Are You Better Off Now Than You Were Four Years Ago?

The Republican Party says the economy has gotten worse than it was four years ago when President Barack Obama took office.


GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan voted for Thursday's continuing resolution.


The Republican Party is pushing a new campaign theme (inspired by similar tactic taken by Ronald Reagan in the 1980 campaign) after the GOP convention wrapped up last week: Are Americans better off now than they were four years ago? Vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan pondered the question in his convention speech and is repeating the inquiry on the campaign trail.

Ryan and presidential nominee Mitt Romney continue to attack the president on the economy and say he and Democrats have not done enough to create jobs and put the country on a brighter economic path. They blame the president for an unemployment rate which in July again hit 8.3 percent after dropping as low as 8.1 percent in April. Much of the Republican National Convention last week in Tampa, Fla. painted a picture of a president incapable of understanding the gravity of the economic situation.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.]

"The president can say a lot of things, but he can't tell you you are better off," Ryan said at a post-convention campaign stop in Greenville, N.C.

Democrats must walk a fine line in their response to the attack, because while wanting to defend Obama, they must be wary of appearing overly confident about the state of the economy. Some party members and Obama campaign advisers have hesitated to flat-out say Americans are better off, but Vice President Joe Biden has not been shy about answering the question:

"You want to know whether we're better off? I've got a little bumper sticker for you. Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive," Biden said in Detroit.

[See a Slideshow of the 12 Most Memorable Political Convention Speeches.]

U.S. News's Robert Schlesinger points to simple numbers to support the claim that things are better than they were pre-Obama: Before the president, the economy was losing jobs. Now, it's gaining them.

On the matter of facts, when President Obama took office in January 2009, the economy was shedding 800,000 jobs per month. Stop for a second and read that again: 800,000 jobs lost per month. The economy has now added private sector jobs for 29 months running.

Does that mean that things are good? Not at all. The topline unemployment figure has worsened even as the overall economy has improved, and we still haven't emerged from the jobs crater wrought by the Great Recession. But middling job growth is indisputably better than economic free fall.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

Meanwhile, Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus told U.S. News's Ken Walsh that the president cannot run on his economic record and that "the Barack Obama pixie dust is gone."

Obama and Democrats will make their case to voters this week in Charlotte, N.C., trying to demonstrate that Americans really are better off than they were before the president took office.

What do you think? Are you better off now than you were four years ago? Click here to take the poll and comment below.