I'd like to elaborate on Dean Baker's metaphor:
... If you hear a reporter ask people in President Obama's administration, ideally in a belligerent tone, "are the American people better off than they were four years ago?,"the reporter is trying to tell you that they are not qualified to do their job.To which I'd add that the problem is not just the fact that reporters (and Republicans) are asking this question. Additionally, Republicans are talking about Obama as if his mission in life is to spray water on the contents of houses, with no reference whatsoever to the fact that he does this in response to fire. Look -- he drenched the contents of the house in water! Everything's ruined! That's his philosophy of government -- spraying water on things and ruining them! We have no idea why he does this, except that it's some horrible liberal Kenyan Muslim jihadist compulsion, and he needs to be stopped before he soaks anything else! Water is his solution to everything!
The reason we know that the questioners are incompetent reporters is that this is a pointless question. Suppose your house is on fire and the firefighters race to the scene. They set up their hoses and start spraying water on the blaze as quickly as possible. After the fire is put out, the courageous news reporter on the scene asks the chief firefighter, "is the house in better shape than when you got here?"
Yes, that would be a really ridiculous question....
A serious reporter asks the fire chief if he had brought a large enough crew, if they had enough hoses, if the water pressure was sufficient. That might require some minimal knowledge of how to put out fires....
That's what Republicans say about Obama soaking things -- i.e., spending in a Keynesian way during a severe recession, and sustaining what he can of the social safety net. They talk as if he's a committed sprayer of water, as if soaking things with water is his mission in life. They discuss the situation as if only bizarre crackpots see a house burning down and reach for a hose.
And the mainstream press mostly just nods.