Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Elections are always about the future. So it’s disturbing to see a candidate like Mitt Romney come to Nevada and campaign on a promise to take us right back to the past.
Nevada’s nation-leading unemployment and foreclosure rates are not a product of the last three years; they’re a product of the last decade, when so many middle-class families’ economic security slipped away as jobs went overseas, wages stalled and costs soared. Wall Street’s big, bad gambles that collapsed the house of cards and the housing market weren’t the cause of our problems — they were a symptom.
In his State of the Union address last week, we heard the president lay out a thoughtful vision of a job-creating economy built on the values that made our country great and supported by specific plans that will help families keep their homes. This week in Nevada, Romney will offer a very different, very out-of-touch vision on the toughest challenges we face.
Let’s start with the biggest: jobs. Romney claims his career in the business world as his chief qualification for office. What he doesn’t tell you is that his business wasn’t creating jobs but creating wealth for himself and his fellow corporate raiders.
All over America, Romney’s firm closed factories, laid off workers and sent jobs overseas, yet somehow managed to walk away with millions. Romney says that’s just “free enterprise.” Maybe so, but are those the priorities of someone committed to fighting for us and helping us recover or someone who wants to go right back to the way things were when Wall Street rigged the rules in its favor and the middle class paid the price?
The contrast and choice for Nevadans is just as clear on housing. When President Barack Obama visited Nevada last year, he proposed new initiatives to help struggling homeowners in the hardest-hit states keep their homes.
The last time Romney came here, he told homeowners facing foreclosure that we should stand back and let the crisis “hit the bottom” so investors can come in and make a quick buck. We would rather have a president with empathy for the people who live in those houses, not for the speculators who want to flip them. To the American people, their homes are the places where they live, raise their families and build their futures. To Romney, Americans’ homes are nothing more than Monopoly pieces to trade and make a quick buck.
At a foreclosure roundtable in Florida last week, Romney’s only contribution to a discussion on the crisis was to say banks “are feeling the same thing” as homeowners on the verge of losing their homes. Only someone who believes that “corporations are people” could compare the heartbreak homeowners are feeling with the very banks that took away their homes.
Romney’s recklessness should be of particular concern to Nevada’s Latino community. Despite all the work President Obama has done to try to pass the Dream Act, Romney promises to veto this commonsense and widely supported legislation that would let young, law-abiding immigrants, who came here through no fault of their own, earn a path to citizenship by going to college or serving in the military. Romney then took it a step further and derided it as a “handout,” as if either of those two requirements are free and easy.
Whatever your economic philosophy, there’s one position all Nevadans should let Romney know won’t fly here. After decades of hard work, the president killed the Yucca Mountain project — forever.
But Romney went to South Carolina and got the endorsement of its Tea Party governor, who said the main reason she supports Romney is because he promises to bring the proposed high-level nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain back from the dead.
Nevadans have a history of choosing their leaders carefully, and we should. There is so much at stake. If we respond to this crisis by trying the same failed ideas that created it in the first place, we’ll never move forward. If we follow the president’s bold blueprint and create an economy built to last, we will come back stronger than ever.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, former Gov. Bob Miller and former Sen. Richard Bryan are all Nevada Democrats.