Sunday, September 2, 2012

Are you better off now than you were four years ago?

Ever have a teacher tell you "There's no such thing as a stupid question" ?

If he did, he lied. And "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" is a perfect example of a stupid question.

The right question is: "Will you be better off four years from now if the other guy wins?" And in the case of this election, that question should actually come after this one:

"If the Republicans had held onto the White House in 2008, would you be better off now?"

And of course it also depends on who you are, and whether how well off you are has anything to do with the guy in the White House anyway.

Mostly it doesn't. You got laid off because the company thought it could replace you with someone younger and cheaper. Your spouse left you because you haven't said "I love you" since your wedding day a decade ago. You got into a car accident because you were on your cellphone. You simply got four years older (in that sense you're always worse off). The price you pay for gasoline has far more to do with the world oil market than domestic policy--no American president can get China's and India's huge, burgeoning middle classes to keep riding bicycles and taking the bus to work.

But even where it does, who's to say the other guy would have done any better just because you don't love what actually happened? Things are tough for many people now (except for millionaires and billionaires, whose incomes soared in the past four years). But what if instead of struggling out of a terrible recession we were in the depths of a second Great Depression?

If you don't think things could possibly be any worse, you know nothing about our history.

Which is why Governor Romney saying "The President made it worse" is a baldfaced lie. No one can say that for sure, and in fact you could easily say the opposite--that the President saved us from another Great Depression--brought on for the most part, as any economist not working for the Koch Brothers will tell you--by Republican tax cuts for the rich that account for most of the current deficit (that's right, most--look it up) that weren't balanced by spending cuts--they just borrowed it from China; and by a Republican war on a country that hadn't attacked us; and by deregulation that enabled the banks to gamble freely, knowing taxpayers would bail them out; and also by selling homes to people who couldn't afford them, using various deceptive practices.

Romney could only be certain the "President made it worse" if he were omniscient--a god, not a man. And saying uncertain things are certain is a lie--what's known in the sciences as "false precision."

So "are you better off now than you were four years ago" is absolutely a stupid question. It was stupid when Ronald Reagan popped back in the day, and it's even stupider now (since Governor Romney is smarter than President Reagan was--even before his mind started dissolving).

It's stupid because it presumes that if you aren't you should vote for a different president.

That's ridiculous. Suppose Martin Sheen was running for president against the incumbent? Or Sarah Palin? Or Warren G. Harding, one of the worst presidents in American history by all accounts?

You can always--always--do worse than whoever's the incumbent.

Such as voting for a president/vice president team that can't stop lying about their opposition and treating their own supporters like mushrooms.

Absent specifics from Romney, we do have specifics in the Republican Platform. And unless Romney flatly repudiates his own party's platform, what's in it is what we'll get. Because he is almost certain to do what George Bush II did: sign nearly every Republican bill Congress sends him.

If you look at the 2008 Democratic Platform, you'll see that President Obama enacted most of it. That's what most presidents do, and it's what Romney is almost certain to do. Or Ryan, with Romney trailing behind his veep's Conservative Charisma.

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