Politics: Axelrod refuses to say Americans better off than four years ago

Published by: Robert Laurie on Sunday September 2nd, 2012

Robert Laurie

 By ROBERT LAURIE - Union workers, and unemployed young people have done pretty well, though.

This morning on Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace asked David Axelrod a very specific, very direct question.

“Can you honestly say that Americans better off today than they were four years ago?” 

You’d think that such a simple yes or no question would be easy for a talking head of Axelrod’s caliber. After all, there are a thousand ways to answer yes, then torque the numbers to back up your claim.  You might have to spin the math so hard that you alter the rotation of the Earth, but if you’re good at your job, you can at least make a “yes” sound plausible enough to wriggle through an interview.

That Axelrod made no such attempt is a testament to how badly Obama’s handled his first term.  

“I can say that we’re in a better position than we were four years ago,” Axelrod dodged. “In our economy, in the sense that when this president took office, we were losing 800,000 jobs a month, and the quarter before he took office was the worst since the Great Depression and we are in a different place.”

He’s right that we’re in a different place.  We’ve now had unemployment over 8% for 42 consecutive months.  Hispanic unemployment is over 10%, and African American unemployment is up around 14%.  We boast the smallest workforce since 1981 and the only reason unemployment percentages have dropped as far as they have is that so many people have given up searching for a job.

Axelrod repeatedly declined to answer Wallace’s questions, instead opting to attack Mitt Romney as a “terrible failure,” claiming he neglected to lay out specific course corrections during his convention speech.  The problem with this line of thinking is two fold.  First, Convention speeches almost never contain nuts and bolts specifics.  Second, Obama hasn’t offered anything new either.  Instead, he wants to keep doing the same things he’s done throughout his first term - the very things Axelrod refuses to claim have made things better than they were four years ago.

Wallace later pressed the point, asking again if the average American was better off under Obama.

Once more, Axelrod changed the subject, saying “the average American recognizes that it took years to create the crisis that erupted in 2008 and peaked in 2009, and it’s going to take some time to work through it.”

Finally, after an embarrassing amount of repeated prodding, Axelrod managed to detail two specific groups of Americans who he said were, in fact, better off than they were four years ago.  

“I think those auto-workers whose industry would have collapsed if the president hadn’t intervened are certainly better off.  I think that the millions and millions of young Americans who have health care today that wouldn’t have had it if the president hadn’t acted are better off.”

So, the people who are demonstrably better off, in Axelrod’s view, are unions who took ownership of GM via a massive taxpayer bailout, or those who are ”lucky” enough to languish on their parents insurance until they’re twenty-six years old. 

Of course the UAW is better off, it now owns a major stake in the company that employs its membership, therefore allowing it to fill its own coffers. Axelrod neglected to mention it, but clearly Fiat is also better off thanks to Obama, since the Italian automaker has now taken ownership of Chrysler. 

As for “young people,” never mind that they’re facing an unemployment rate over 50%. Just ignore the reality of a national epidemic of recent, unemployed, college grads.  If they had solid jobs, they wouldn’t need to languish on their parents insurance, but what the heck, thanks to the President, they can move into a basement apartment, work at the Dairy Queen, and still enjoy all the health care benefits of a four year old.

That Axelrod was so unwilling to say “Americans are better off than they were four years ago” means that he and the administration know full well just how bad things really are. To try and make the argument would be a dangerous gaffe that their opponents would trot out at every turn. 

Since they have no record to run on, look for the theme of obfuscation and deflection to take center stage this week at their convention in Charlotte.