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This paragraph is the core of Mitt Romney’s case against President Obama:

"What do we have to show for three and a half years of President Obama? Is it easier to make ends meet? Is it easier to sell your home or buy a new one? Have you saved what you needed for retirement? Are you making more in your job? Do you have a better chance to get a better job? Do you pay less at the pump?"

In other words: Are you better off now than you were three and a half years ago?

This is a good question to ask. But we need to be a bit more sophisticated about it. Three and a half years ago, for instance, Barack Obama wasn’t yet president. The date was Oct. 25, 2008, and Obama hadn’t even won the election yet, much less taken office.

The National Bureau of Economic Research says the recession officially began in December 2007. The worst of it came in the fourth quarter of 2008. Obama was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2009. The time frame Romney chose, in other words, thrusts the very worst of the recession into Obama’s lap despite the fact that he wasn’t even president yet. It’s like blaming a fireman for the damage the blaze did before he arrived.

But we need some way to judge Obama. One possibility is to simply start the clock the day Obama was inaugurated. That’s not a particularly smart approach, though. Presumably, we want to know the effects of the decisions Obama made. While it’s true that the economy lost a lot of jobs in February 2009, it’s hard to see how you could fairly peg those on Obama. The guy had been president for less than two weeks.
Should Obama really be blamed for George W. Bush’s presidency?
Zev Mo Green (zevmo)'s profile photoPercy Ferry's profile photoCurtis Evans's profile photoJD Milburn's profile photo
Three and a half years ago I was un-employed and scared to death. Since then I lost my home (but found a new one) and have a great job (that I've been working at for that past two years)...yeah, I'm better off, MUCH better off.

Doesn't mean I'm voting for or against Obama...I'm just answering the question from the paragraph that was referenced.
Romney is using the classic Republican debate tactic. Ignore the facts, just go with emotion, and hope the majority of respondents aren't paying attention.
No, He should take responsibility for down fall of the economy for the last 3 years!!!
+Ezra Klein Should Obama really be blamed for George W. Bush’s presidency? If that's it takes to get the rubes to pull the lever for Willard…

Charlie Pierce, resident of the commonwealth of Massachusetts, has Romney dead to rights here:

+Zev Mo Green "if you have the facts on your side, pound the facts; if you have the law on your side, pound the law: if you don't have either one, pound the table."
+Zev Mo Green I think that's a strong political tactic period. Politicians are what's wrong with this country but I think we're stuck with them.

The "Founding Fathers" never meant for anyone to run this country for decades, these positions in congress are supposed to be temporary, but it hasn't' turned out that way.
Si Dunn
It's hard to make progress when roughly half of Congress is rooting for you to fail and also actively trying to make that failure happen by blocking your efforts to find compromise solutions to problems.
Ezra, I am certain that I do not have to remind you, but it does merit repeating; when the president started his term and even before that when he was campaigning, he told the American people that we did not get into this mess overnight and that we would not get out of it overnight (or even in three years). I hope that the Obama campaign reminds everyone of this fact...
Except, three things +Robb Scheele :

a) what policies did he make that contributed to "the downfall of the economy for the last three years"?

b) How are you classifying the "downfall" over the last 3 years? What number, statistic, baseline are you gauging it by?

c) i.e. What does he get credit for? The market is up, unemployment down, and we're better off than most in Europe.
It's frustrating how effective these appeals are, though, due to the vagaries of soundbyte politics and our natural cognitive biases. It dilutes such complicated questions (have these policies been effective given a thorough consideration of the alternatives and uncontrollable variables?), with a visceral and anecdotal conclusion that stymies the interesting part of the inquiry. Then again, yeah, I am in a better place by all those markers than I was three years ago, so if Mitt wants to risk the possibility that the recession will cycle out and rely on a "but it could have been better" argument, then I'm all for it (knocking on wood that the various potential meltdowns around the world forestall through election season!)
+John Borgen That's down to the necessary expense of mass media campaigning. It gives incumbents far too much power and deters challengers. I saw a story that Pete Stark is facing a challenge for the first time since 1972: as far as many of his constituents are concerned, he has always been their guy. Speaker Boehner has been in office 20+ years: is he really that good? And no, we don't need artificial term limits: we need reliable enforcement of the ones we have, otherwise known as elections. Why the executive branch is the only one subject to an amendment enforcing term limits seems wrong.
All those questions are economic. While the economy is improving, it has not recovered but it is on the right path. One major improvement Obama has made is that job losses have stopped and we are now adding jobs every month and the war in Iraq is over for the most part. Eliminating the negative impact of the Bush administration is not going to happen in 3.5 years.
Turning the tables around - what did we have to show for the first few years of President Bush? Collapsing a booming Internet economy that President Clinton had left behind! I hear Romney's speech and I think, yes you are going to take a sinking economy that Obama inherited from Bush and pushed towards an upswing and try to push it further up.... Yes thats grand! Sad that Romney is resorting to pointing fingers and playing the blame game without having anything concrete to present about his so-called recovery plans. As far as some of us are concerned we are on an economic upswing, thanks to Obama who stopped it from sinking further.
The Right's answer: But don't you see? Just the fact that Obama was likely to win the election caused business confidence to plummet! It's the same as how "Obamacare" is to blame for current problems even though much of it hasn't taken effect yet.
TLDR; Our Politicians (both red and blue alike) lie intentionally (surprise, surpise) and it's okay?!

The thing that bothers me the most about statements like Mr. Romney's is that he knows it's it false statement to pin (unless he is incredibly naive) it entirely on Obama, yet he says it because he knows a lot of misinformed and/or unreasonable people will believe him. It's this sort of attitude our political elites have (both democratic and republican alike) that really, and I mean really, really, angers me. And what bothers me even more is that there are no consequences to these actions. They can say whatever they want and as long as they issue an insincere apology (in most cases they don't even do that!) life goes on unchanged. This attitude is disgusting and shameful, yet it continues and is an integral part of our elections.

The sad part is that our society allows these flat out lies to be flung to and fro. It begs the question, when will our society rise above these sorts of actions and be intolerant of them? From what i can tell, not very soon.
The problem with this is you can not talk logic with most Americans. You counter with well look at the dates and what the Economic Research says. People do not care and Romney is doing what he knows is right... use American irrationalism against us to secure his position as President. If Obama says "Well I have not been President for 3.5 years" then it looks like he is passing the buck and not owning it like he needs to be doing. Regardless if it his mess or not. Time to man up. If he wants to do big things next term then own it and move on people will respect that. Everyone knows GBush was a nightmare on all fronts but its time to move on.
"Blaming the Recession on Obama is like blaming your hangover on the guy cooking you breakfast." -- Charlie Pierce (or maybe John Fugelsang)
+paul beard I wonder why the incumbents have SO much political "staying power" (for lack of a better term)?

I would love it if the current election process would work to effectively limit the time people stay in power within this country. It seems like it would be more work to legislate "political fairness" than it would to say, "Two consecutive terms and you have to sit out for one term". That would effectively break the cycle, maybe?
How long did Bush refer to the economy as the Clinton economy once the Bush policies had wrecked everything? Once the tax breaks to the rich had been put in place, once he had given everyone $600, once he had gotten us into two wars on borrowed money? How long did he blame Clinton for all of this? It seems to me, Obama is within his rights to point out that Bush destroyed everything good that was handed to him by Clinton, including a balanced budget, surplus, and 22 million jobs. How stupid does someone have to be to squander all of THAT????
The way you judge Obama is by the policies he pushed through, and using a time frame for when the policies would reasonably begin to take effect.
reagan's deregulation of the banks in the 80's began this nation's economic slide into hades.
+John Borgen it's similar to how people who spend a lot of money on an electronic gadget tend to try and convince others to buy what they have, even though they have issues with it.

Pure denial to justify a bad decision. 
Please don't mention Reagan again - I'm trying to keep my lunch down.
Even his VP Papa Bush called it voodoo economics.
I'll simply answer the question this way...I'll ALWAYS be OK w/out Willard M. Romney as POTUS!
None of us are really better off. We leave our Country to elected officials, and it becomes a mess. Bank deregulation, and greed destroyed patriotism! We say this is the best Country in the world and then don't vote? Elections have become all about $ and not the people. Look at John Edwards, a poor excuse for a citizen.
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