Better off compared to what? Krugman asks the right question

Better off compared to what?

by digby

Krugman asks the "are you better off" question the right way:

Obama came to office in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. The question should be how well he dealt with that crisis — and in particular whether the man seeking to replace him would have done better.

And the facts of how we’ve done aren’t complicated: the economy was in free fall in January 2009; it stabilized and began growing by mid-2009; but growth has been disappointing, and employment has barely kept up with population. Here’s real GDP per capita:

Would a Republican president have done better? If so, how? That’s the question — not the dumb “four years” trope.

In my view, the problem for the Obama administration was rigidly sticking to their agenda even in the face of changing circumstances. From the outset, the administration wanted to do a Grand Bargain and the wild right wing hostility to the health care program only made them motivated to prove their "responsible" bona fides even more.The economy didn't cooperate, unfortunately.

However, judging by the McCain and Romney campaigns as well as the dystopian nightmare agenda of Paul Ryan and the right wing of the party, we almost certainly would have had worse if the Republicans had been in office. Sadly, this is because unlike the Tea Partiers and the GOP leadership who adopted a total obstruction policy, there would undoubtedly have been enough Democrats crossing over to pass any hideous legislation they devised. (Having the majority wouldn't have helped I'm afraid.) We'd very likely be back in recession right now.

So, yeah. The question isn't whether we're better off now than we were. It's how much worse off we'd be if the crazy Republicans had been in charge with a bunch of Blue Dogs happily helping them do their worst.