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COMMENTARY: Romney-Ryan asks, "Are you better off?"

I’m sitting in a kayak, staring at a beautiful seascape along the Downeast coast of Maine, wondering if the fabulous seaweed-adorned rock before me might metamorphous into something equally fabulous and more inclined toward sharing sea stories.

That would be cool.

But the rock doesn’t sprout even one magical toe. I contemplate the inanimate thing, still hopeful, and lo and behold the Romney-Ryan campaign visage comes to mind!

That is annoying — right in the middle of my fanciful tranquility.

So I peer more intently at the rock, hoping to be greeted by a pair of lovely, dark eyes blinking up at me from between leaves of seagrass. A seductive selkie would be dandy.

But no. Instead, one of those Romney-Ryan campaign messages whops my fantasy upside the head: “Are you better off?” their image asks — again, the thousandth time since the Republican National Convention, and the question remains malevolent for its intent to elicit a morose response.

I consider some profane words and settle for mumbling, “Those guys are real downers — and I don’t mean Downeasterners.”

Downers, because I’ve been feeling hopeful — hopeful of seeing some magic, hopeful that the U.S. economy is slowly righting itself from the greed-addled tilt it has been in, hopeful that Romney and Ryan are going to lose and President Obama will spend his second term nudging Congress a wee bit closer to justice for all.

But Romney-Ryan’s contrived question followed me from California to the other coast and up the eastern seaboard as I puttered through family business, adamantly avoiding political news and hoping for a little navel contemplation time.

And the darn question, “Are you better off?”, is such a political artifice — to undermine optimism while casting a Reaganesque light on Romney (Reagan the Teflon President deftly used the same ploy) — because it is an invitation to be our worst, to ignore what is in fact better and kvetch about what hasn’t gone well for “me” the last four years.

Of course, some people are not better off — those who were oppressed by the white, male patriarchy before Obama took office— and I can’t imagine how they would be better off under a Romney-Ryan presidency.

Other people are confused about where President “W” Bush stopped and President Obama began, lending undo credence to the Romney-Ryan false timelines and accusations.

But the facts are readily available to substantiate the Obama administration’s successes, what Congress allowed of them. Think Progress has some nice graphics that illuminate the data, as does Center for American Progress Action Fund.

But, truth be told, the Romney-Ryan campaign’s question is not crafted to consider data. Despite Romney’s stiff upper everything, the question is all about feelings: Do we feel better off?

And wouldn’t you know it, I do. My freelance work is picking up. My 401K statements no longer make me barf. Businesses are more lively in my little town in Southern California. Even the lobstermen in Maine are back to feeding their kids something other than lobster.

But what do I know? I’m neither an expert, who understands the economy, nor a politician, who pretends to.

And the Romney-Ryan campaign certainly wants us to believe that we’re not better off, that vague fiscal horrors lurk around the corner, that it’s all Obama’s fault, and that the world will end if we vote for him again.

Funny thing, though, Romney has been quoted in a several recent news articles, admitting that the economy is — drum roll — getting better! Oops.

The source of the quote is a January 20, 2012 interview on Laura Ingraham’s radio show, and Romney clearly states that, “of course it’s getting better.” The segment of the interview that news outlets left out is where Romney is dancing all over the place with unsubstantiated claims intended to deflect any credit for the improvement from Obama.

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 that 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.

This is where reports skipped part of what Romney said, but it’s actually illustrative of his tactics, ignoring what Congress did to impede the president’s efforts and defaming what Obama was able to accomplish, comparing him to the myth that President Herbert Hoover caused the Great Depression:

Romney: There’s never been a time anywhere in the world where the economy has never recovered. The question is has it recovered by virtue of something the President’s done or has he delayed the recovery and made it more painful, and the latter of course is the truth. The President’s policies have made this recession deeper and it made the recovery more tepid, more difficult on the American people. This is the worse recovery we’ve seen from a recession since Hoover. And President Obama wants to take credit for things getting better. He in fact has made things worse. He’s made this recovery take much longer. But will our economy get better some day? Of course it will. And it will not be thanks to President Obama. It will be in spite of President Obama. And that’s of course the message we have to give. If people think the right course for improving an economy is to massively expand debt and the federal government, well they can vote for Barack Obama, but we know better.

Then the excerpt goes on to a rather startling conclusion:

Ingraham: But 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 some 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. …

Ah, the truth.

So I’m sitting in a kayak, in the gentle turning of the tide, reveling in the glory of a Downeaster summer’s end, contemplating the truth that I am indeed better off.

I’m still hoping to spy a selkie, but I am content with the magic of technology that allows us to witness Romney tripping all over himself.



Kit-Bacon Gressitt's commentary and political fiction can be read on her blog Excuse Me, I'm Writing and is republished by SDGLN, The Ocean Beach Rag and The Progressive Post. She formerly worked for the North County Times. She is also host of Fallbrook's monthly Writers Read open mic and can be reached at kbgressitt@gmail.com.