This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.
Is the country better off than it was four years ago? We believe the answer is yes and that Barack Obama deserves re-election.
Four years ago, before Obama’s election, the United States was sliding into its deepest economic downturn since the 1930s. The economy is still in the doldrums, and the jobless rate remains far too high. But the financial system is not flirting with collapse, and few Americans wake up in fear of another Great Depression.
Presidents do not stage-manage the U.S. economy. If politicians of either party knew exactly how to deliver unbroken prosperity, they would have done it a long time ago. This is less of a science than economists like to admit, in part because there’s no second United States to serve as a control group.
Obama has played a very bad hand well. The maligned Troubled Asset Relief Program, the 2009 stimulus bill and such smaller measures as the Social Security payroll tax cut may well have kept the nation from falling off a cliff.
When the economy is sinking, deficit spending is not reckless – though failing to cut deficits after recovery would be monumentally irresponsible.
The deficit problem is less about either Obama or Mitt Romney than it is about their respective parties. Historically, Democrats have pandered to beneficiaries of middle-class entitlements; Republicans have pandered to hatred of taxes.
It seems obvious that, long-term, both parties will have to back down. Entitlements must be cut and taxes increased to chip away at America’s increasingly dangerous national debt.
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