While the source is not clear, someone developed a simple way to identify incompetent news reporters. If you hear a reporter ask people in President Obama's administration, ideally in a belligerent tone, "are the American people better off than they were four years ago?,"the reporter is trying to tell you that they are not qualified to do their job.
The reason we know that the questioners are incompetent reporters is that this is a pointless question. Suppose your house is on fire and the firefighters race to the scene. They set up their hoses and start spraying water on the blaze as quickly as possible. After the fire is put out, the courageous news reporter on the scene asks the chief firefighter, "is the house in better shape than when you got here?"
Yes, that would be a really ridiculous question. Hence George Stephanopoulos was being absurd when he posed this question to David Plouffe, a top political adviser to President Obama on ABC's This Week. Bob Schieffer was being equally silly when he asked Martin O’Malley, the Chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, the same question on CBS's Face the Nation.
A serious reporter asks the fire chief if he had brought a large enough crew, if they enough hoses, if the water pressure was sufficient. That might require some minimal knowledge of how to put out fires.
Similarly, serious reporters would ask whether the stimulus was large enough, was it well-designed, and were there other measures that could have been taken like promoting shorter workweeks, as Germany has done. That would of course require some knowledge of economics, but it sure makes more sense than asking if a house is better off after it was nearly burnt to the ground.
See also, the economy gained back 4 million jobs--currently at a clip of about 30K a week after losing them by the tens of thousands when Obama took office. See also, the Dow recovered. CEO salaries and corporate profits are good. As somebody said, the private sector is doing fine--as in, they aren't doing worse.
Could things be better? Yeah. I think they could. I think a bigger stimulus, and a more direct stimulus in the forms of raising the minimum wage and some debt forgiveness re: mortgages, credit card, and student debt, would've freed up a lot of cash for circulation. Also, promotion/adoption of a "prosperity approach" (not Ryan's budget, but just--the opposite of "austerity") and the progressive answer to the debt would have been neat--
But let's be clear--I think the solutions to "making things better" lie on the liberal side of the balance. Just offering a criticism--as Romney/Ryan are doing, isn't an answer. Also, in terms of numbers, like Ryan's business bankruptcy lie, they really have to skew the POV to make anyone see anything like the "doom and gloom" they want to attribute to Obama's handling of the economy.
We are in a recovery. They can quibble about the size of it or the speed of it--they can't pretend we aren't in one.