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“Without Actually Doing Anything”

September 19, 2012

MoJo has an interesting vid of Mitt Romney laying it out to his base.  You’ve probably seen or heard about it. Most of the attention so far has been focused on his remarks about the “47 percent who are with [President Obama], who are dependent on government.” But later in the speech Romney says something a lot of right-wing rich guys think about The Markets:

They’ll probably be looking at what the polls are saying. If it looks like I’m going to win, the markets will be happy. If it looks like the president’s going to win, the markets should not be terribly happy.

There is something true about this, in a self-fulfilling, racist-asshole way. Circa 1991 I watched with amusement as Carrie Saxon Perry, who had been mayor of Hartford, Connecticut for some time, engineered the ouster of the city council members who opposed her (council–actually the deputy mayor–had the power there and then). The reaction to Perry’s election victory was additional capital flight–of the type that had been extant since the city became minority white around the early the 1980s. I believe NYC saw something similar when David Dinkins took the reins, and Harold Washington’s election as Chicago’s mayor was infamously contentious to the money boys–he bent over backward trying to counteract the capital flight that usually accompanies the arrival of Blackness.

Which makes me wonder if part of what’s happened to the whole country is the same thing we’ve seen happen to every U.S. city when it elects an African-American mayor.

But that’s not what happened. Since President Obama took office, the stock markets have gained roughly 50 percent. And capital-C Capital, far from flying away, has rushed to U.S. Treasury bonds like metal filings to a magnet. According to the flow of funds reports, non-financial business debt has been increasing, along with household net worth and the whole host of other indicators that economists and Big Money People use to measure the Big Economy. Romney, a guy with several hundred millions to his name, certainly knows this—as should the members of the audience he was addressing.

So it is worth parsing what Romney said, since his campaign is predicated on the idea that Obama has failed the economics test. In the leaked video he went on to say:

It depends of course which markets you’re talking about, which types of commodities and so forth, but my own view is that if we win on November 6th, there will be a great deal of optimism about the future of this country. We’ll see capital come back and we’ll see—without actually doing anything—we’ll actually get a boost in the economy. If the president gets re-elected, I don’t know what will happen.

Romney boasts that he would not have to actually do anything in order to improve the economy. He subscribes to the apparent natural law of economics that money flees Blackness and embraces whiteness.

That Blackness is tantamount to incompetence (and savagery) is a theory lately clogging the anonymous chat boards of the internet–including the Sun’s online comment section. It also animates the essays of literate reactionaries such as Paul Kersey (“Stuff Black People Don’t Like”), who plaintively asks why–oh, why?–can’t he just come out and say it:

The decline of Detroit (and America’s major cities such as Baltimore, Milwaukee, Memphis, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Cleveland, Newark, New Orleans, Atlanta, Birmingham, Chicago, etc.) is completely racial in nature.

Lest we misunderstand, by this Kersey means the black residents and black leaders of the cities have destroyed them via the corruption, incompetence and shiftlessness that co-occurs with elevated melanin levels. He’s explicit about this:

Now, it is precisely those who comprise the 82 percent share of Detroit’s population that will be responsible for the financial ruin of that city, because they were incapable of sustaining the civilization that was left behind to them.

There are only two ways to understand the degradation of America’s majority Black cities in the post-war period. Kersey & Co think it must be the fault of the impoverished people in them, because they are African-American (Kersey’s blog is a basically long brief for the return of restrictive racial covenants). Liberals, sociologists and journalists tend to believe it was more the result of “white flight” and disinvestment, an invisible and mostly subtle withdrawal of the money and power whites tend to control.

Romney’s speech underscores and supports both of these competing theories. When he talks about the mythical “47 percent who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it” Romney is channeling Kersey with slightly less forthrightness. Romney says it’s not his job to worry about these useless mouths: “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

But when Romney goes on to say that investment will return if he is elected–that, indeed, the economy will improve without his administration “actually doing anything”–that is a frank (if unwitting) acknowledgement of the other side’s argument that racist disinvestment damages society.

That Romney can make this claim in the face of (in the case of Obama) contrary facts underscores something that is well known about the candidate and his audience.

That virtually no one in the media highlighted it says something else about the state of campaign coverage today.