A new web ad released by the Romney campaign stars an Ohio businessman named Dennis Sollman. Like other Romney ads, it rips Obama’s “you didn’t build that” line out of context, and then has Sollman, as the face of the American businessman, criticize the president as out of touch. The problemis that Sollman’s company has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in government contracts, somewhat undercutting the “government didn’t help me” message. And Sollman is not the first Romney-supporting business owner who’s been caught in this contradiction.
Many commentators have described the broader “didn’t build that” debate as a philosophical clash between two views of government. But focusing on the abstract distracts from the reality that, factually speaking, government from the federal to the local level is, in fact, hugely important in people’s economic lives.
That’s illustrated by two major stories out this morning. In the Post, Zachary Goldfarb reports:
The deep federal spending cuts scheduled to take effect at the start of next year may trigger dismissal notices for tens of thousands of employees of government contractors, companies and analysts say, and the warnings may start going out at a particularly sensitive time: Days before the presidential election
[…]Economists say the threat of deep cuts in domestic and defense spending, coupled with automatic increases in taxes, is already a drag on economic growth and a source of enormous uncertainty for businesses, which are holding back on hiring and helping to keep the nation’s unemployment rate above 8 percent.
Meanwhile at the New York Times, Binyamin Applebaum writes:
Some Federal Reserve officials are reviving an idea that rose and fell with Alan Greenspan, the former Fed chairman, as they seek to persuade colleagues to take new action to stimulate growth.
Central bankers generally set policy based on their judgment about the most likely path for the nation’s economy. But Mr. Greenspan argued that the Fed sometimes should do more than its forecast suggested, buttressing the economy against large, potential risks. He described such moves as “taking out insurance.”
On the eve of the Fed’s policy-making committee meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday, members who favor additional action argued that the likely path of the economy was itself sufficient reason for action. The committee predicted in June that without new measures unemployment would fall slightly, if at all, in the second half of the year.
The common thread here is that the government’s decisions will play a major role in the economic fortunes of each of us, whether we politically like it or not. It’s up to the media to point out that the facts are on Obama’s side. And given that, it should not be seen as a wildly partisan conclusion to then say that the government could and should be doing more to deal with the recession. If Republicans want a debate on “you didn’t build that,” Democrats should not be content to debate the context or the broader philosophy; they should turn the debate to the current recession and remind voters that Republicans have broken from the broad consensus among economists and are blocking the country’s best path to economic recovery — a path that requires, yes, government action.
* New Romney ad hints at “didn’t build that”: Romney has released a minute-long TV ad this morning, the first positive Romney spot that fatures him talking directly to the camera. The ad concludes that Americans should “believe in the America you built,” which is a subtle hint at the “didn’t build that” controversy and suggests how he’ll be weaving it into a broader message going forward. — gs
* Coalition to release new economic plan today: Something to watch for: A coalition of labor unions and liberal economists is set to release a new report today detailing a liberal vision for how to build the economy of the future. From the executive summary:
To restart economic growth, we recommend major investments in infrastructure. To accelerate growth for the future, we call for a college system that guarantees all qualified students the chance to attend and graduate witha diploma....we call for empowering workers to engage in collective bargaining....We call too for stricter lobbying rules and public financing of our elections to limit the power of special interests and shape a government more responsive to the middle class
The coalition — which includes the AFL-CIO, SEIU, and the Economic Policy Institute, among others — has set up a new Web site which will post the report later this morning. The goal is to stake out a concrete liberal blueprint for our future that will pull Dems to the left — and, with it, the broader economic debate. — gs
* The Texas primary and the Tea Party’s momentum: Tonight’s Texas Senate Republican primary is expected to show that the GOP’s rightward charge won’t stop anytime soon. Another Tea Party-backed insurgent, former state solicitor general Ted Cruz, is now favored to beat Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, who is hardly a moderate himself even by Texas GOP standards.
Add Cruz’s likely victory together with Indiana Senator Richard Lugar’s primary loss and a healthy performance from Tea Party candidates at the House level, and one can only assume the Republicans in the 113th Congress will only be more conservative.
* How to pin down Romney on abortion: A great point last night from Rachel Maddow, who noted that in the last two years, the Republican Party has suddenly stopped supporting exceptions in anti-abortion laws for rape and incest victims. In nine states, the GOP has enacted bans on abortion for rape victims. As usual, Romney has taken both sides on the issue in the past, so it’s up to the media to ask: Does he support these states’ laws?
* Pennsylvania no longer in play? Nate Cohn writes that the Obama campaign is withdrawing advertising in Pennsylvania for the first time in the general election, a week after the Romney campaign pulled its advertising. “Campaigns don’t go off the air if they’re serious about fighting for a state,” writes Cohn, suggesting that Pennsylvania is looking less and less like a close race.
It’s yet another sign that, in the swing states, the race looks better for Obama than national polls would suggest.
* Pew: Views on gun laws unchanged: The latest Pew poll finds no change in the public on gun control after the Aurora, Colorado shooting, with Americans still evenly split on the issue.
(This will likely encourage our elected officials to stick with the position that the massacre of Americans doesn’t require any serious policy response. — gs)
* Warren to speak at convention: Elizabeth Warren will speak before former President Clinton on the penultimate night of the Democratic convention, in “one-two punch” that will attack Romney’s economic plan. Given that many consider Warren the source for the “you didn’t build that remark”, her prime speaking slot may suggest that the Obama campaign isn’t too worried about the line.
(On the other hand, Warren was thought to be on track to keynote the convention, so perhaps the “didn’t build that” controversy has cost her that plum slot. — gs)
* Congress finally standing up to the White House on drones? Good stuff from Adam Serwer, who reports that little by little, members of Congress are finally coming around to the idea that they should perform real oversight over Obama’s drone program, and put genuine pressure on the White House to reveal its legal rationale for targeting terror suspects who are American citizens abroad. — gs
* And what’s Obama’s real job? Via Playbook, Obama had a funny anecdote at fundraiser last night that revealed just how many ads are running this cycle:
Jim Messina, … my campaign manager … was in some event, and this young couple who was there with their adorable four-year-old son, and I guess there was a picture of me somewhere, and so they were very excited. They said, ‘Sammy, who’s that?’ And he said, ‘That’s Barack Obama.’ ‘And what does Barack Obama do?’ And the boy thinks for a second and he says, ‘He approves this message.’