Last week, Mitt Romney appeared in front of the NAACP, as nearly every presidential candidate in the last few decades has, in order to plead his case. Unfortunately, he forgot rule number one of public speaking — know your audience — and was booed for his stance on Obamacare. Vice President Biden spoke on behalf of the Democratic ticket espousing the president’s commitment to issues important to the NAACP. But in spite of Romney’s getting booed and the cheers for Vice President Biden, which ticket is really better for black America?
First, allow me to be clear that it is impossible to ever speak on behalf of an entire race. Black America is as diverse in socio-economic status, cultural variance, and personality as any other racial group. Therefore, my use of the term "black America" is merely a reference to the average African American, those hit hardest by the recession, those whose educational attainment is below the median in our country, and those whose socio-economic status is continually lower than the national average.
The economy is the issue on the minds of every American, but perhaps especially black America. If Mitt Romney becomes president he has promised to repeal Obamacare, lower the corporate tax rate, maintain Bush-era tax cuts, and immediately reduce non-security federal discretionary spending. Of these four economic proposals, only two really have any major effect on Black America generally, or disproportionately. Repealing Obamacare, specifically the medicaid expansion, will disproportionately affect individuals in low socio-economic situations. The medicaid expansion will allow for states to choose to expand the roster of individuals who can access free or subsidized health care. Unfortunately, states have the option to opt-in to this medicaid expansion and many Republican governors have vowed not to opt-in.
The most important promise by Romney, and one that has received little media attention, is his vow to cut discretionary spending by 5% immediately and as much as 20% while in office. Discretionary spending is the money the federal government spends on issues like education, social services, pell grants, section 8 housing, and pre-K. This type of government spending is important to black America because our communities benefit from the programs created by discretionary spending. If Romney makes these cuts, black America will feel the result of it more than any other group.
President Obama has essentially promised to do all of the exact opposite things that Romney has promised. He will maintain Obamacare, wants to close corporate tax loopholes, will repeal Bush-era tax cuts, and has not taken defense spending off the table for future cuts. Again, many of these issues do not directly or disproportionately affect black America. In many ways, Obama does not need to do much to be better for black America than Mitt Romney. He only needs to promise not to do things that Mitt Romney has promised to do. In truth, neither presidential candidate has set a particularly enticing agenda for black America.
President Obama continues to take black America for granted knowing that he will maintain 95%+ of the black vote, regardless of his agenda. Similarly, Mitt Romney and the Republican Party are comfortable running for office on an agenda that will disproportionately harm African-Americans because they have resigned themselves to not competing for the black vote. The biggest issue for black America in every election cycle is that no one is paying black America any attention. We are not a priority in presidential agenda-setting because our votes are a constant in the electoral voting formula.
President Obama will be a better president for black America than Mitt Romney, but it is not because he is trying to be.