It's sad to admit, but the more the two presidential candidates have “debated,” including this past Tuesday, the more I’m starting to realize that on most of the issues that are important to me the two men are not very different from one another at all.
Gradually I'm beginning to recognize that there really wasn’t very much “new” to be learned from these two “TV shows,” no matter how much debate prep each candidate received.
Former heavyweight boxing champ Mike Tyson once famously said about an opponent who had hired a high-priced new trainer to teach him specialized techniques, “Everyone has a plan ’til they get punched in the mouth.”
So it has seemed for Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney. Despite all the training, under pressure they’ve both reverted to being the person they’ve always been. For his part, Mr. Romney falls back immediately to his old standby – proclaiming that he is most qualified to be president, simply because he once ran a successful business.
How absurd! Over my career, I’ve had opportunities to meet and work with hundreds of corporate and financial services CEOs. Many of them were very good at making business decisions. Were any of them qualified to be president of the United States? Not hardly.
If Mitt Romney believes business experience is all that’s required to be an effective president of the United States, as he so often repeats, then he grossly underestimates the complexity of the job, doesn’t understand it and shouldn’t be elected.
I’m just saying ….
At the same time, I’ve been equally unimpressed with candidate Obama. What particularly annoys me has been his tendency when challenged about his commitment to supporting disadvantaged Americans to revert to the same tired commentary about his hard-working military veteran Caucasian grandfather, and his equally Caucasian, bank vice president grandmother, who he says suffered job discrimination as a white woman.
Someone on the president’s debate prep team should tell him fairly soon that this presentation, which is always devoid of examples of similar workplace discrimination suffered routinely by Blacks, Hispanics and Asians in this country, doesn’t go down well at all with nearly 25 percent of eligible voters. They’re not minimizing his grandmother’s pain, they’re just wondering why Mr. Obama can’t manage, ever, to include them in his discussions about discrimination in the United States.
I fully recognize that substantial numbers of Black folks believe that we should support the first Black president for purely symbolic reasons, no matter how much he ignores our issues, no matter how ineffective he is in bringing true economic equality to our community.
It's now 2012, and I’m no longer interested in hearing that argument.
In my opinion, the fundamental problem with these debate formats, for Black voters, is that they are designed to accommodate "race-neutral" candidates and to produce "race-neutral" outcomes, though it’s clear that such an approach only guarantees a continuance of poverty, poor education and marginalized economic opportunities for Black people.
The format is designed to make Black voters – who constituted 13 percent of all votes cast in 2008 and who gave Barack Obama 96 percent of their support that year – virtually irrelevant in the political process. And it seems so far that both candidates are all right with that.
Both candidates' campaign advisers tell them they should be not only “race-neutral” but that they should also cater in their presentations almost exclusively, to white independent voters, who are found mostly in battleground states. They also warn them not to do or say anything at all that might offend a current or potential large campaign contributor.
On Tuesday, the demographic composition of the town hall audience itself should have been a dead giveaway. In a country now composed 36 percent of Blacks, Hispanics and Asians, TV’s town hall audience last week was astoundingly 82.2 percent white.
Then there were the “squiggly lines” that appeared on the screen beneath the two candidates. The network told us they were supposed to reflect how well each speaker’s remarks resonated with – you got it – “Independent voters.”
Let me ask you something: Why no “squiggly line” to tell us how the remarks were received by union households, or by unemployed men and women, by the one percent, or by Black male and female voters?
Maybe these "debates” are simply not about us, and we’ve just been too dumb to notice. After all, did either candidate mention a single Black-specific issue during the entire debate, or did they stay right on message?
Throughout the long campaign, poll after poll has informed us that the number-one issue for American voters has been “jobs. Why then didn’t either of the candidates come to the debates with more specific, detailed plans for job creation?
That question of course brings us right back to the advice they were given, not to say anything that might offend their largest campaign contributors. By the way, Obama’s largest campaign donors include Microsoft Corp., Google, Inc. and Harvard University, while Romney’s include Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and J P Morgan Chase.
There is absolutely a clear and direct connection between the business model being followed by America’s largest corporations/campaign contributors and the disappearance of U.S. job opportunities – even for the country’s most well educated, and especially for its Black citizens.
For example, even the U.S. Department of Commerce confirms that, since 2000, the big brand-name companies that employ a fifth of all American workers have cut their U.S. workforces by 2.9 million people, while increasing their overseas workforces by 2.4 million.
In addition, according to the Wall Street Journal, “Thirty-five big US.-based multinational companies added jobs much faster than other U.S. employers in the past two years, but nearly three-fourths of the jobs were overseas.”
Even worse, if that’s possible, a report by Working American informs us that the number of U.S. manufacturing workers has decreased by eight million persons over the past 30 years, and between 1998 and 2008, the number of U.S. manufacturing plants has been reduced by a stunning 51,000 facilities.
Both Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama are also acutely aware that Nike off-shores the manufacturing of every single pair of shoes it sells, and that Wall Street’s darling, Apple, has been producing its iPhones and iPads in China, and is currently in the process of moving some of that work to Brazil. This is occurring despite the fact that Apple has sold 85 million iPhones and 34 million iPads in the U. S. alone through June, 2012, representing revenues of $50 billion and $19 billion respectively.
And wasn't it the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that wrote letters to individual U.S. senators stating its opposition to S. B. 3816, the Creating American Jobs and Ending Off-Shoring Act, in September, 2010?
Isn’t it a known fact that Bain Capital, founded by Mitt Romney, still employs a business model that emphasizes the off-shoring of jobs and contracts, the creation of related profit margins and obscene bonuses and salaries to corporate executives, as a result?
And doesn’t President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, named to give the appearance of job creation, still include some of the country’s most aggressive practitioners of off-shoring, including, GE, Boeing and American Express?
Is it any wonder why there’s a “jobs” problem in the U.S.? Any wonder why the U.S. tax base continues to shrink month-to-month, year-to-year?
Are we still satisfied to stare at the tube and pick debate winners while both candidates turn a blind eye to direct assaults on American jobs, all while using empty pro-jobs rhetoric, during their debates?
Here’s an idea: Forget about who won the debates. Aren’t we all losing every day as long as both candidates stay publicly silent on this and other critical issues?
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.