Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Smart Answers to a Dumb Question

Add to the Ryan errata watch Mitt’s mate misplacing Ronald Reagan’s killer line from a 1980 debate with Jimmy Carter to the GOP convention.

“Are you better off than you were four years ago?” the Gipper asked voters back then, and now Paul Ryan is out claiming to remember it as a ten-year-old and, as usual, getting it wrong.

Whatever. The question deserves serious answering, and Democrats are giving it a try.

If your eyes don’t glaze over, you can see one about the Reagan era with charts and graphs here and another with 2008 headlines here, but the best may be an economist’s rebuttal to journalists who take the question seriously:

“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.

“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.”

Still, for those who relish irony, the one American who could answer “yes” to Ryan’s question is his running mate. Even without seeing more of his tax returns, Americans can be sure that Mitt Romney is richer and better off than he was four years ago, even if most of us are not.

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