With polls showing that 72 percent of voters say Barack Obama's handling of the economy will be a "major factor" in their vote this November, Democrats are trying every trick that can think of to persuade voters that things really are better than they were under the Bush administration.
They chose to sell this flim-flam argument in Charlotte, N.C., a state where the unemployment rate is 9.6 percent, the fifth-highest in the nation. North Carolinians have been as patient as Job, but now they know they've been had. Recent polls show Republican Mitt Romney has the edge there.
Republican leaders, including Romney's running-mate Paul Ryan, have stormed into the state, armed with one simple question for the voters and for the country: Are you better off now than you were four years ago?
Obama's going to spin a lot of dubious reasoning in the next two months, but Ryan said Monday that he can't tell us with a straight face that we're better off now. At least one Democrat seems to agree.
Asked that question on CBS Sunday, Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland replied, "No, but that's not the question of this election."
Tell that to the voters who say things are much worse, especially for 23 million Americans who are unemployed, underemployed or so discouraged they have stopped looking for work and are no longer counted as jobless.
In November of 2008, the national unemployment rate was 6.8 percent. Now it's at 8.3 percent -- it's been over 8 percent for 43 months and is expected to remain there for the rest of Obama's term, and well into 2013 and beyond if he is re-elected.
There are many other ways to measure whether we're better off now than we were four years ago. Here's a few comparisons between November 2008 and now:
-- Annual budget deficit: Then: $459 billion. Now: $1.2 trillion.It's hard to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, as they say in Iowa and elsewhere. So Obama has brought in the one Democrat he thinks will best make the case for his re-election:Bill Clinton who will place his name in nomination.
-- Federal debt: Then: $10 trillion. Now: $16 trillion.
-- Federal debt as a percentage of our total economic output:
Then: Then: 69.7 percent. Now: 104.8 percent.
-- Poverty rate: Then: 13 percent. Now: 15 percent.
-- Food Stamp Recipients: Then: 30.9 million. Now: 44.7 million.
-- Average price for a gallon of regular gas: Then: $2.40. Now: $3.80.
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