The Democratic convention has tread lightly around the question of whether America is better off than it was four years ago. But Nancy Pelosi hit it head on Wednesday.
House minority leader Nancy Pelosi says that the US is better off than it was four years ago because in the fall of 2008 the nation was on the verge of an historic economic collapse.
In an impassioned defense of President Obama's economic record, Congresswoman Pelosi at a breakfast sponsored by the Monitor said that she remembers the dark days of that autumn all too well. On Sept. 18, the then-speaker of the House met in her office with Bush administration Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. At the time, bank lending was drying up. The nation's biggest financial firms teetered on the edge of collapse.
Secretary Paulson described a scenario which, in Pelosi's words, included the US possibly descending into the depths of economic hell. So she turned to Chairman Bernanke, and asked for his opinion.
"If we do not act immediately, we will not have an economy by Monday," said Bernanke, in Pelosi's recollection.
The meeting was on a Thursday night.
"Are we better off than then? Yes," said Pelosi.
The "are you better off" question has bedeviled Democrats in recent days as they gather here in Charlotte, N.C., for their national convention. Republicans have adopted the phrase from the Ronald Reagan 1980 campaign, which used it to highlight US discontent with incumbent President Carter's economic record.
With unemployment stubbornly high and US economic growth sluggish at best, Democrats have struggled to articulate a response that encapsulates the idea that, yes, things aren't great, but you've forgotten the mess we inherited.
That was Pelosi's mission at the Monitor breakfast. She recalled calling Paulson to set up that September 2008 meeting and asking him to come to her office the next day.
"Madam Speaker," Paulson said, in Pelosi's recollection, "tomorrow will be too late."