The Times explains the Obama answer to the famous "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" question. The short version - things could suck even harder. Hmm, let's go to the long version:
But if Mr. Romney believes the “Are you better off?” question will be political kryptonite for President Obama, he will have to reckon with an economic scorecard that is more mixed than he and other Republicans are claiming on the campaign trail. American voters, too, have more complicated feelings about their fortunes, and those of their children, than they did when Mr. Reagan first posed the question.
“People are not better off than they were four years ago, in the sense of where the economy is today compared to where it was,” said Kenneth S. Rogoff, a professor of economics at Harvard, ticking off statistics from the unemployment rate to housing prices. “But certainly, things could have been a lot worse. You can decide whether the glass is half-empty or half-full.”
The half-full argument, which the Obama campaign will promote at the Democratic convention here this week, holds that the economy is far stronger than it was at the depths of the recession in early 2009 when it was bleeding 800,000 jobs a month.
“We avoided falling into the abyss, and it was an open question whether we would,” said Lawrence H. Summers, who was Mr. Obama’s chief economic adviser until the end of 2010. “It may not be easy to explain, but it’s right. It’s the truth.”
Uh huh - the car has settled at the bootom of the ravine, it has quit rolling, and it has not burst into flames. Exhale! But no, we are not better off than before the car went over the cliff.
Eventually the Times re-connects with reality:
Voters, though, seem squarely on the half-empty side. Only 20 percent of those surveyed think their financial circumstances are better now than four years ago, while 39 percent think they are worse off, according to a CBS News poll conducted in August. That is just as pessimistic as during the financial meltdown a month before the 2008 election.
Moreover, 47 percent of those polled in April by The Times and CBS News think things are likely to get worse rather than better for the next generation of Americans, while only 24 percent think things will improve. That is also worse than when Mr. Obama took office, when 32 percent said the future would be worse.
But on the other other hand, a bit of pessimism is par for the public:
But, as pollsters note, Americans have consistently expressed pessimism about the future, regardless of whether a Democrat or a Republican was in office. In three decades of polling by The Times and CBS News, only during the last year of Bill Clinton’s presidency did a solid plurality — 44 percent — of people voice optimism about the next generation.
Even in the final year of Mr. Reagan’s presidency, in July 1988, 59 percent of people said the future would be “bogged down” by troubles rather than brighter.
"Vote Obama! It Could Have Been Worse!" has quite a ring to it.