On Monday, Paul Ryan told North Carolina voters that “the president can say a lot of things, but he can’t tell you you are better off.” On the same day, Joe Biden told Detroit that “America is better off today than they left us.” These are two REALLY different messages…so who’s right?

According to New York Times Washington bureau chief David Leonhardt (who won a Pulitzer Prize last year for his columns on the economy), they both are.

How can the country be better off, and at the same time, not better off? Semantics.

“The country itself is better off,” Leonhardt explained to Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. The economy has stabilized since the recession in 2008, which was “a little bit worse than 1929,” he says. “And yet, of course, we don’t have anything that looks like the Great Depression. As bad as the economy is, we don’t have unemployment at 20 percent.”

However, when you look at household income and median wealth, “a typical American household is worse off than it was four years ago.”

Financial crises inflict their damage “over many months and then there are long, slow, disappointing recoveries,” he explains.

I know for me, the financial crisis has been extremely confusing. Does this explanation clear things up for you about our economic future?

What party does this explanation benefit? Does it change how you view either candidate?