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Can Obama Fix the Economy?; Wrong Question

Aired September 9, 2012 - 13:00   ET


ALI VELSHI, HOST: I kept the Republicans honest last week. Now I've got the Democrats in my sights. I'm Ali Velshi and this is YOUR MONEY. Let's start with the man at the top. Barack Obama promised change.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is our chance to turn the page on the policies of the last seven and half years.

VELSHI: The promises he made were big and they were specific.

OBAMA: We are going to roll back the Bush tax cuts.

VELSHI: Instead he agreed to extend those tax cuts for two more years in a compromise to get Republicans to extend jobless benefits to millions of unemployed Americans.

OBAMA: I have no doubt that everyone will find something in this compromise that they don't like. In fact there are things in here that I don't like.

VELSHI: Barack Obama promised to clean up the financial sector.

OBAMA: We've got to solve this banking crisis.

VELSHI: But opposition in Congress watered the reforms down. Banks are still risking your money. Some say Wall Street is as treacherous as ever. Barack Obama promised foreclosure relief.

OBAMA: We're going to put together a foreclosure fund to help people stay in their homes.

VELSHI: His multiple plans did help, but fell far short of their goals. Foreclosures are down, but three million homeowners have lost their homes since Barack Obama was sworn in. And Barack Obama promised to tackle the federal deficit.

OBAMA: I'm pledging to cut the deficit we inherited by half by the end of my first term in office.

VELSHI: That didn't work out the way he planned.

OBAMA: I try to only make promises that I can keep or work on keeping.

VELSHI: Politifact says President Obama has kept 37 percent of his campaign promises. He's compromised on some and broken 16 percent of them outright. That's leaves another third either stalled or in the works. Was Barack Obama deliberately misleading to get votes, or is the intransigence in Washington just too hard to overcome. To some none of that matters. The only question now, can they trust Barack Obama?


VELSHI: We know for a fact President Obama did not create the economic crisis, but has he done enough to fix it? Is he the man to stand up to the economic storm that we know is headed our way? I want to bring in Don Peebles. He owns a real estate development firm. He is a Democrat. He is a top fundraiser for the Obama campaign, Don, good to see you. Don, why has the President only come through on 37 percent of his promises?

DON PEEBLES, REAL ESTATE ENTREPRENEUR: Politics is one of the areas unlike business. In business you can under promise and over deliver. In politics you've got to over promise to get elected, but let's look at this. The President has actually fulfilled many of his promises.

He killed Bin Laden. He saved the automobile industry. He has stopped the foreclosure process significantly and the real estate market is actually on the way to recovery. His biggest failing I think is the deficit reduction. I think that's the biggest failing, but overall if you look Politifact indicates that it was 37 percent of the promises fulfilled, only 16 broken. That's a pretty remarkable number when you compare this president to other presidents of the past.

VELSHI: Don, let's bring in Ed Lazear, who was an economic advisor for President George W. Bush, who by the way is the president many Democrats blame for getting into this recession. It did start on his watch. Ed, as you heard many times at the Democratic Convention, Obama wanted to save the auto industry. Mitt Romney took a more business friendly approach which would have likely seen greater job losses.

Now President Obama has provided more capital for small businesses, broad new consumer protections and for half a term he has an unfriendly Congress to work with, so not counting job creation because we're going to talk about that in a separate segment after the commercial, is there really a case that this president has failed economically?

ED LAZEAR, ECONOMIC ADVISOR FOR GEORGE W. BUSH: Well I think you can't, certainly can't blame him for the early part of his presidency. That is the legacy of the past, but what we have to look at is where we are now. And this is now almost four years later from the time that he took office. And I think that the policies that the President has favored are those that focused on the short run. They were to be honest a little bit gimmicky and political. And they didn't create an environment that set us up for long-term growth.

So that's the situation that we're in. If you look at the period since the recession ended, which is actually back in June 2009, people don't realize that, but that's when the formal recession ended, we've had growth that's only about six percent. And if you compare that to any other recovery, by the way including the Great Depression, it's just it's meager. So the question is what is causing that problem. And I would argue that much of it is a failure to focus on the kinds of economic policies that would create an environment that would be positive to long-run growth.

VELSHI: All right. You were talking about the recession. We've got Martin Feldstein here whom you know. He's the former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Reagan. Now he's the president emeritus at the National Bureau of Economic Research. That's the group that actually determines when recessions start and end in this country. Martin, you are one of the smartest economic minds in the country, great to have you here.

President Obama we all agree was left with a crisis that was not of his doing. He had nothing to do with it. He comes in and he did have a friendly Congress for the first two years of his administration. To the extent that a president is able to influence the economy, and that is a matter of debate, but to the extent that you believe he is, has he done enough?

MARTIN FELDSTEIN, PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: I would say definitely not. The administration, the President takes credit for preventing the economy falling into a deeper hole. He talks about we were on the verge of a real crisis and we prevented that. And I think well what were the policies that prevented that. That was TARP and [cow]. Those were passed in 2008.

VELSHI: Under the Bush Administration.

FELDSTEIN: Under the Bush Administration.

VELSHI: Absolutely right. So let's talk about the thing that well the big thing when President Obama came in was stimulus.

FELDSTEIN: So they passed in early 2009 a major stimulus bill, $850 billion over three years, very poorly designed. Economists will argue about how much it actually did, but my guess is it added less to GDP over those three years than it did to the national debt.

VELSHI: There's generally broad agreement, Martin, that it was poorly designed, well intentioned, poorly designed possibly in the way that it was distributed and whether it really had the effect of creating jobs or just going out to what we call shovel-ready projects. We are tinkering around the edges a little bit, so now I'm going to zero in on the thing that matters most , and that is jobs. I think we are all agreed that job creation is at the center of economic growth in the United States, but Don, Ed, Martin, stick around. We're going to continue this conversation after the break.

You all know now the unemployment rate in America fell last month, but before anyone celebrates, realize this is because many job seekers appear to have left the workforce. I'll show you the hard numbers on whether President Obama is a job creation failure or a success after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) VELSHI: Well the bad news you might be hearing about the jobs report, President Obama is close to hitting a job creation milestone. The country is still very far from having a strong labor market. Take a look at this going all the way back to the beginning of the recession, all that red, our months in which jobs were lost and in 2010 a few gained then lost. And that's what it's been like for about the last 30 months.

95,000 jobs were created in August. As you can see, since President Obama came into office it's been slow and unsteady, but the job losses he inherited from President Bush did stop and companies began to hire. More recently though in the face of growing economic storm clouds in Europe job creation as you can see over toward the end has been more muted, but there are two more monthly jobs reports before Americans head to the polls.

The last one will actually come just four days before the election. And if the economy can add 261,000 more jobs President Obama will you can be sure make the claim that every single job lost on his watch has been recovered.

Ed Lazear, be honest. Don't be partisan here. Is President Obama a job creator or a job failure?

LAZEAR: Well I think the statistic that you gave is the important one. I would have put it in a slightly different way though. I would say that the more Americans were working on the day that President Obama took office than at any other day during his term. So that is not an impressive statistic.

You also made a point about hiring. And I think that's a very important one. Unfortunately our level of hiring is not much above where it was back in January of 2009. We're hiring about one million people fewer per month than we should be under normal terms.

And the labor market can't really recover until the hiring rate gets up to somewhere close to about five million a month. We're now down at about 4.3 million a month so we still have a long way to go. And that's an unfortunate part of the labor picture. As you mentioned, this is where the hardship is really felt.

Again compared this to a time back say 2007 when the labor market was strong. People had about two and half times as great a chance of finding a job then as they do today. So this is still a very depressed labor market.

VELSHI: All right. Martin Feldstein, I want to bring you into this. On Wednesday night President Clinton offered this analysis.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did. Listen to me now. No president, no president, not me, not any of my predecessors, no one could have fully repaired all the damage that he found in just four years.


VELSHI: In the context of what Ed was saying that more people were employed on Barack Obama's first day in office than at other point in his term, in his presidency, square that with what you heard from President Clinton, sounds reasonable.

FELDSTEIN: Well first of all this is a growing population. So we have to create as an economy something like 150,000 net jobs per month just to absorb the growth of the population of people who would otherwise be looking for work.

VELSHI: So this an interesting point. Just based on the number of people who are added through immigration or coming into the working age versus those who retire, or die or leave the workforce, is you had an unemployment rate that you were happy with at four, let's say five percent, just to keep it there you'd have to add 150,000 jobs.

FELDSTEIN: Per month.

VELSHI: Fewer than we did this month.

FELDSTEIN: That's right. So, so --

VELSHI: We added fewer jobs then we should --

FELDSTEIN: That's right. We added 95, 96,000 in August.


FELDSTEIN: And the only reason that the unemployment rate dropped is that four times as many people stopped looking for work as found jobs.

VELSHI: Okay. So let's explain this. 368,000 people dropped out of the labor force and the labor force participation rate, which is the percentage of people available to work who are working, is at its lowest level since 1981. Let's -- Don Peebles, let me talk to you about this. How much of this should -- how much of this was going in this direction and what could President Obama have done more to solve this problem?

PEEBLES: Well look. What President Obama inherited was the aftershock of a tremendous earthquake in this nation's economy. And the President moved swiftly. He saved the automobile industry that saved American jobs, over a million American jobs.

The President again supported small businesses by increasing access to capital to small businesses and reducing taxes on small businesses. The job loss stopped and there has been positive job gain for 28 months, the President, not as much we would like to see, but positive job growth. He will before he is reelected, will have eliminated all of the job loss under his watch and we will continue to see job growth going into the next four years of his administration.

VELSHI: Martin, you're the expert on recessions. Are we headed toward a recession? FELDSTEIN: I don't think we're necessarily headed to a recession. What we're stuck with is we're in a deep hole. The economy is very weak and it's just crawling along at a very low pace. We would really need to be growing about twice as fast to start making a dent in the unemployment, especially in the long-term unemployment which is much worse in this recession, in this expansion, in this business cycle than it has been in the past.

VELSHI: Well that is a very good note to end this on. We would have to be growing at a much faster pace than we are right now, about 1.7 percent, maybe a little over two percent next year to put a dent in unemployment. Martin, great to see you as always, Martin Feldstein is the former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, president emeritus of the National Bureau of Economic Research and a professor at Harvard University.

Don Peebles is the CEO of the Peebles Corporation and Ed Lazear is the former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors and a senior fellow at Hoover. Thanks very much, gentlemen, for joining us.

And so this takes me to my next conversation. Mitt Romney says that he can create 12 million jobs in his first term if elected. That sounds like a great case for change, but is it possible? I don't think it is and I'm going to take another swing in explaining why after the break.


VELSHI: So I find this idea, this promise of creating 12 million jobs over the next four years to be so preposterous that I said I would wear a dress for a week if that happens. Yet that is exactly what Mitt Romney claims he will do if elected in an economy that is so desperate for jobs bold promises about job creation could win people's votes. That is why I find this claim so problematic.


MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: (voice-over) And unlike the President I have a plan to create 12 million new jobs.


VELSHI: Now here's the problem. There's probably very little political value in Barack Obama saying he can't create as many jobs and Mitt Romney says he will. So Stephanie Cutter, who serves as deputy campaign manager for President Obama, came back at Republicans last week on CBS' "Face the Nation."


STEPHANIE CUTTER, DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER, PRESIDENT OBAMA: Economic forecasters already said over the course of the next four years if we stay on the President's plan we'll create 12 million jobs.


VELSHI: Twelve million jobs over four years is three million jobs a year or an average of 250,000 jobs per month every month for four years. So how is Romney going to do it? Well that's where things start to fall apart. The Romney plan says it's going to be achieved by stronger economic growth and tax reform, and lots of other things that aren't likely to happen any time soon.

The whole plan is a little thin on detail. Now I'm going to save my next guest some time. He'll say not only is possible, but that's it's been done before. Three presidents in modern history have accomplished this feat. Our analysis revealed that Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and FDR all had 12 million new jobs created during their presidency, but none of them were dealing with the kind of economy we are in now. In order to see the kind of job growth that Romney is promising the economy would need to be growing at a much faster rate than it is now.

When President Clinton was in office U.S. GDP was at 3.9 percent. Under President Reagan it was at 3.4 percent and FDR had a GDP rate of 8.4 percent during that time that he was in office. Compare that with the forecast of 2.3 percent for our economy in 2013 and the anemic 1.7 percent that we saw in the most recent quarter.

Now Kevin Hassett is an economic advisor to Mitt Romney. He's the author -- he's one of the authors of this 12 million jobs in four years claim. He's a very patient man because he keeps coming back to discuss this with me. Kevin, we have been down this road twice.

KEVIN HASSETT, ECONOMIC ADVISOR TO MITT ROMNEY: You'll get it right sooner or later.

VELSHI: Fair enough. That's why we talk about it. You've -- we've been down this road twice before on this show and you haven't given me more than generalities as to how Mitt Romney in an economy that is expected to grow 2.3 percent in his first year in office gets anywhere close to these job creation numbers. Martin Feldstein just said we cannot put a dent in job creation unless we have higher economic growth.

HASSETT: Sure. Well I think that the higher economic growth is absolutely the key. And if you go back to what Stephanie Cutter said, she said there are private sector forecasters calling for 12 million jobs created over the next four years already. Well those private forecasts I think are really, really implausible if President Obama is reelected.

Indeed if you look at what Governor Romney was saying in the clip he began with unlike the President. And I think the first observation you have to make is that the President hasn't really proposed anything that could plausibly change us from the state that we're in right now, which is one of almost no job creation.

VELSHI: Right. And so -

HASSETT: And so the question is -- so that's the first point.


HASSETT: The second point is would Governor Romney's plan give you the 12 million jobs, make it so that thing that the forecasters are saying becomes possible.

VELSHI: Right.

HASSETT: And I think it would. And I think that it would for a number of reasons. The first is that he's got a big corporate tax rate reduction and that's going to encourage firms to bring the jobs home. Right now they're not doing that. We've got about the highest rate on earth and we've got about the lowest revenue on earth.

VEHSHI: Right. Let me stop you there. You know for a fact okay that some of the biggest corporations in this country don't pay anything near that. GE has been cited as a remarkable example of that. So the rate that exists isn't really true. The U.S. corporate thing -

HASSETT: No, no, no, no, no.

VELSHI: U.S. taxes the [EFA} it's not really true. A lot of companies just don't pay that rate.

HASSETT: No, no, but the way they don't pay it is important. Okay the way they don't pay it is they -- if you locate your activity overseas, say in Ireland where you pay almost no tax, -

VELSHI: Right.

HASSETT: -- then what you do is you sell everything that you're selling in Europe through Ireland.


HASSETT: And you locate the profits in Ireland. You pay no tax in the U.S. and so your average tax if you're a multinational that can do that is very, very low. That's absolutely true. That's why we have no revenue from the high rate.

VELSHI: So what would lowering the tax rate do?

HASSETT: And to play that game let me finish. In order to play that game you have to locate jobs in Ireland, right?

VELSHI: Right.

HASSETT: And so what's going on is we're telling our firms if you move the jobs overseas and sell from there we won't tax you. But if you do it here or in Detroit then we're going to tax the heck out of you. And that's just wrong and that's something that Romney wants to fix and Obama doesn't.

VELSHI: And I'm Canadian. We come from a country with a very low corporate tax rate. It's actually -- I'm not -- you know I'm not arguing with your premise, right?


VELSHI: I do not dispute the four million, that 12 million jobs can be created in four years. I'm just wondering how fast you can turn this around. And here's the added thing. A lot of the forecasts about how fast the U.S. economy is going to grow next year and the year after have to do with some of this uncertainty that I hammer away on on my show, and some of this ill functioning Congress. Some of it's got to do with these storm clouds from Europe. Mitt Romney can't fix that any better than Barack Obama can.

HASSETT: Yes. Europe is a big problem, but again I kind of would ask you so what is Barack Obama doing about Europe? What's his policy on that? I think that he's not really been a leader on economic policy and has created a lot more uncertainty. Governor Romney would be a leader.

You mentioned that you're from Canada. I think it's kind of interesting that the U.S. in part because the Democrats are so far to the left now is really way to the left of just about everybody on earth. We here at the American Enterprise Institute are a pretty conservative place. We brought in the Swedish Finance Minister to talk about what they're doing in Sweden, which is so much more prudent than what we're doing here in the U.S. And Canada is another example.

And so I think the point is just that the ideas that Governor Romney is pushing are ideas that have been tested by such radicals as the Swedes and the Canadians. And they've been proven.

VELSHI: You are just trying to butter me up.

HASSETT: And so these are saying -- it's true though, right? You know about the Canadian success story. And it was the liberals as you know, it was the liberals I would actually -- I bet you have inside stories about this. It was the liberals in Canada that cut the corporate tax rates.

VELSHI: That's right.

HASSETT: It was the liberals.

VELSHI: All right, Kevin. You're warmed up. I'm warmed up. Stick around. I want to ask you when we come back and some others, are you better off than you were four years ago?


UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: (voice-over) Actually worse than four years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER 2: (voice-over) I'm better off.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER 3: (voice-over) I make about a third of what I made four years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER 4: (voice-over) I think financially I'm better off.


VELSHI: All right. Those are your answers. I'm going to tell you why the question is wrong. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: Are you better off than you were four years ago? In presidential election years it's the age-old question made famous in 1980, when Ronald Reagan electrified voters during his only debate with Jimmy Carter.


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: When you make that decision it might be well if you would ask yourself, are you better off than you were four years ago?


VELSHI: Now the Romney-Ryan ticket is running with Reagan's notorious query.


REP. PAUL D. RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Are you better off now than you were four years ago?

Well, you know what, with he knew it then and know it there, they fired Carter and they hired Reagan and we're going to do the same thing this time.


VELSHI: I get that it's pithy and it's effective, but here's my problem. This election year I think it's the wrong question. What I think you should really be asking is this. Are you better off than you would have been, had we not taken extraordinary emergency measures to prevent the worst financial crisis since the great depression from getting worse?

I know it's not as pithy and not as sexy and it's not a ten-second sound bite for us to use on TV, but it's an easy answer, because of course you are and maybe not you, personally, but the entire economy in which you exist.

Four years ago, the economy was headed into the abyss, major investment banks had failed, taking their shareholders, including your 401(k), IRA and pension funds, down with them. The housing market had collapsed.

The U.S. auto industry was approaching extinction. And let's talk about jobs, the most important thing first. We lost almost 800,000 jobs the very month that President Obama took office. In August, the latest month for which we have numbers, the U.S. added 96,000 jobs. That is not a strong number. It's actually a pretty big disappointment and not what the Obama administration was hoping for but it is job growth nonetheless.

In fact the private sector has now added jobs for 30 months in a row. Let's look at home prices when President Obama took office the median price was $175,000, they improved, fell, then improved again, we're here much higher than we were back in January of 2009.

Look at the stock market, the S&P 500, that is something that probably resembles if you have investments your mutual funds, at a four-year high, rallying more than 50 percent since President Obama's first month in office.

Now, it's not enough, especially on jobs. Millions of Americans are still out of work, but to pose the better off question as if this had been a normal time in our country's economic history four years ago, you simply cannot compare Barack Obama's first term in office to any in recent memory.

Let's bring back Romney economic adviser, Kevin Hassett. Kevin, this is 3-1 now, I'm a Canadian, Christia is a Canadian and Dennis Kusinich is kind of like an honorary Canadian, he comes from close to Canada.

Good to see you, Congressman Kusinich and Christia. Kevin, how can you even compare four years ago to today? The economy was in freefall. Doesn't the president deserve credit for putting a floor under that collapse?

KEVIN HASSETT, SENIOR FELLOW AND DIRECTOR OF ECONOMIC POLICY STUDIES, AEI: Well, I think that the point is that, you know, really we could start with a couple of 43s and I kind of agree with you about the are you better off question, in the sense as patriots we should ask is our country better off than it was four years ago.

And I think that there are so many disturbing statistics that you highlight often in your show, a couple of 43s. You know, there are 43 million Americans on food stamps, we've had 43 months of unemployment above 8 percent, and I think that their identifiable problems right now that could be fixed if we pursued good policies.

That's what Governor Romney is saying. President Obama is kind of out of ideas. He is not telling us where we're going to go from here and so I think if you want to be better off four years from now then he's not presenting a very good story for why, but I think that Governor Romney is.

So I agree that it was a very difficult time that got President Obama elected, but I think if it was a great time then he probably wouldn't have been elected. We know a bad economy always hurts the incumbent party and sort of whining about it and making excuses is one thing.

But if he did that and then said, OK, but here's what we're going to do next and it was a convincing case for giving us job growth in the future, maybe he might be making a sympathetic case but he's not, he's just making excuses and then stopping right there.

VELSHI: Dennis Kucinich is an honorary Canadian. He is the congressman from Ohio, former presidential candidate. You know I this I this is the wrong question, but it did get asked like it always does or you expect it would get asked.

And the reason we're talking about it on the show a week ago the Democrats really did a hatchet job on how to answer it. They just mucked up the answer to this whole thing. Why haven't Democrats got a better response to this?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: Well, from our constituents we know that some people are doing better and some are not. The outsourcers are doing better, now they say they're going to insource if we only cut taxes further. That's baloney.

The fact of the matter is there are 10 million people out of work. We aren't creating jobs fast enough. I say this as someone who supports President Obama. I'm still in the Congress until January. I think there's still time to come forward with a jobs program.

At least challenge the majority as to what they'll do to get nor people back to work, but the whole idea of are you better off, you made the point, I mean, the country is better off, but there's still 10 million people out of work, still people losing their homes.

There's a question when you look at all the money given out, about $3.6 billion, of all that money went out went for mortgage modification, if they were to do that at the beginning our economy would have been better off.

If the fed had done its job when they saw the no doc low doc loans being booked like crazy, we would have been better off, but you know, unfortunate --

VELSHI: Everything you're saying, take this forward into somebody who supports President Obama and to voters out there who are thinking should I give this guy another chance. I'm not sure whether you where you're coming down on this. It sounds to me like you think enough was done wrongly. You just don't think that Romney will do a better job?

KUCINICH: No, what I'm saying is this, there are things that should have been done that would have created more jobs. We could have added a $600 billion highway bill a couple years ago that would have put America back to work with shovel-ready projects, help rebuild the infrastructure, $2.2 trillion undercapitalized so there's workers who are ready to do work.

There's work to be done. The problem is, we have people in the private sectors telling the government don't spend any more. You'll add to the deficit.

They don't say that when we're going to war or with respect to the tax cuts and they don't say that with respect to the trade deficit. When it comes to public investment they say whoa, stop, yet it's the public investment that's the basis for private prosperity.

VELSHI: That's a point that of course, President Obama tried to make. He since sort of pedalled back on that with the you didn't build it sort of thing, but what's your take on this discussion?

CHRYSTIA FREELAND, EDITOR, THOMSON REUTERS DIGITAL: First of all, rather boringly, Ali, I completely agree with you, are you better off than four years ago, it is a great political line.

If I were a Republican, I would ask it every time I went out there, but it's not actually right and it ignores the historical reality of where the economy was when Obama took over. What I really don't like about the whole economic discourse in this campaign right now is precisely that it is a historical.

Your Reagan clip was really interesting because when you think about the debate we're having now between bigger government, smaller government, higher taxes, lower taxes, all of this stuff we could have been talking about in the 1980s.

And I think it ignores the fundamental transformation of the world economy we are experiencing, and which the American middle class is experiencing right now. You had that very sad line of that woman who said "I'm making a third of what I was making four years ago."

VELSHI: Right.

FREELAND: Those jobs are being hollowed out and what I don't see on either side, frankly, is a creative grappling with the fact that the economy has changed, that the great middle class jobs, they are gone. They are gone.

That is the nature of the new economy, and in the '20s and the '30s, you had a real grappling with what has industrialization done to the economy, how do we transform our whole society in government? I don't see anybody talking about that right now.

VELSHI: That would be a much better discussion, because that's exactly what we need to deal with. All right, we're just getting started with this discussion. The economy has changed and both campaigns need to make that a part of the conversation. I'll ask our panel how we get answers to the economic problems we really need to solve.


VELSHI: Welcome back to YOUR MONEY. Are you better off than you were four years ago? God, why do I keep saying that? Why do I keep asking that question? I hate it so much.

The Romney-Ryan ticket says that you are not and that's why they should win in November. I say it's a wrong question this election because four years ago the entire economy was on the verge of crumbling, and we are in a different economy right now.

Chrystia Freeland left off with a good comment before the break. So Kevin, I want to put that to you, that would feel better satisfying, that would feel better than what I think are the empty calories of job creation over a set amount of time.

What I'd love to know what you really think is going to drive this economy. Those 12 million jobs over four years that you're promising, what do they look like? What do they feel like?

Are they a good quality? Is there a good industry that dominates that? Chrystia has postulated in the past that it might be energy. What do you think? HASSETT: Right. Well, I think energy is certainly part of it, but I want to go back and disagree because I think the reason why Governor Romney is really grappling with how the world is changing and the world economy is changing.

And it's evident in his policies is that he understands we can no longer afford to just pretend the rest of the world doesn't exist so why is it, we talked earlier about how Canada and Sweden and even France and Germany have really kind of right wing supply side corporate tax policies.

Why did they do that? Well, because they were more connected to the world economy. European nations, you know, if you're Belgium and Luxemburg has a little smarter tax policy than you do, all of a sudden everybody's going there.

You really see it right away. In the U.S., we've been kind of insulated from those forces and we've allowed our policies to get really out of whack and we have to fix that. You know, the congressman mentioned if we gave people an incentive to locate activity here in the U.S. it wouldn't matter.

You know, it could be incentives don't matter, in which case all of us policy wonk also hang up our hats because we'll never affect anything. I think incentives do matter. You're right that President Obama came in, in a crisis, but let's not just talk about four years ago, let's talk about two years ago.

You know, we should have started to grapple with the fact that the global economy is changing and that American workers are suffering, because we haven't updated our policies in response.

I think that if you think of it that way, that really will help you understand why Governor Romney's proposing what he is because his policies really do learn from the lesson of other countries like the Europeans and the Canadians.

VELSHI: It is why we like having Congressman Kucinich on the show because he is a big thinker. He has been a presidential candidate a few times. Congressman, I want to show you a poll, a recent CNN/ORC poll found a dead heat in this very question that I'm not enjoying, the are you better off question.

And 44 percent said they were better off, 43 percent said worse off, and 11 percent said the same. So bottom line is while it may not be a good question, you've said it. You said some are better off, some are worse off.

If you frame the election this way, the Democrats have got to come up with a stronger message. What would that message be, if you were framing it?

KUCINICH: Well, first you have to look at an analysis as to what happened. I'm listening to my Republican friend here and I'm thinking that this is the rip van winkle monologs. You have George Bush who created over $1 trillion in tax cuts. Where was the investment? Hello?

Set the stage for wars that would cost us trillions of dollars. That's a bad investment. Trade policies continued that have lost America over a period of time millions of jobs, and those jobs aren't coming back unless we have workers rights, human rights and environmental quality principles.

So what we need to do going forward is recognize that there's $2.2 trillion in infrastructure needs, have the government spend the money into circulation to create the jobs, put America back to work.

The fed through its quantitative easing has not really resulted in the jobs being created in Main Street. They propped up banks too big to fail and bankers too big to jail.

We have a condition where we have to prime the pump of the economy. You do it with public spending and that sets the stage for a recovery.

VELSHI: Chrystia, what do you think?

FREELAND: Well, can I come back on Kevin's point about Canada is a Republican's paradise. So Kevin, I'm very flattered by your prize praise for Canada, but I do have to point out part of the Canadian secret has been very, very tough bank regulation, much tougher than in the United States even today.

And certainly much tougher than the Republican Party is supporting and also a state which is bigger than your party supports and a state which is bigger even frankly than Barack Obama supports. Canada has universal single payer health care.

VELSHI: Which pretty much everybody agrees on in Canada. We'll leave it there, always a pleasure to see you. Thanks so much, Congressman, Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, Kevin Hassett, senior fellow and director of Economic Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, and a Romney economic advisor and our good friend, Chrystia Freeland, editor at Thomson Reuters Digital.

Coming up the auto bailout worked, Romney might have been wrong.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Governor Romney opposed the plan to save GM and Chrysler. So here's another job score. Are you listening in Michigan and Ohio and across the country?


VELSHI: The question now is, how are the campaigns going to spin that and how should it affect your vote, when we come back. You're watching YOUR MONEY on CNN.


VELSHI: The U.S. auto industry's recovery is one of the biggest success stories of the last four years. The Center for Automotive Research, a respected auto industry think tank, projects U.S. car and small truck makers will need to hire an additional 200,000 workers over the next four years to meet demand.

Industry wide U.S. car sales were up nearly 20 percent in August compared to that time last year. In 2011, GM posted record profits and for the first time since 2004, all three major U.S. automakers turned a profit at the same time.

Yet the auto bailout somehow remains a source of great controversy in this year's presidential election. Democrats tout it as a great victory for President Obama and that's a big problem for Republicans because Mitt Romney said if you bail out the auto industry, you can kiss it goodbye.

The man President Obama picked to be the czar that would save the auto industry is Steven Rattner, he joins us now. And I am joined by CNN contributor, Will Cain, who never seemed to like the idea that the government should be getting in there to clean up somebody's mess.

Steven, good to see you again.

STEVEN RATTNER, AUTHOR, "OVERHAUL": Thanks for having me.

VELSHI: You were there and I will give Mitt Romney this. He said something that wasn't really great to say, Democrats perhaps have lost all nuance when they describe it.

They basically said he wanted to give up on the auto industry and let GM go bankrupt. There was a postscript to what he said. He wanted it to be an organized bankruptcy. Do you still think that was the wrong think? You think that the right thing to do is what President Obama did.

RATTNER: I think when you cut through all this, what Mitt Romney was proposing would have led to the end of the auto industry. I don't even know what he means by a managed bankruptcy.

What he said was let them go into Chapter 11. What I know is that they had gone in to Chapter 11 without the government there by their side providing assistance up front. They would have run out of money, they would have closed their doors.

They would have liquidated. The suppliers would have closed their doors. Ford would have closed its doors because it couldn't have gotten parts. Toyota, Honda, Nissan may well have also had to shutdown. You would have lost over a million jobs at least for time. That's just a fact.

VELSHI: Will, you're maybe too young to remember this. Let me just remind you, Ford didn't take money from the government, but said if they were to go bankrupt, if GM or Chrysler were to go bankrupt, putting auto suppliers out of business could have shut everybody down.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Let me be clear. I know this is the car czar, but let's be clear. GM and Chrysler did go into bankruptcy. They did file Chapter 11. So this idea that Mitt Romney said exclusively let Detroit go bankrupt is false in several premises.

That was a headline in the "New York Times," by the way, and you know you don't write your own headlines. He wrote an editorial under that headline that said that GM ought to be ushered through a managed bankruptcy.

Well, I'll tell Steve what a managed bankruptcy is. It's exactly what happened. That's exactly what GM was --

VELSHI: Government by your side.

CAIN: No, we'll be fair here. The difference is who drove the bankruptcy, right? Mitt Romney did make an argument that he thought the private sector should drive the managed bankruptcy versus the government and he was most likely as you pointed out numerous times, Steve, wrong.

There was no private capital. But we don't know what would have happened when Mitt Romney failed at his attempt at a private driven bankruptcy. He might well have fallen back on private guarantees.

RATTNER: He said in that editorial and by the way, he wrote another editorial during the Michigan primary in the spring of this year in which he even more strongly said President Obama should have stayed out of the automobile situation and let the companies go through bankruptcy on their own.

I know without the government there, they would not is shave survived going through bankruptcy on their own. They would have run out of money.

CAIN: Romney always suggested the federal government should be part of that managed bankruptcy.

RATTNER: But he also said very clearly that the government should not provide financing during the bankruptcy. Maybe provide some financing on the way out. And then he criticize what had we did. So tell me -- if you think what we did is what Romney said we should do, why is Romney attacking Obama for doing it?

CAIN: He suggested that the government drove the bankruptcy process by stepping in before it started, by making guarantees and therefore had too much you power in dictating the outcomes of that bankruptcy.

RATTNER: So first of all, we had no choice but to step in.

CAIN: And that's a fair point.

RATTNER: If we had not provided the capital, there would have been no --

CAIN: But you don't have to misstate Mitt Romney's position to win that point. You don't have to send speakers up on the stage night after night saying Mitt Romney wanted Detroit to go bankrupt.

VELSHI: I think part of the issue though and to Steve, tell me where this came into your thinking. Part of the issue, the difference between the auto industry and hostess and Kodak is the intertwined relationship between those companies, their suppliers and the other companies.

So the calculation was that if GM were to go bankrupt, it would not simply be a matter of GM going bankrupt, it could have been more damaging.

RATTNER: Sure, look, this was a systemic failure much like what happened with the banks. And there no question to be honest about it that a million jobs at stake is a difference between some Twinkie company with 12,000 jobs at stake.

But there's an important difference, Kodak has a business that doesn't really work anymore. Hostess has a business that may not work anymore because we're not allowed to eat Twinkies anymore.

CAIN: Again, calling the game in the second quarter. I give you a longer time frame. Bailing out Chrysler twice in 40 years and you're telling me they're putting out good products.

RATTNER: Well, first of all, twice in 40 years is not like every other day. But putting that aside -- these companies were fundamentally restructured.

Chrysler is essentially merged with Fiat. GM is making more money than it's made in 10 years. The industry is profitable. I think it's a success. I don't think it's a second quarter. I think it's like the end of the fourth quarter.

CAIN: We'll see if we get paid back. That's not important, I know.

VELSHI: I just want a Twinkie right now. Thanks, guys. Good to see you both. Will Cain and Steve Rattner.

Coming up, the conventions are over. President Obama and Mitt Romney have made their arguments. Now I want to hear from you. I'll tell you to engage next on YOUR MONEY.


VELSHI: While this isn't the way the Obama campaign wanted the convention to end, Democrats spent three days pushing a message of economic recovery, but Friday morning's jobs report brought everyone back down to earth.

Mitt Romney calls it the hangover after the party. The labor force participation rate in the United States is now at its lowest point since 1981, 30 years. And the economy added just 96,000 jobs in August. We need more than twice that number for a meaningful recovery.

That isn't what the administration wanted. It isn't what the country needed. We've heard both sides make their argument. We've held both sides accountable, now I want to hear from you and I bet I will. Who made the better case to be elected and who do you hold responsible for our struggling economy? Find me on Facebook at or tweet me, my handle is @alivelshi. I read every message and I'm ready to debate. Have a great weekend.