Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

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Commentary

September 12, 2012

President Obama is 'incomplete'

(Continued)

After getting knocked around for their evasiveness, though, the Obama team recalibrated and decided to answer "absolutely" to the better-off question. The herald of the new message was none other than the man best-suited to bluster his way through a not-particularly credible statement, Vice President Joe Biden.

"America is better off today than they left us when they left," Biden told a union rally, before adducing as evidence what he called a "bumper sticker": "Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive."

The catchy bumper sticker doesn't address the better-off question. The query has to do with personal economic well-being. It's a wonderful thing that bin Laden was dispatched with extreme prejudice, but it doesn't give anyone any additional income. It's terrific for GM's remaining workers that they are still working at a going concern, but the cost of the car company's bailout - some $35 billion - makes it a rotten deal for everyone else.

A clever bumper sticker can't obscure that real median income has declined $4,300 since January 2009, the unemployment rate has been above 8 percent for 42 straight months, and long-term unemployment is up and labor-force participation is down. The Democrats can say all of this is an accident of timing: The aftereffects of the Bush recession are unfairly counted against their record. But the recovery that they take credit for is also an accident of timing. The economy wasn't going to keep shedding 800,000 jobs a month forever. In fact, the presumption that Democrats would rule for a generation, so prevalent after 2008, was partly predicated on the party associating itself with an inevitable recovery.

In the event, the recovery proved dismayingly lackluster. President Obama's signature initiatives - a stimulus designed to sate pent-up congressional spending demands, ObamaCare, the hideously complex regulations of Dodd-Frank - were irrelevant to or crosswise with promoting a sustained, robust recovery.

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