Monday, I highlighted Dean Baker's acerbic response to the are-you-better-off-than-you-were-four-years-ago question. Tonight it's Tim Noah's turn. If you read beyond the excerpt here, you'll see the details of Noah's disagreement with Baker and others who've given unsolicited advice on how Team Obama should reply to this question. It's apparent the Republicans and media are going to keep asking it as long they get mileage from doing so. Noah writes:
Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have caught the Obama campaign completely unawares by posing the most basic question any presidential challenger can raise: Whether Americans are better off today than they were four years ago. (So much for the cruel efficiency of Obama?s ?Chicago-style? politics.) Now the economists Dean Baker and Paul Krugman say it?s a stupid question (it isn?t), while the lead story in today?s New York Times reports that the Chicago pros have found a way to answer in the affirmative (they haven?t). [...]
Vice President Joe Biden?s instincts have proven better on this point than Obama?s. He is answering the question, with his signature line that Osama Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive. But that answer is insufficient. What I?d like to hear Obama say is that Americans are better off because after nearly a century of trying, the federal government has finally found a way to guarantee health care for virtually all its citizens. ?I have achieved this,?? Obama can say, ?in the face of unified opposition from the Republicans, including Romney, who for purely political reasons has gone from supporting precisely this type of reform?he instituted it in Massachusetts, for Pete?s sake!?to vigorously and cynically opposing it. You are also better off because I have begun the work, with passage of Dodd-Frank, of curbing the reckless abuses that wrecked our economy in 2008. These abuses, which built up over a generation, contributed substantially to our 30-year run-up in income inequality. Romney would repeal Dodd-Frank, too, and he doesn?t even want to discuss income inequality. One of Romney?s former Bain partners recently published a book arguing that more income inequality would be good for America, and I don?t hear the Republican nominee disagreeing!
?We are on an admittedly slow path to economic recovery. It would be a faster recovery if Republicans didn?t oppose at every turn every common-sense policy to assist the sluggish economy. But we are making progress, and if you re-elect me you will experience that progress in ways that, unfortunately, you are not today. In the meantime, you can stop worrying about not being able to get health insurance and you can stop worrying about Wall Street running roughshod over U.S. regulators as they have for decades.?
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2011:
The president will speak to the Congress and the Nation on the problems that are paramount at this time?the weak economy and lack of jobs. In his letter, President Obama promised to propose "bipartisan solutions." I don't have a problem with the president's use of this language?it seems shrewd politically to define your views as "the middle." I would have a problem if in fact all the president does is propose "bipartisan solutions." The reason for this is there are no "bipartisan solutions" to our economic and job woes. Republican proposals will not work. Indeed, Republican policies have been incredibly damaging to the economy and to the jobs situation.
Happily, it seems the president realizes there are no "bipartisan solutions." The New York Times reports that "[President Obama] has concluded, Democrats say, that Republicans will oppose anything he proposes, and with an election looming, Mr. Obama must make clear what he stands for." Indeed.
So does the speech matter? Ezra Klein writes that "I?m not a believer in the power of presidential rhetoric to move the opposition, but there?s no doubt that, when yoked to the right policy proposals and legislative strategy, it?s capable of moving the agenda. And this is a good time for the Obama administration to move the agenda." Presidential rhetoric has never DIRECTLY moved "the opposition," but if it moves the country, that causes the opposition to move. Either by changing their position or by getting voted out of office. The former is not going to happen, but it is time for the president to begin to focus on the latter.