Mitt Romney told an audience at a Jerusalem fundraiser Sunday that culture alone explains the gulf between the Israeli and Palestinian economies.
On Monday, Romney denied he had singled out culture as the root cause of Palestinian economic struggles. But by Tuesday, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee had penned a National Review op-ed, again confirming that he believes cultural values -– freedom, the rule of law and a strenuous work ethic -– account for global economic disparities.
Between Romney’s explanations of his Sunday speech and critiques describing his comments as both facile and racist, another feature of Romney’s economic analysis has escaped much attention. Romney also cited differences in the U.S. and Mexican economies as proof that some cultures facilitate vibrant economies, while others impede it. The U.S.-Mexico comparison is at least as simplistic and inaccurate as Romney’s Israeli-Palestinian analysis, according to economists and political analysts.
Almost nothing about the U.S.-Mexico relationship is economically comparable to the situation between Israel and areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, said Diana Villers Negroponte, a non-resident fellow at the Brookings institution who specializes in Central America and Mexico.
“The size and sophistication of our economies makes them quite distinctive from the Israeli-Palestinian situation," said Negroponte. "In fact, what the U.S. and Mexico have is very much a 21st Century-type of relationship.“
More than 80 percent of Mexican-made products are exported to the U.S. The North American auto industry is deeply dependent on Mexican parts manufacturers and similar ties are growing in the electronics and chemicals industries, Negroponte said.
Mexican economic progress has been constrained by the drug war and the wide, nearly monopolistic control that a small group of oligarchical businessmen and state agencies have over key industries such as energy, telecommunications and construction materials, Negroponte said.
But while the U.S. economy faltered in 2007 and then mounted a tepid recovery, Mexico has been midst of a massive transition from rural, agrarian communities into an urban society. In Mexico, the imprecise markers of middle-class status -– owning rather than renting one’s home, possessing a car, spending on entertainment -– are growing. In the U.S., more objective measures such as median income are falling.
"The Mexico that Romney seemed to describe no longer exists," Negroponte said. "It hasn't for 20 years."
The Romney campaign declined to answer specific questions about Romney’s U.S.-Mexico comparison, referring The Huffington Post to Romney's Tuesday op-ed.
Mexican trade with the U.S. supports 6 million U.S. jobs, said Kristian Ramos, policy director of the left-leaning think tank NDN's 21st Century Border Initiative.
Mexico ranks third among U.S. trading partners in terms of spending, and pumped $80 billion into Texas last year, Ramos said. Some analysts anticipate that Mexican economic growth will outpace that of the U.S. this year.
“The question I would ask Bettina Inclán is if Mitt Romney thinks there is something culturally wrong with Mexico that doesn’t allow its economy to grow,” said Ramos. Inclán is the Republican National Committee director of Hispanic outreach. She did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Romney's comments call into question two critical selling points for his campaign, said Ramos: Business acumen and character.
“These comments raise questions about how knowledgeable he really is about the trade relationship and what’s going on in Mexico,” said Ramos. “And if the issue isn’t a lack of information, if it’s not ignorance, then that raises another set of questions. Is this guy really willing to say whatever he thinks he needs to say, no matter how offensive or inaccurate, in order to get elected?"
Describing Mexico as an antiquated or inferior country may appeal to Tea Party and deeply conservative voters, Ramos said.
East Haven Mayor Wants Some Tacos
East Haven mayor Joseph Maturo takes the prize for the most unforgettable comment against Latinos. In a broadcast interview, New York City-based WPIX reporter Mario Diaz asked Maturo: "What are you going to do for the Latino community today?" <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/25/east-haven-mayor-joseph-maturo-response-_n_1230928.html" target="_hplink">in response to police arrests for harassing Latinos</a> and Maturo proudly responded: "I might have tacos when I go home, I'm not quite sure yet." To say that his comment was out of line is an under statement. You really have to work hard to make statements as insensitive as this one! Although <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/25/east-haven-mayor-joseph-maturo-response-_n_1230928.html" target="_hplink">he tried to apologize for his racist comments,</a> Maturo's remarks had already gone viral. The Latino community in East Haven, <a href="http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/09/0922980.html" target="_hplink">according to the Census, </a>make up 10.3% of the town's population and it's quite likely Maturo offended every Latino in the area. But at least the mayor got what he wanted: <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/26/joseph-maturo-east-haven-_n_1235253.html" target="_hplink">an immigrants' rights group in East Haven delivered thousands of tacos to Maturo's office the day after he made his taco comments. </a>
Romney's 'Self Deportation'
Although Romney has remained <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/13/mitt-romney-quiet-on-alabama-immigration-law_n_1342535.html" target="_hplink"> quiet on the subject of immigration in the last few weeks of the GOP campaign, </a> nobody has forgotten about Romney's oxymoronic addition to the English language 'self-deportation.' In response to a question regarding if whether to enforce his position on illegal immigration, he would support mass deportations, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/24/mitt-romney-florida-gop-debate-self-deportation_n_1227129.html" target="_hplink">Romney answered</a> "Well, the answer is self-deportation, which is people decide they can do better by going home because they can't find work here because they don't have legal documentation to allow them to work here." Romney's use of the term 'self-deportation' and his genuine belief in it as a viable means to deal with the 13 million undocumented immigrants who would not be allowed to remain in the U.S., led to substantial social media outcry, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/25/gingrich-romney-self-deportation-plan_n_1230987.html" target="_hplink">an attack by his primary opponent, Newt Gingrich</a> (to be expected), and a measure of agreement from fellow candidate Rick Santorum. For us 'self deportation' was nothing short of comedic, not to mention completely disrespectful.
Herman Cain: 'How Do You Say Delicious In Cuban?'
On his 2011 campaign stop in Miami, Herman Cain took some time to try some Latino cuisine, and offend a few Latinos along the way. After biting into a croqueta at Miami's famed Versailles Cafe, Cain asks, "How do you say delicious in Cuban?" Cuban, as many know, is not a language. But if you must know, delicious is <em>delicioso</em> in <em>Spanish. </em>
"Undocumented Immigrants Multiply Like Rats"
From a 'bunch of Mexicans' to 'rats.' In a health care panel, Tennessee State Rep. Curry Todd asked <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/11/curry-todd-illegal-immigrants_n_782102.html" target="_hplink">prenatal health care officials if they require potential patients to show proof of citizenship in order to be accepted for treatment.</a> When one woman explained that such a process is prohibited and unnecessary because children born in the U.S. will be granted citizenship, Todd responded, "they can go out there like rats and multiply, then." Rep. Todd later said he had used the wrong wording. "I was actually wrong, and I admit when I'm wrong," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/11/curry-todd-illegal-immigrants_n_782102.html" target="_hplink">Todd said, before clarifying that he should have used the term "anchor babies" instead.</a> Well, good thing he decided to 'tone down' his language from rats to anchor babies.
Hillary Clinton 'Si Se Pueda'
"Si Se PuedA!" Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, got her protest chant a little mixed up. "Si Se Puede!" ("Yes It Can Be Done") was the motivating slogan first popularized by Cesar Chavez back in the 1960's when referring to social change for immigrant workers. Thank you Clinton for making the attempt in Spanish. But, no thanks. Considering even the news anchors are making fun of her, her effort falls under the category of embarrassing things more than anything else.
Lou Dobbs Endorsed Comment That Immigrants Brought Leprosy
In 2005, radio and television host Lou Dobbs endorsed his guest's comment that Latino immigrants have brought leprosy into the U.S. The guest speaker in Dobb's show was medical lawyer Madeleine Cosman, who said,<a href="http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0504/14/ldt.01.html" target="_hplink"> "we have some enormous problems with horrendous diseases that are being brought into America by illegal aliens." </a> CNN correspondent Christine Romans, who was invited to speak at his show, responded "It's interesting, because the woman in our piece told us that there were about 900 cases of leprosy for 40 years. There have been 7,000 in the past three years. Leprosy in this country." Dobbs, without questioning any of the information, replied "incredible." Although he didn't apologized on air, he admitted he was wrong <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/30/business/30leonhardt.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all" target="_hplink">according the NYTimes. </a> But this is not the only anti-immigrant criticism Dobb's has received. In another instance in his show, he suggested that <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/30/business/30leonhardt.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all" target="_hplink">Mexicans were plotting to reclaim the Southwest and that former president Vicente Fox's visit to Utah was a "Mexican military incursion." </a>
Puerto Rico Must Speak English, According To Santorum
After travelling to the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico to campaign, Rick Santorum told Puerto Ricans they would have to make English their primary language if they want to pursue U.S. statehood. "Like any other state, there has to be compliance with this and any other federal law," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/14/rick-santorum-puerto-rico-english-statehood_n_1345464.html" target="_hplink">Santorum said.</a> "And that is that English has to be the principal language. There are other states with more than one language such as Hawaii but to be a state of the United States, English has to be the principal language." Looks like Santorum is not up to date with the U.S. Constitution <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/14/rick-santorum-puerto-rico-english-statehood_n_1345464.html" target="_hplink">which does not designate an official language, nor is there a requirement that a territory adopt English as its primary language in order to become a state.</a>
"Spanish is The Language Of The Ghetto"
Newt Gingrich called Spanish "the language of living in the ghetto." "The American people believe English should be the official language of the government. . . . We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto," <a href="http://newsone.com/nation/associatedpress3/newt-gingrich-called-spanish-language-of-living-in-the-ghetto/" target="_hplink">Gingrich said. </a> We wonder if Gingrich was aware that there are <a href="http://spanish.about.com/od/historyofspanish/a/10_facts_about_spanish.htm" target="_hplink">329 million native speakers</a> and Spanish ranks as the world's No. 2 language in terms of how many people speak it as their first language?
'A Bunch of Mexicans'
Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck is <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/12/texas-mayor-ethics-complaint-mexicans_n_1338874.html" target="_hplink">facing an ethics complaint following an incident where he allegedly used the phrase </a>"a bunch of Mexicans" to refer to a group of elected and appointed Latino officials. Apparently the person Cluck said the comment to replied "I don't think you can say that." The mayor then responded "what, Mexican?" Although the mayor apparently doesn't remember using that phrase, there are enough witnesses saying he did. One employee filed a complaint against him. "What is most important is that the integrity of the workplace be maintained for city employees," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/12/texas-mayor-ethics-complaint-mexicans_n_1338874.html" target="_hplink">Rivera told FOX 4 in a phone interview. </a>"It's unfortunate any employee heard the comments and was offended enough to file a complaint." Yes mayor, that is quite unfortunate.