The campaign got nasty (again) this week. In the Friday round-up, we’re focusing on the two biggest campaign stories: fights over the economy and the NAACP convention in Houston. Plus we leave you with bonus excerpts from Truman and Reagan speeches to the NAACP highlighting the parties competing visions for achieving racial justice and equality.
It’s the Economy, Stupid! After the Boston Globe reported government documents showing Romney remained chief executive and chairman of Bain three years beyond the date he said he ceded control, the Obama campaign went on the attack. In one instance, Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter told reporters that Romney was either “misrepresenting his own position at Bain to the SEC, which is a felony, or he was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the American people.” The Romney campaign called upon the president to apologize on behalf of his staff. Meanwhile, Fact Checker.org reported that Fortune obtained the offering documents for a Bain Capital Fund circulating in June 2000. According to Fortune, “The contemporaneous Bain documents show that Romney was indeed telling the truth about no longer having operational input at Bain -- which, one should note, is different from no longer having legal or financial ties to the firm.”
Meanwhile both candidates came under criticism for outsourcing. According to a new Mother Jones review of government documents, during his tenure at Bain, Romney invested heavily in a Chinese manufacturing company that depended on U.S. outsourcing for its profits-and that explicitly stated that such outsourcing was crucial to its success. And the RNC went after promises made by then-candidate Obama in the 2008 campaign to slow outsourcing. As the Wonkblog points out, outsourcing may not be as a big a boogeyman as the campaigns are making it out to be. According to a new paper from the London School of Economics Center for Economic Performance, “Offshoring has no effect on native employment in the aggregate. While offshore workers compete directly with natives, their employment generates productivity gains that ‘increase the size of the pie,’ leading to an overall neutral impact on native employment.”
President Obama also responded to Republican attacks about his economic record this week by signing executive orders that help small businesses, including accelerating federal payments to contractors, reducing paperwork and increasing access to investment capital. The President also called for a one-year extension of Bush-era tax cuts for families earning less than $250,000 a year.
NAACP. Mitt Romney and Joe Biden both addressed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s conference in Houston this week. Romney’s appearance at the convention on Wednesday was an attempt to reach out to African American voters. To his credit, he didn’t simply tell the audience what they wanted to hear and he certainly didn’t flip-flop. While the reception was mixed, Romney received appreciation for just showing up, even though he was booed when he vowed to repeal Obamacare. Romney argued that his policies would be better for African American families and pointed to an unemployment rate of 14.4 percent among African Americans. He also appealed to shared family values.
President Barack Obama didn’t attend the convention, but sent a video message (as he did last year) and dispatched Vice President Joe Biden instead. Biden decried new voter identification laws and defended the President’s health care law. He closed by asking the crowd to:
Close your eyes and imagine ... what the Romney Justice Department would look like. Imagine who he'd recommend to be the attorney general or head of the civil rights division. Imagine what the Supreme Court will look like after four years of a Romney presidency.
Polpourri. Yesterday, former Vice President Dick Cheney endorsed Romney at a $4-million fundraiser in Wyoming: “I’m convinced that in addition to all of these other qualifications that you all know about, when I think about the kind of individual I want in the Oval Office in that moment of crisis, who has to make those key decisions, some of them life-and-death decisions, decisions as the commander in chief, who has the responsibility for sending our young men and women in harm’s way – that man’s Mitt Romney.” Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the fundraiser was the Romney campaign's assiduous control of reporters and photographers.
In light of the NAACP convention this week, we leave you with excerpts of presidential addresses demonstrating two competing party visions for achieving racial justice and equality.
President Harry Truman was the first president to address the NAACP and he told the convention on June 29, 1947:
…[W]e can no longer afford the luxury of a leisurely attack upon prejudice and discrimination. There is much that State and local governments can do in providing positive safeguards for civil rights. But we cannot, any longer, await the growth of a will to action in the slowest State or the most backward community.
Our National Government must show the way. This is a difficult and complex undertaking. Federal laws and administrative machineries must be improved and expanded. We must provide the Government with better tools to do the job.
Thirty-four years later, President Ronald Reagan addressed the NAACP convention during his first year in office:
In the months ahead, our dialog also will include tough and realistic questions about the role of the Federal Government in the black community. I'm not satisfied with its results, and I don't think you are either. And the failures of the past have been particularly hard on the minority poor, because their hopes have failed as surely as the Federal programs that built those hopes. But I must not be the only one who questions about government policies…
In the 1960's black unemployment fell from 10.7 percent to 6.4 percent. In the 1970's it increased from 6.4 percent to 11.3 percent. What is more, relative to the white unemployment rate, black unemployment fell more in the 1960's but rose more in the 1970's. The declining economy has cut black family income. From 1959 to 1969, the median family income of blacks, after adjusting for inflation, rose at 5 percent per year, but from 1969 to 1979, income actually dropped.
Now, these are hard economic facts which are hard to take, because they show massive amounts of government aid and intervention have failed to produce the desired results. A strong economy returns the greatest good to the black population. It returns a benefit greater than that provided by specific Federal programs. By slowing the growth of government and by limiting the tax burden and thus stimulating investment, we will also be reducing inflation and unemployment.
Now, you wisely learned to harness the Federal Government in the hard pull toward equality, and that was right, because guaranteeing equality of treatment is government's proper function. But as the last decade of statistics I just read indicated, government is no longer the strong draft horse of minority progress, because it has attempted to do too many things it's not equipped to do. I ask you if it isn't time to hitch up a fresh horse to finish the task. Free enterprise is a powerful workhorse that can solve many problems of the black community that government alone can no longer solve.