Romney Adviser on Medicare, Job Crisis

Blogging the Beltway: Jonathan Burks told us his candidate would make "no benefit cuts" to Medicare.

Jonathan Burks (Huggins/The Root)
Jonathan Burks (Huggins/The Root)

(The Root) — At the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, The Root briefly caught up with Jonathan Burks, deputy policy director for Mitt Romney’s campaign. He sat down with us for a conversation about his candidate’s views — and how Romney differs from President Barack Obama.

In a wide-ranging discussion, Burks brought up the “legacy of discrimination” and the need for “better education” as root causes of employment gaps for African Americans.

Burks touted Romney’s “premium support” plan for Medicare as an alternative to Obama’s Affordable Care Act, and said “there won’t be any benefit cuts” — for those over 55 now, or for “future seniors” 54 and under. This, despite most interpretations of the Romney-Ryan approach, in which premium support — called “vouchers” by Democrats — would pay for a portion, but not all of seniors’ health care costs in the future. And he said that when it comes to the Affordable Care Act, “the more people learn about it, the less they like it.”

Here’s what he told us about the health care law, Medicare and black unemployment.

The Root: What policies do you think Gov. Romney offers that might draw more African Americans to him as a candidate or to his campaign?

Jonathan Burks: Well, I think the number one issue for African Americans, as it is for every American, is jobs and the economy. I mean, the African-American community has been hurt worst in the recession and the lackluster recovery, so the message that the governor brings on how to get the economy back on track, how to expand jobs, how to expand the middle class, is a message that’s very appealing to African Americans.

TR: Do you have any response to the notion that African-American unemployment not only is higher now than the national average (pdf) but also has historically been higher than the national average?

JB: Yeah, I mean, obviously there’s a long legacy of discrimination that is part of the reason African Americans have traditionally had a higher unemployment rate than other Americans, and that’s something that, you know, you’ve got to address. You’ve got to address it through education, you’ve got to address it through fair employment laws, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to expand the economy so that there are more jobs, period. And through better education, you get it, so that the African-American community benefits and can get back to where it belongs as far as being on par with all Americans.

TR: One of the major policy differences right now between Gov. Romney and President Obama would be the Affordable Care Act. In polling, more African Americans favor the ACA than don’t. How do you think Romney can address that issue in terms of trying to convince African-American voters that he has their interest in mind, given that he’s called for a repeal of the ACA?