Opinion

David Rohde

A hurricane’s inequality

David Rohde
Oct 31, 2012 00:28 UTC

A hotel bellman said he was worried about his mother uptown. A maid said she had been calling her family in Queens. A garage attendant said he hadn’t been able to contact his only relative – a sister in New Jersey – since the storm hit. Asked where he weathered the hurricane, his answer was simple.

“I slept in my car,” he said.

Sandy humbled every one of the 19 million people in the New York City metropolitan area. But it humbled some more than others in an increasingly economically divided city.

Hours before the storm arrived on Monday night, restaurants, corner grocery stores and hotels were open in the Union Square area of Manhattan. (My wife and I moved to a hotel there after being ordered to evacuate our apartment in lower Manhattan.) Instead of heading home to their families as the winds picked up, the city’s army of cashiers, waiters and other service workers remained in place.

Divides between the rich and the poor are nothing new in New York, but the storm brought them vividly to the surface. There were residents like me who could invest all of their time and energy into protecting their families. And there were New Yorkers who could not.

Those with a car could flee. Those with wealth could move into a hotel. Those with steady jobs could decline to come into work. But the city’s cooks, doormen, maintenance men, taxi drivers and maids left their loved ones at home.

On housing, disappointing silence from Obama & Romney

David Rohde
Oct 25, 2012 22:10 UTC

For the last six months, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have battled ferociously to be seen as the true champion of the middle class. Yet neither candidate has offered concrete solutions for — indeed they have rarely raised — a central economic issue: the housing crisis.

How can the collapsing home prices that pummeled the middle class hardest — accounting for three-quarters of the  loss of wealth since 2007 — not be a campaign issue? Why is a principal cause of the economic downturn the focus of so little debate?

One explanation is simple. Across the country, the housing market is picking up. In September, new home construction increased by fifteen percent, its fastest rate in four years. And after seeing home mortgages become economic yokes that prevented their parents from moving out of depressed areas, many young Americans are less interested in buying homes.

Romney’s Etch a Sketch foreign policy

David Rohde
Oct 23, 2012 14:03 UTC

During last night’s foreign policy debate, the Mitt Romney of the Republican primaries disappeared. Romney’s April criticism of Obama’s decision to commit the United States military to helping oust Muammar Qaddafi  in Libya disappeared. Missing was a promise on his website to reduce foreign aid by $100 million. Romney’s past criticism of what he called Obama’s rushed exit from Afghanistan vanished as well.

Given his lurch to the center on domestic policy, that comes as no surprise. But it does not make Romney’s record – or his willingness to change  positions – a nonissue. If Romney wins this election, it will be arguably the latest and greatest shift to the center in presidential campaign history.

Last night the new Romney praised Obama’s toppling of Qaddafi, said he supported the president’s policy in Afghanistan and agreed that the administration’s economic sanctions on Iran were “crippling.”

The jobs answer that Jeremy Epstein – and the middle class – deserved

David Rohde
Oct 18, 2012 21:36 UTC

Since asking the candidates at Tuesday’s presidential debate how they would improve his job prospects, college junior Jeremy Epstein has been lionized on Twitter, repeatedly interviewed on television and declared a nerdy sex symbol.

Unfortunately, as they have throughout the campaign, Romney and Obama avoided details when answering Epstein’s thoughtful question. Instead, they lampooned each others’ records and policies. Such answers are to be expected, arguably, in the waning weeks of an extraordinarily tight presidential campaign.

But an analysis of Obama’s and Romney’s specific proposals and the positions of their key advisers – particularly when it comes to creating manufacturing jobs – shows that voters do face a critical choice. This is, in fact, an election that will send the federal government in one of two very different directions when it comes to long-term job creation.

Romney’s extreme foreign policy makeover

David Rohde
Oct 11, 2012 20:48 UTC

It began two weeks ago with a little-noticed speech at the Clinton Global Initiative, where Mitt Romney distanced himself from Tea Party Republicans and defended the legitimacy of American foreign aid programs. And it continued in a speech on Monday at the Virginia Military Institute, where Romney – after months of hailing only Israel – called Turkey and pro-democracy Arab Spring demonstrators American allies as well.

“As the joy born from the downfall of dictators has given way to the painstaking work of building capable security forces, and growing economies, and developing democratic institutions,” Romney said, “the President has failed to offer the tangible support that our partners want and need.”

Just as in domestic policy, Mitt Romney is softening his rhetoric in foreign affairs. Moving away from more strident stances on supporting Israel, increasing U.S. defense spending and fearing the Arab Spring, he is adopting a more measured tone. The question, of course, is whether voters will embrace the new Romney or see him as an opportunistic chameleon.

Come down from the mountain, Mr. President

David Rohde
Oct 4, 2012 17:49 UTC

The Barack Obama of last night’s presidential debate was eerily similar to the man who delivered a muddled acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. The incumbent was cautious, tired and on some level – it seemed – turned off by the manipulation of facts that is the ugly heart of politics.

Mitt Romney, on the other hand, seemed to relish it. The challenger was fresher, faster and folksier than a sub-par president. Obama seemed startled and frustrated by Romney’s deft shift to the center and audacious effort to portray Obama as the extremist: Obama is a defender of the big banks; Obama is gutting Medicare; Obama funneled $90 billion to fat-cat contributors in the renewable energy industry.

Fact-checking by Reuters and other news organizations shows that Romney glaringly twisted the facts. What was more surprising – and troubling – was Obama’s tepid response.

How a place like Brazil can be a job creator for the U.S.

David Rohde
Oct 3, 2012 20:09 UTC

VITORIA DE SANTO ANTAO, Brazil – Last year, Kraft built a gleaming new factory on the outskirts of this town in northeastern Brazil. When I visited it last month, my heart sank.

The state-of-the art, $80 million facility seemed to be yet another example of the inevitable shift of jobs from a declining America to emerging powers like Brazil, China and India.

When I looked closer, though, it was clear that the globalized economy at work here is not a zero-sum game. There are opportunities for Americans as well. We simply need to let Europeans teach us how to seize them.

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