The Romney campaign this week is reprising former President Reagan’s “are you better off?” question, in an attempt to paint President Obama as a failure when it comes to the economy. “He can’t tell you that you’re better off,” said Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan. “Simply put, the Jimmy Carter years look like the good old days compared to where we are now.” Romney introduced the theme during his speech before the Republican National Convention, saying, “every president since the Great Depression who came before the American people asking for a second term could look back at the last four years and say with satisfaction: ‘you are better off today than you were four years ago.’ Except Jimmy Carter. And except this president.”
“Saying that things are better off is an insult,” added Romney campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom. But if it’s an insult to say that the economy is better off, then Mitt Romney has been slinging some insults of his own, considering how he answered a question from conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham back in January:
INGRAHAM: You’ve also noted that there are signs of improvement on the horizon in the economy. How do you answer the president’s argument that the economy is getting better in a general election campaign if you yourself are saying it’s getting better?
ROMNEY: Well, of course it’s getting better. The economy always gets better after a recession, there is always a recovery. […]
INGRAHAM: Isn’t it a hard argument to make if you’re saying, like, OK, he inherited this recession, he took a bunch of steps to try to turn the economy around, and now, we’re seeing more jobs, but vote against him anyway? Isn’t that a hard argument to make? Is that a stark enough contrast?
ROMNEY: Have you got a better one, Laura? It just happens to be the truth.
When President Obama took office, the economy was shedding 800,000 jobs per month and contracting at a rate of 8.9 percent. As Time’s Michael Grunwald noted, at that pace, “we would have shed the entire Canadian economy in 2009.” Literally four years ago, in September 2008, the U.S. was gripped by financial panic. Investment banks were failing, mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were placed into conservatorship, and the groundwork was being laid for the Bush administration’s $700 billion bailout of the financial system.
Now, a slow recovery has taken hold, which is undoubtedly an improvement. And not that long ago, Romney himself was willing to concede as much.