It’s only natural in any presidential election to consider whether the country is on stronger or weaker footing than four years earlier. And while the question will no doubt be the basis for spirited debate over the next year, this doesn’t make sense.

It’s safe to say Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) does not agree with President Obama’s suggestion on Tuesday that Americans are better off now than they were when he took office.

“Are you kidding me?!” Boehner said loudly in response to a reporter’s question on the comment.

Of course, “are you kidding me” is not an argument. Boehner wants the answer to be self-evident, but he should probably try to offer a little more depth.

Obviously, national conditions aren’t close to where they need to be. Americans are in a sour, pessimistic mood, and with good reason. Maybe, if guys like Boehner would start passing jobs bills and stop holding the economy back on purpose, the public would start to feel like the country is on the right track again.

But for those who take reality seriously, there’s no real question as to whether the country is better off now than in January 2009.

Then the nation was hemorrhaging jobs; now it’s gaining jobs.

Then the economy was shrinking; now the economy is growing.

Then the American automotive industry was on the verge of collapse; now it’s starting to thrive.

Then taxpayers were sending money to Wall Street; now taxpayers are being paid back.

Then Osama bin Laden was targeting Americans and our allies; now he’s dead and al Qaeda’s leadership has been decimated.

Then U.S. troops were headed into the Middle East in greater numbers; now they’re headed home with their heads held high.

Republicans, including John Boehner, drove the United States into a pretty deep ditch during the Bush/Cheney era, and conditions are still pretty ugly. That doesn’t change the simple fact that the nation is much stronger now than the day the president was inaugurated. If GOP leaders disagree, they should answer basic questions about undeniable facts: If the country was losing jobs, and now it’s gaining jobs, isn’t that better? If the economy was shrinking, and now it’s growing, isn’t that evidence of progress?

And no, Mr. Speaker, I’m not kidding you.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.