- - Sunday, October 9, 2016

In his Tuesday night debate with Tim Kaine, GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence borrowed a classic line Ronald Reagan used to devastating effect in his one and only debate against Jimmy Carter: “There you go again.” As GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump prepares for his Sunday evening debate with Hillary Clinton, he would do well to consider paraphrasing and using a different line from Reagan: “Are you better off than you were eight years ago?”

By any objective standard, the great majority of Americans will answer that question with a resounding “NO.” Their incomes have been stagnant or even falling, even as prices have gone up. Their control over their healthcare, as well as the quality of the healthcare they receive, has been diminished, even as the prices they pay for insurance, and deductibles, and co-pays, have all gone up - despite the Obama Administration’s promises that premiums would actually go down by $2,500 per family per year. Threats to their physical safety and security, posed by terrorists seeking to impose their own radical views, have increased, even as the Obama Administration tries to downplay its national security failings and stubbornly refuses to use the term “radical Islam.”

Is it any wonder the fabled “right track/wrong direction” number is where it is today, with 64 percent of survey respondents saying the country is going in the wrong direction, compared to just 25 percent who say it’s on the right track in the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll?

And therein lies the opening for Trump. He is the agent of change, while Hillary Clinton represents more of the same.

Consider:

In January 2009, when Barack Obama took office, the labor force participation rate was 65.7 percent. As of August 2016, the latest month for which statistics are available, that number is 62.8 percent - almost a three-percentage-point drop, and near the lowest level since the 1970s.

Perhaps worse, that number has fallen steadily every year President Obama has been in office.

Because the “official” unemployment statistics only reflect the percentage of people who cannot find work among those still actively seeking employment, they miss those millions who have given up hope and stopped looking. So the labor force participation rate is a better barometer - and it shows clearly that there are fewer and fewer workers participating in the American economy.

When President Obama took office in January 2009, 80,529,000 Americans were not participating in the labor force. Since then, more than 14 million more Americans have left the work force. As of June 2016, a record 94,708,000 Americans - almost one third of our population - are not in the labor force.

Do you think they believe they are better off than they were eight years ago? Doubtful.

But the labor force participation rate doesn’t just negatively impact those who have given up hope of finding work. That missing work means the rest of us must pay higher taxes, and pay more out in terms of government social welfare programs. So even those who DO have a job are hurt by such a low labor force participation rate.

Or consider the national debt, which reached more than $19 trillion earlier this year - for the first time ever. It took our nation 230 years to accumulate $10 trillion in debt, but less than eight years to virtually double it.

Of course, a number that high is so large it’s virtually incomprehensible. So, instead, look at it in individual terms - every man, woman, and even child in America today owes more than $58,000.

With a doubling of the national debt during the Obama years, again, it’s easy to see why almost two-thirds of the country believes we’re headed in the wrong direction.

Since the inception of Barack Obama’s presidency, in fact, a majority of the nation’s voters have believed the country to be on the wrong track.

Americans are yearning for someone who will right the country and who is empathetic to their desire for a better future for themselves, their family and children, and for the country as a whole. That is why Trump’s adaptation of President Reagan’s slogan “Let’s Make America Great Again” has resonated so well this year.

Is electing Hillary Clinton going to put us on the right track? Hardly. Her election would be a continuation of Obama big government, big spending policies for another four years. It would be more of the same.

If Donald Trump is wise, he will make Sunday night’s debate revolve around one question and one question only - which one of us do you trust to take the country in a new direction? And to do that, he would be smart to dust off the old Reagan question and paraphrase it for use today: Are you better off than you were eight years ago?

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