Mitt Romney sharpened his attacks on President Barack Obama’s economic record today, accusing him of presiding over “a moral failure of tragic proportion” by letting more Americans go without jobs and slip into poverty.
Even as Obama made fresh appeals to a reluctant Republican- controlled Congress to approve a plan he says will create 1.9 million more jobs, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee intensified his bid to capitalize on voters’ economic disaffection.
“Sadly, it’s become clear that this president simply doesn’t understand or appreciate these fundamental truths of our economic system,” Romney told a few hundred voters in the St. Louis, Missouri, warehouse of Production Products, a military contractor specializing in making chemical and biological weapon protections and defenses. The high U.S. unemployment and poverty rates are “not just a failure of policy; it is a moral failure of tragic proportion,” Romney said.
His comments went beyond Romney’s usual criticism of Obama, seeking to link the administration’s policies to a moral breakdown he argued has occurred on the president’s watch.
Obama, stung by the latest jobs report showing an uptick in the unemployment rate to 8.2 percent and the slowest job growth in a year, argues Romney would be worse for struggling Americans.
Tax Cuts for All
At a fundraiser in Los Angeles today, he warned that Romney wants to double down on across-the-board tax cuts enacted under former President George W. Bush, and that a Romney administration and a Republican Congress would leave people to fend for themselves.
“It’s a vision that basically believes that the answer to every question are more tax cuts for the wealthiest, the most powerful; the fewest regulations that protect consumers, or keep our air and water clean, or make sure that workers are treated fairly; and that somehow, if government isn’t doing anything, then the country is automatically going to be better,” Obama said. “We tried this whole recipe, and it didn’t work.”
His campaign released a new television advertisement blaming Republicans in Congress for blocking his jobs plan.
Romney’s fresh line of attack on Obama is tailored to avoid alienating those who may have supported the president previously and may still wish him well, yet are considering abandoning him in November.
No Evil Intent
“I don’t believe, by the way, it was done with evil intent or ill will,” Romney said in his negative critique of Obama’s policies. “But for a family watching their house get foreclosed, or the family that is forced to spend their kid’s college savings just to make ends meet, the results are just the same, and just as devastating.”
Romney also argued Obama is trying to fool Americans into believing he has improved their economic circumstances.
“There is something fundamentally wrong when there are over 23 million Americans who are unemployed, underemployed or have stopped looking for work, and yet the president tells us he’s doing a great job,” he said. “I will not be that president of doubt and deception; I will lead us to a better place.”
As Romney and Obama pushed dueling economic visions, the president’s re-election campaign charged that the Republican had violated federal ethics rules by not keeping his investments in a strict blind trust, designed to shield holders from charges of conflicts of interest.
Trust Not Blind
The Obama campaign’s general counsel, Robert Bauer, said today on a conference call with reporters, “In a very fundamental way, the trust is not blind, nor has he taken any steps to make the trust blind from the vantage point of federal ethics rules.”
Romney’s fortune is held in a blind trust by R. Bradford Malt, a partner at Ropes & Gray LLP in Boston. Critics suggest that, because Malt has been a trustee of Romney’s charitable foundation and represented him in legal disputes, he lacks independence to operate a blind trust on the candidate’s behalf.
Romney’s campaign has conceded that his trust doesn’t meet the standards of a federal blind trust and said that the former Massachusetts governor would transfer his assets to one that did meet those requirements if elected. Spokeswoman Andrea Saul reiterated that in an interview with the Associated Press yesterday.
“As has been reported for years, Governor and Mrs. Romney’s assets are managed on a blind basis,” she said in a statement today. “They do not control the investment of these assets, which are under the control and overall management of a trustee.”
The Obama campaign is also questioning continuing payments to Romney from Bain Capital LLC, the Boston-based private equity firm he helped start. Much of Romney’s fortune, estimated at as much as $250 million, comes from his work at Bain.
“What the governor has done is put himself in the middle of a smoking appearance problem at best,” Bauer said. “At worst, there are unanswered questions about what’s really taking place around the continued profits that he is acquiring from Bain.”
Saul said the criticisms of Romney’s finances were a “tired distraction” from Obama’s team designed to shift attention from the president’s policy failures.
Romney and the Republican National Committee announced today that they raised more than $76.8 million in May, surpassing for the first time in the campaign the amount reported by Obama and the Democratic Party. Romney’s campaign and the party said they entered this month with $107 million to spend.
The Obama campaign said on its website today that it had raised more than $60 million last month. It didn’t offer a cash- on-hand figure.
The president’s campaign responded with a text message to supporters saying, “We got beat,” and including a link for making donations.
The figures announced today include money for the presidential campaigns as well as national and state party committees, which can accept much larger donations than candidates. Both Obama and Romney have set up joint fundraising committees with the parties.
--With assistance from Jonathan Salant in Washington. Editors: Jim Rubin, Don Frederick
To contact the reporter on this story: Julie Hirschfeld Davis in St. Louis, Missouri at Jdavis159@bloomberg.net.
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