The Republicans Are Asking a Good Question
Commentary: It is widely being reported in all media that the Republicans are asking Americans 'whether they are better off' economically from the time President Obama took office until now. That is a good question, it is how the question is properly interpreted and who the question is asked of where problems arise. Here is how I think the question ought to be thought of, and addressed - by Republicans and Democrats alike:
First, what does 'better off' mean. Many people might think the question being asked is as simple as if you had $3 in your pocket and no debt at the end of 2008 do you now have more than $3 in your pocket and no debt today. By that interpretation of the question:
as a generality, bankers, executives and the wealthy 1% of Americans may well be 'better off' today than they were at the end of 2008;
the average Main Street American may or may not be able to answer that they are better off - depending how they have marshaled their energy and resources in that past four years - but many are likely on a straight arithmetic calculation of personal wealth and job well-being to answer the question, interpreted purely by economic quantum difference, negatively.
Second, 'better off' might 'better mean': are you better off in 2012 than you were at the end of 2008 had the Obama Administration not put the economic programs in place than they did? This is a more complex question with a far more subjective answer. I am not about to venture alternate answers to the question so interpreted - but believe that to be the right interpretation of the question.
It is easy to be a critic. I am again reminded that the actor Richard Burton is said to have responded, when being told the critics had panned one of his performances, 'critics are much like eunuchs at orgies'.
In the U.S. political arena where cross-party criticisms are rampant, in current over-levered times arena I think it is, and will be, a 'horse of a completely different colour' to sit in the Oval Office than it is to criticize whoever currently is sitting there - irrespective of their political party.
Should Messrs. Romney and Ryan find themselves in deep conversation in the Oval Office on January 20, they may find themselves sitting with 'glazed over eyes' saying to each other as the reality of weight of that office becomes ever more clear to them: "well, we got what we wished for, now what do we do?"
Many see the question being asked by the Republicans as a 'simple one'. I don't. For example, see The threat of $600bn of fiscal tightening may decide the US election, from The Telegraph, Damian Reece, September 4, 2012 - reading time 3 minutes, which article begins with the words "It's a simple question, posed last week by Mitt Romney".
For a different perception than mine of the 'right answer' to the Republican question see Better Off Today? Let's Count the Ways We're Not, from Real Clear Markets, September 5, 2012 - reading time 3 minutes.