Sen. John McCain's new TV ad (watch HERE) asserts that "Washington's broken. John McCain knows it. We're worse off than we were four years ago."
But the Obama camp notes that this is a somewhat different note than the one Sen. McCain sang during the primaries. The CNN debate January 30 (watch HERE) featured the following exchange:
"Are Americans better off than they were eight years ago?" asked CNN's Anderson Cooper.
"I think you could argue that Americans overall are better off, because we have had a pretty good prosperous time, with low unemployment and low inflation and a lot of good things have happened," McCain said. "A lot of jobs have been created."
"But let's have some straight talk," McCain continued. "Things are tough right now. Americans are uncertain about this housing crisis. Americans are uncertain about the economy, as we see the stock market bounce up and down, but more importantly, the economy particularly in some parts of the country, state of Michigan, Governor Romney and I campaigned, not to my success, I might add, and other parts of the country are probably better off."
"But I think what we're trying to do to fix this economy is important," McCain said. "We've got to address the housing, subprime housing problem. We need to, obviously, have this package go through the Congress as quickly as possible. We need to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, which I voted for twice to do so. I think we need to eliminate the alternate minimum tax that sits out there and challenges 25 million American families."
Observed Cooper: "It sounds like that we're not better off is what you're saying."
"Pardon me?" asked McCain.
"It sounds like you're saying we're not better off," repeated Cooper.
"I think we are better off overall if you look at the entire eight-year period, when you look at the millions of jobs that have been created, the improvement in the economy, et cetera," McCain said.
Can one think that we're currently better off than we were eight years ago, during the Bill Clinton presidency, but worse off than we were four years ago, during the Bush presidency?
Does that make any sense?
McCain is basically arguing that things were best in 2004, are worse than that now in 2008, but were the absolute worst in 2000.
Our unemployment rate is currently 5.7%. That's higher, worse, than it was four years ago -- 5.4%. But it's also worse than it was eight years ago: 4.1%.
Our inflation rate was 5.02% in June of this year.
That's worse than it was four years ago -- in August 2004, the rate was 2.65%. But it's also worse than it was eight years ago. In August 2000, the inflation rate was 3.41%.
ABC News Polling Director Gary Langer points out that in the ABC News Consumer Comfort Index, Americans' ratings of the national economy, the buying climate and their personal finances all are drastically worse than either four or eight years ago.
Housing on the other hand seemed great four years ago...but the housing market has since collapsed, as Dan Arnall in ABC News' Business Unit points out. So four years ago the economy was propped up by that tent pole. And the bubble burst, to mix metaphors. To be fair, Clinton benefited from the tech bubble in 2000 as Bush did in 2004.
In any case, there are any number of economic matrices by which to measure this. I eagerly await the McCain campaign's explanation.