The White House touts the 7.8 percent unemployment rate, but it is really a statistical mirage at best, economists say. "Factoring in those folks (part-timers and labor force dropouts), the jobless rate is 14.7 percent," writes University of Maryland business economist Peter Morici.
This is a four-year record that cries out for a change in presidents by a landslide, yet the race is not only close, but Obama continues to have an edge in the critical swing states that will decide this election.
One reason for this widening gulf between the voters' perceptions about the candidates is that they're receiving incomplete information about the economy and inaccurate information about what Mitt Romney is proposing to get it functioning again.
One of the nightly news shows this week did a piece to raise questions about Romney's plan to overhaul the tax code by eliminating a raft of corporate loopholes and other tax exemptions, which would broaden the tax base and lower the tax rates to boost investment, economic growth and job creation.
The piece deviously left an impression that it could be achieved only by erasing popular tax breaks such as the mortgage interest deduction (not true), and seemed to suggest this is an idea that's never been done before.
Nowhere did the report note that Obama's presidential deficit reduction commission proposed this same idea, or point out that it has been done before (despite Joe Biden saying it hadn't in last week's debate with Paul Ryan).
President Reagan did it in 1986 without ending any of the popular tax breaks that are often mentioned, and with the support of House and Senate Democrats to boot.
But there's something much more fundamental going on here than the shallow, biased, incomplete reporting on the nightly news programs. Gallup suggests that this may have more to do with plain old partisanship. An average of 90 percent of Democrats so far in October (and 8 percent of Republicans) approve of the job Obama is doing. That's making his ratings one of "the most polarized Gallup has measured for any president."
"President Obama gets near-universal approval from supporters of his own party and near-universal disapproval from supporters of the opposition party as he seeks re-election," Gallup reported last week.
Democrats have invested a lot of political capital in the inexperienced community organizer from Chicago and, for the most part, they're sticking with him through thick and thin. No matter how weak the economy becomes, or how many people have fallen into poverty, homelessness or despair, or how deeply he plunges our government into unprecedented debt.
Yet, inexplicably, Obama is running almost dead even in a campaign in which he offers no vision of the future for the next four years and proposes no new remedies to nurse America's chronically weakening economy back to health.
He offers only politically soothing words of sympathy for millions who are still suffering from his impotent economic policies, victims who are among the middle class voters for whom he voices so much compassion and concern.
What they really need is leadership in the form of policies that create jobs, a healthy economy and a strong America. But he hasn't a clue how to do that.
All he can offer now is extended unemployment benefits, food stamps, welfare checks and homeless shelters. And plenty of comforting words and excuses for the next four years.