Joe Biden’s ‘right’ of way to recovery

Posted Aug. 27, 2010, at 7:21 p.m.

Grass-roots America’s television viewers who watched as Vice President Joe Biden said there is no doubt that the country “is heading in the right direction” economic recovery-wise probably should be cut some slack if they are confused as to whether he lives in the same country they do.

Biden made the observation at an event Tuesday during which he analyzed the impact of the recovery act in these waning days of what the Obama administration had billed as the “summer of recovery.” He broke from prepared remarks to respond to a speech in Cleveland by House Minority Leader John Boehner in which the Republican legislator from Ohio had suggested that the White House economic team should be fired for gross incompetence.

“For eight years before we arrived in the West Wing, Mr. Boehner and his party ran the economy literally into the ground,” Biden said. “We’ve seen this movie before, Mr. Boehner. We’ve seen it before, and we know how it ends.” He accused Boehner of being “nostalgic” for the failed policies of the Bush administration.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but if the vice president believes there is no doubt that happy days lie just over the hill he probably ought to get out and mingle with the commoners more. Indications are that throughout the republic there is little but doubt concerning the matter.

High unemployment and rising jobless claims compete for attention with trillion-dollar deficits, talk of a double-dip recession or worse, an out-of-control influx of illegal aliens, faltering manufacturing output, tight money, two wars and the potential for additional conflicts, plummeting home sales and increasing foreclosures, environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, states operating in the red, a coarsening public discourse and corruption in Congress.

To top it all off, a plague of bedbugs is upon the land. We may no longer lead the planet in many desirable categories, but our robust, world-class misery index takes a back seat to no country.

Meanwhile, a survey released Wednesday by Market Decisions of Portland shows that consumer confidence in Maine, mirroring a national trend, is anything but robust. After hitting bottom in July 2008, it rose for more than three consecutive quarters. But since April 2009 there has been no significant improvement. Nearly 45 percent of Mainers say they are worse off than a year ago. Only one in five expects to be better off in the next year, when 61 percent believe the state will continue to be in tough financial times.

Nor are we optimistic about the more-distant future. The poll shows that 53 percent of us expect widespread unemployment and depression in the next five years. Only 35 percent of Mainers believe that now is the time to make a major purchase, down from 42 percent last October.

That’s the gist of the movie we’ve been watching here in Maine, The Way Life Should Be, although we have yet to sit through the final scene to see how things turn out. Whether the movie may be coming soon to a theater near Joe Biden, or whether he has already seen it and has concluded that we, too, are headed in the right direction, I have no idea.

To be charitable, Biden’s rosy outlook on life may be laid to his fulfilling a vice president’s traditional role as cheerleader-in-chief for the administration he serves. On the other hand, maybe he was speaking in his unofficial capacity as this administration’s designated foot-in-mouth guy — free to wander off the reservation to make a hash of things whenever the urge overwhelms him.

In either case, judging by Internet reaction to his remarks, bloggers in general and Republicans in particular consider him the gift that keeps on giving. The country definitely is indeed headed in the right direction, one wag suggested — provided the right direction is down and backward.

“Joe is finally right about something: Things are moving in the right direction,” posted a partisan commenter on the website swamppolitics.com. And come the Nov. 2 midterm elections, when Republicans are expected to make significant gains in Congress, Biden will see just how “right” that direction is, he predicted.

BDN columnist Kent Ward lives in Limestone. Readers may reach him by e-mail at olddawg@bangordailynews.com.

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