Paul Greenberg
The worst gaffe a politician can make, it's been said, is not the mistakes he makes on the campaign trail but when he tells the truth. The vice president of the United States, who's a kind of genius at embarrassing himself, did it again the other day when, almost in passing, he mentioned the hallmark of this president's stewardship of the American economy, "the middle class that has been buried these past four years."

Oops. Even a blind hog will stumble across an acorn now and then, but this time the vice president had hit on an essential truth, one that can be verified by just a glance at the country's unemployment rate, which still hovers around 8 percent after almost four years of another kind of Obamacare.

Then there is the growing number of Americans who are slipping into poverty under this administration -- 15.1 percent or 46.2 million as of 2011, or about one in six. That's up from 14.3 percent in 2009, when Barack Obama took the presidential oath of office.

The official poverty level is an annual income of $23,050 for a family of four, and the 46 million Americans that now have slipped below it is the largest total since the Census began reporting that number in 1959. How's that for hope and change? Change, maybe. Hope, not so much.

A record number of American households are now on food stamps: 22.4 million, or 15 percent of the population. That's a telling statistic. Perhaps even more revealing than the unemployment rate.

To quote one economist, Peter Cardillo at Rockwell Global Capital, "the unemployment data is not really telling us the true story of how many people are underemployed." But the growth in food stamps is "a good indication of how the income of the work force has stagnated and more and more people are applying for food stamps."

So when Joe Biden says the middle class has been buried the last four years, he may be understating the case for once. The working poor are getting poorer, too. Having committed the cardinal political error of telling the truth, our vice president immediately began backpedaling, retracting, explaining what he really meant to say, and in general trying to hide behind Campaign Obama's usual talking points, which grow more and more unconvincing.

The Great Recession of 2008-09 was bad enough; the Obama "recovery" could be even worse because its ever more disappointing performance threatens to become permanent -- especially if this president is re-elected and gets to continue his misguided policies. Or, frightening thought, gets to introduce even more of them. Joe Biden will doubtless be able to explain how successful they are, too, except on those recurrent occasions when he collides with the truth.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.