Opinion

David Rohde

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.

In his answer at the debate, Romney referred to his five-point plan that he said will create 12 million new jobs in the United States. The plan, which is detailed in a white paper endorsed by four leading conservative economists, is a full-throated endorsement of using tax breaks and market forces alone to revive the American economy. While Romney is tacking toward the center in the race’s final weeks, it is fair for voters to assume that he will slash the size of government, and rely on a free-market approach to the economy.

The white paper, for example, calls for reducing federal spending to 20 percent of GDP by 2016, its pre-financial crisis average. It hails Romney’s proposed across the board 20 percent tax break. And it calls for a sweeping reduction in government regulation, specifically repeal of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulations and Obamacare. The word “manufacturing” does not appear in it.

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.

Parsing Romney’s and Obama’s middle-class pablum

David Rohde
Sep 7, 2012 12:30 UTC

Throughout the last two weeks of political conventions, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and a vast array of surrogates accused their opponents of gutting the American middle class.

Paul Ryan and Bill Clinton did it blatantly. Michelle Obama and Ann Romney did it subtly. And all speakers tried to portray themselves as in touch with the middle class, from the Romneys eating “lots of pasta and tuna fish” to Barack Obama’s proudest possession being “a coffee table he’d found in a dumpster.”

In the process, though, both parties gave politically skewed definitions of the middle class, simplistically blamed each other for its struggles and presented pat solutions for the complex problems it faces.

How Obama and Romney can up their middle-class game

David Rohde
Apr 13, 2012 01:13 UTC

Barack Obama is going to save America’s middle class by taxing the rich and fostering an American manufacturing renaissance. Mitt Romney is going to revive it by creating more jobs for women and rewarding successful people instead of punishing them.

Welcome to the so-far deeply disappointing 2012 general election. This week’s middle-class-related broadsides from both campaigns bordered on the comic.

Obama’s promoting of the Buffett Rule in Florida on Tuesday was smart politics, but the measure is unlikely to create jobs or significantly reduce the deficit. Even liberal pundits assailed it as an election-year “gimmick.”

How Obama’s drone war is backfiring

David Rohde
Mar 1, 2012 17:16 UTC

This essay was originally published in the March/April issue of Foreign Policy.

When Barack Obama took the oath of office three years ago, no one associated the phrase “targeted killing” with his optimistic young presidency. In his inaugural address, the 47-year-old former constitutional law professor uttered the word “terror” only once. Instead, he promised to use technology to “harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.”

Oddly, technology has enabled Obama to become something few expected: a president who has dramatically expanded the executive branch’s ability to wage high-tech clandestine war. With a determination that has surprised many, Obama has embraced the CIA, expanded its powers and approved more targeted killings than any modern president. Over the last three years, the Obama administration has carried out at least 239 covert drone strikes, more than five times the 44 approved under George W. Bush. And after promising to make counterterrorism operations more transparent and rein in executive power, Obama has arguably done the opposite, maintaining secrecy and expanding presidential authority.

Just as importantly, the administration’s excessive use of drone attacks undercuts one of its most laudable policies: a promising new post-9/11 approach to the use of lethal American force, one of multilateralism, transparency and narrow focus.

Mitt and the middle class

David Rohde
Feb 3, 2012 02:32 UTC

Mitt Romney’s declaration that he wasn’t concerned about “the very poor” was lampooned by Republicans and Democrats alike this week. But his next statement in a CNN interview is the one that could determine the fate of his candidacy.

“I’m concerned about the very heart of America,” Romney said, adding later: “My focus is on middle-income Americans.”

With astonishing speed, the 2012 presidential election is becoming a referendum on how best to help the American middle class. So far, Romney’s solutions are likely to be far more pleasing to the Republican base than the general electorate.

Yes, we’re creating jobs, but how’s the pay?

David Rohde
Jan 5, 2012 22:50 UTC

Update: The December job numbers released this morning continued the same trend described in yesterday’s column. Of the 200,000 new jobs created last month, 78,000 – or nearly 40 percent — were in transportation, warehousing and retail, sectors known for low pay and seasonal hiring. In a far more positive sign, manufacturing gained 23,000 workers in December after four months of little change. A vast expansion of that trend would benefit the middle class tremendously.

WASHINGTON — Between now and November, middle class Americans are going to hear an enormous amount of bragging about job creation.

Mitt Romney will tout his role in the creation of Staples, The Sports Authority and Domino’s, three firms that he says created 100,000 jobs. Barack Obama will say 2.9 million jobs have been created since March 2010, and highlight a surge of 140,000 new private sector jobs in November.

Mr. President and Mr. Speaker, we’re not in Kansas anymore

David Rohde
Dec 8, 2011 19:15 UTC

On Tuesday, Barack Obama declared the debate over how to restore growth, balance, and fairness to the American economy the “defining issue of our time.”

“This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class,” he said in a Kansas speech, “and for all those who are fighting to get into the middle class.”

The following day, Republican front-runner New Gingrich said Mr. Obama “represents a hard left radicalism” and is “opposed to capitalism and everything that made America great.” The answer, he said, was slashing taxes and the size of the federal government.

  •