangers inherent in the kind of fraud-inducing deregulation that diehard Republicans hold so dear — most of us saw our 401k retirement plans utterly decimated. 

And since then?

We'll let CNBC answer that one:

"The U.S. economy may not be recovering as fast as President Obama likes, but at least he can make one claim: The stock market has done better under his watch than with any other recent president. 

"Since Obama's inauguration on Jan. 20, 2009, all three major U.S. stock indexes are up more than 60 percent. The NASDAQ Composite alone has soared a whopping 105 percent."

Again, then, the answer to Romney's question, in purely objective terms, is a resounding "yes."

We want to make it clear that the commies here at the Hits don't want to be perceived as Obama toadies. As far as we're concerned, he's a middle-of-the-road kind of guy. We're more in step with Dems on the far left, such as Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich (who's on his way out of office, a victim of GOP gerrymandering) or the Green Party than we are with a Democratic Party that is, in many ways, indistinguishable from what used to be considered moderate Republicans.

The senseless surge of troops in Afghanistan, where an average of one American soldier a day continues to die, the steep increase in the use of unmanned drones to kill suspected terrorists (along with any innocent victim unlucky enough to be in close proximity to them) and the continued imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay of people never charged with a crime are especially disheartening.

But the unfairness of the attacks on Obama from the far right has put us in fighting mode.

Where were all the budget hawks when George W. Bush was leading us into two wars — one of which was based on a bedrock of outright lies — that were funded using the national credit card?

And where were the cries of indignation when the same GWB pushed through massive tax cuts — 30 percent of which went to the nation's wealthiest 1 percent, with nearly 45 percent of the benefits going to the top 5 percent — without making corresponding spending cuts?

Seems that the majority of Republican pols had no problem with those policies, which resulted in taking a budget surplus and throwing it into reverse, adding $5 trillion to the national debt during Bush's eight years in office.

It's true that the Obama administration has more than equaled that number in less than four years. But using deficit spending to combat the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression is only applying proven economic policy.

Hell, even the editors at The Economist magazine — a publication that's anything but liberal — agree with that, noting in a recent analysis of Obama's job performance that the "normal standards of fiscal rectitude have not applied in the past four years. When household, firms and state and local governments are cutting their debts, the federal government would have made the recession worse by doing the same." 

Given that it was the Bush administration's policies that caused this crisis (and we can see by his total absence from the GOP convention just how popular he is now within his own party), the Republican criticism about deficit spending under Obama is akin to setting your house ablaze and then complaining about all the water firefighters are wasting as they attempt to put it out.

Congressman Paul Ryan, the Ayn Rand devotee (at least he was before he wasn't) chosen to be Romney's running mate, is particularly despicable.

As the Romney camp's designated attack poodle, he's trying to make the case that, no matter how bad things were when Obama took office, he hasn't done nearly enough to improve the situation.

The criticism could hold some merit — were it not for the fact that, from the moment Obama was sworn in, Ryan and a group of like-minded saboteurs in the House and Senate made it their goal to impede Obama's attempts to generate economic recovery in order to help make sure he didn't get re-elected.

Their plan, hatched at a meeting attended by Ryan at a steakhouse in Washington, D.C., the very night Obama was sworn in, is detailed in Robert Draper's book Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives.

Forget about what's good for the country, this cabal decided. The most important thing for us is to regain power, no matter what. 

Which is why the House voted more than 30 times to repeal Obama's health care act, even though there was absolutely zero chance of that repeal passing the Senate, while at the same time scuttling the president's American Jobs Act, which would have created at least 275,000 jobs and, depending on the economists being surveyed, as many as 2 million jobs, putting people to work building roads, schools and bridges.

To employ another analogy, the Republican response to the crisis their policies created is like pumping bullets into someone's back, then shooting out the tires of the ambulance sent to the rescue, all while decrying the pitifully slow response of those doing their best to save the victim.

News Hits is written by Curt Guyette. Contact the column at 313-202-8004 or at [email protected].