Vice President Joe Biden kept up the heat on Mitt Romney’s investments at Bain Capital in companies that outsourced on Wednesday, telling a crowd in Dubuque, Iowa, that it went to the core of the governor’s economic philosophy.
“After days of saying nothing in response to our criticism for that policy, the Romney campaign responded, I think yesterday, by saying we just don’t get it, we don’t understand the difference … between offshoring and outsourcing,” Biden said. “If you’re looking for work, that’s a pretty cruel joke.”
He continued with an image straight out of a New Yorker cartoon: “I can picture one guy in my old neighborhood standing next to another guy in the unemployment line and saying, ‘Hey John, did you get offshored or outsourced?’”
The speech comes as a number of recent polls show Obama with a small but significant lead in a number of swing states where the campaign has spent millions on ads attacking Romney’s business career.
Arguing that Romney put outsourcing into practice in public policy, Biden went into an extended riff on a bill he vetoed in Massachusetts as governor that would have prevented state contractors from farming out operations overseas. At issue was a $160,000 contract with Citigroup, which used call centers in India to help manage the state’s food-stamp program. Biden called the measure a “cruel irony.”
“You pick up the phone to call the state of Massachusetts line, a woman picks up, she lost her job, picks up the phone to call the state of Massachusetts about her unemployment benefits and she ends up talking to someone in another country who has a job she could be doing and not have to seek unemployment,” Biden said. “I know it sounds so crazy, but that’s literal. Literally!”
Romney argued at the time the bill would not help Massachusetts, since call centers were mostly located in other states, and in fact when the contract expired, the jobs ended up going to a firm in Utah.
Outsourcing formed the core of Biden’s speech, but the vice president also brought up foreign policy, an area where he held strong influence as a senator for decades.
Noting Romney’s opposition to the president’s decision to withdraw from Iraq, Biden said “we’d still have 20,000 or more troops” if Romney had won in 2008. He also dismissed Romney’s tough talk on Iran as empty bluster.
“He talks about how we have a bad policy in Iran,” Biden said. “The only thing we’re not doing is bombing Iran — is that what he’s talking about? He should say so, if that’s what he means.”
Biden said Romney is somewhat of a relic from the past: Romney’s “social policy is right out of the 1950s” and “his foreign policy is right out of the Cold War.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.