Ryan Adds Some Loaded Examples to Question of ‘Better Off?’

New York Times

Ryan Adds Some Loaded Examples to Question of ‘Better Off?’

Representative Paul D. Ryan spoke to an overflow crowd at a campaign event on Monday at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C.
Max Whittaker for The New York TimesRepresentative Paul D. Ryan spoke to an overflow crowd at a campaign event on Monday at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C.

9:02 p.m. | Updated A revised version of this post is available here.

GREENVILLE, N.C. — Representative Paul D. Ryan compared the struggling economy to Jimmy Carter-era malaise, when a candidate named Ronald Reagan denied a president re-election by asking an unsettling question: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”

“There’s a little gathering going on over in Charlotte,” Mr. Ryan said here in eastern North Carolina, about a four-hour drive from the site of the Democratic National Convention. “The president can say a lot of things, and he will, but he can’t tell you that you’re better off. Simply put, the Jimmy Carter years look like the good old days compared to where we are right now.”

The Republican National Committee and the Romney-Ryan campaign sounded the charge on Monday morning with a new video, a Web site and a statistics dump attacking President Obama on what they consider his biggest vulnerability, all asking the question: “Are you better off?”

Mr. Ryan picked up the theme speaking to 2,000 people at East Carolina University, while Mitt Romney took a break in New Hampshire from public campaigning.

“In July of 1980, the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent,” Mr. Ryan said. “For the past 42 months, it’s been above 8 percent under President Obama’s failed leadership.” He also cited the even higher unemployment rate of 9.6 percent in North Carolina, a state that Mr. Obama won in 2008 but where the race is deadlocked, according to the latest polls.

While correct, some of Mr. Ryan’s numbers seemed cherry-picked to paint the worst possible picture and to ignore the argument by Democrats that Mr. Obama inherited a disastrous economy that continued to deteriorate during much of his first year, but that since then has turned around and slowly improved.

It is true that unemployment in North Carolina is higher than the national average. It is also true that the rate peaked at 11.4 percent in January and February 2010 and has been dropping since then.

Mr. Ryan also cited bankruptcy numbers to make the point that failing businesses mean fewer jobs. “In 1980 under Jimmy Carter, 330,000 businesses filed for bankruptcy,” he said. “Last year, under President Obama’s failed leadership, 1.4 million businesses filed for bankruptcy.”

But he appeared to conflate business bankruptcies and much more numerous personal bankruptcies. Of the 331,264 bankruptcies in 1980, only 43,694 were for businesses, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute.

Of the 1,410,653 total bankruptcy filings last year, 47,806 were business bankruptcies, according to the institute. And, again, the numbers are falling. In 2009, there were 60,837 business bankruptcies. In July, the latest month with complete statistics, business bankruptcies were 22 percent lower than a year earlier, and personal bankruptcies were down 11 percent.

Author: AFGE Local 704

Representing over 900 bargaining unit employees working at the U.S. EPA Region 5 Offices in Chicago, Ann Arbor, MI and Westlake, OH.

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