Are you better off today than you were four years ago?

The perennial question in modern presidential elections, asked with particularly devastating effect by Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election, is ???Are you better off now than you were four years ago????  It???s an efficient conceptual tool for asking voters to summarize the incumbent President???s record, and decide whether they approve of the path America is taking.

That???s a very uncomfortable question for someone with a record like Barack Obama???s.  As Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan observed, during a visit to North Carolina on Sunday, ???the President can say a lot of things, and he will, but he can???t tell you that you are better off.  Simply put, the Jimmy Carter years look like the good old days compared to where we are right now.???

Actually, President Obama does have a reasonable answer to the ???are you better off???? question, if he were honest enough to give it: it doesn???t matter if you think you???re better off now than you were when you took office.  What matters is the ???transformation??? of America, in accordance with his ideology.  Transforming a people against their will is necessarily painful.  Obama honestly believes the world will be better off once America???s transformation is complete.  A few years of grinding unemployment, weak economic growth, and towering national debt are small prices to pay??? especially since Obama, his close political allies, and his top donors aren???t the ones paying it.

One Democrat did come close to giving that honest answer: Governor Martin O???Malley of Maryland.  When asked if people are better off today than when Obama took office, on CBS News??? Face the Nation, he answered ???No, but that???s not the question of this election.???

O???Malley then launched into the usual tired blame-Bush litany, reading from the playbook of the first President in U.S. history who thinks he can campaign for re-election by convincing voters the White House has been empty for the past four years: ???Without a doubt, we are not as well off as we were, before George Bush brought us the Bush job losses, the Bush recession, the Bush deficits, the series of desert wars, charged for the first time to the national credit card.???

Amusingly, O???Malley was dragged out to the woodshed by the Obama campaign team, and instructed never to answer ???no,??? even with tedious talking-point qualifiers, when asked if Americans are better off now than they were four years ago.  With his software duly upgraded, O???Malley appeared on CNN Monday to say, ???We are clearly better off as a country because we???re not creating jobs rather than losing them, but we have not recovered all that we lost in the Bush recession.  That???s why we need to continue to move forward.???

Got that, folks?  Obama???s created a billion zillion jobs.  That???s why unemployment is frozen above 8 percent, and the workforce is smaller than it was when he took office.  But if you ignore his first year in the White House, don???t count all the jobs that have been lost, don???t listen to all the business owners saying that fear of ObamaCare and Taxmageddon are causing them to put off hiring decisions, close your eyes when you pump gas, sing a happy tune to banish thoughts of Obama???s monstrous increase of the national debt, and try not to think about the alarming replacement of full-time jobs with part-time and temporary work on his watch, it???s possible to pretend Obama is better than Carter… at least, for long enough to get through the election.  It will be really tough to keep up the pretense if Obama ends up standing in the smoldering ruins of a second term, whining that all his failures are still George Bush???s fault, and that???s why you have to elect either his hand-picked successor, or Joe Biden.

Obama???s chief campaign strategist, David Axelrod, disintegrated when Chris Wallace of Fox News asked him the ???are Americans better off??? question, and hit him with a few statistics.  Note, while watching the video below, that Axelrod never gets anywhere near a ???yes??? or ???no??? answer to the question:

Democrat National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse mangled the English language to insist on Monday, ???The truth is that the American people know we were literally on a plane ??? the trajectory was towards the ground.  [President Obama] got the stick and pulled us up out of that decline.???  Literally!

And of course, no low political comedy would be complete without a contribution from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who cackled like a maniac when confronted with the ???are Americans better off than they were four years ago???? question: ???I think Democrats should welcome that question, especially considering the source of who???s asking it.  Mitt Romney?  Mitt Romney?  Paul Ryan????

Wait, it gets better.  ???Our country is better off,??? Pelosi insisted.  ???Our country is better off than where we were.  President Obama, this extraordinary president in a very extraordinary time, pulled our country back from the brink of depression, meltdown of our financial institutions, deepening of our deficit. And in the first two years, three and a half million jobs were created with the Recovery Act. President Obama was a job creator from day one.???

Yes, Obama really pulled us back from the ???deepening of our deficit.???  That???s why he???s increased the national debt more than any of his predecessors, and very nearly more than all of them combined.  And Rep. Pelosi appears to have skipped a page in her talking points handbook, because you???re not supposed to mention 2009 at all, when it comes to pretending Obama is a ???job creator.???  Democrats certainly do not want Americans thinking about what Barack Obama was doing on ???day one.???

But then our dotty Minority Leader swung around to something approaching the honest answer about Obama???s record, as Yahoo News reports, when she tried to explain how Obama can be considered a ???job creator??? after blowing a trillion ???stimulus??? dollars to little visible effect.  ???We have to think in terms of the country than in each individual person,??? Pelosi said.  ???It???s a hard sell, and if you don???t have a job, what difference does it make to you????

Translation: Transformation is tough.  Suck it up, jobless Americans.

Despite their campaign slogan of ???Forward,??? the Democrats are capping off their amnesia campaign with a special guest appearance by Bill Clinton at the convention – frantically trying to build a bridge back to the 1990s, when tech bubble on the verge of bursting gave us good employment numbers under a very different Democrat president.  Somehow George Bush managed to clean up the wreckage from Bill Clinton???s recession without endlessly whining about it.  That???s something else today???s Democrats really don???t need voters dwelling on.