Does Mitt Romney Have Status Guilt? October 1, 2012
I have here a transcript of the controversial Mitt Romney ‘47%’ speech to his donors in Boca Raton last May. It strikes me as a bit manipulative that Mother Jones waited three months to release it. Apart from a few notorieties like the ‘47%’, most of the speech I thought rather good. But I agree that, while 47% don’t pay income tax, many of these pay the highly regressive payroll tax, and, as was pointed out, if they are not, they are likely as not receiving the proceeds of the payroll tax, which is set aside to fund the specific welfare programs of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Of these three, only Medicaid is ‘means tested’; the other two are available to people of a qualified age no matter how much income one already has. I am more worried, actually, about government employees and public sector unions; their members are not at all part of the 47%.
Of interest to me as a trustfunder is another passage fairly early in the text. It reads,
By the way, both my dad and Ann’s dad did quite well in their life, but when they came to the end of their lives, and passed along inheritances to Ann and to me, we both decided to give it all away. So, I had inherited nothing. Everything that Ann and I have we earned the old-fashioned way, and that’s by hard work and . . . I say that because there’s the percent that’s, “Oh, you were born with a silver spoon,” you know, “you never had to earn anything,” and so forth. And, and frankly, I was born with a silver spoon, which is the greatest gift you could have, which is to get born in America. I’ll tell ya, there is – 95 percent of life is set up for you if you’re born in this country.
First of all, he reveals that he’s an ‘anchor baby’, born on American soil!
Second, whom did he give it all away to? That would be of interest. And did he have the kind of trust you could give away just like that? I did not own my trusts, only the income from them; and I could not just give the trusts away; it was basically ‘cloud money’ that didn’t belong to anyone as such. I would, I admit, have been sorely tempted to give the trust away if I could, and live ‘on the economy’ even if I might have ended up living in my car or something like that; but I couldn’t. So was Mitt Romney influenced by guilt about his inheritance? It is not uncommon that heirs will try to pretend to become businessmen or entrepreneurs; this is the right-wing version of liberal guilt. Sometimes they don’t do too badly. In my case, every time I have left the philanthropic world to play venture capitalist or investor, it has not been blessed. Mitt Romney has done all right, but the liberal guilt manipulators ought to give him more credit!
Third, they ought to give him a little more credit for saying “95 percent of life is set up for you if you’re born in this country.” Here he’s conceding something similar to his opponent’s point that “You didn’t build this;” it was being in a society such as ours that made Romney’s achievements possible. I would point out, unlike Obama or Elizabeth Warren, that while some of these ‘set up’ features are indeed the result of government action, more of them are due to culture, morals, private initiative, and things that government did not do or was not, under our system, allowed to do. But he did confirm that it was not all about himself. Before this audience, he couldn’t talk about God, I assume, but though I don’t know that much about Mormon theology I think he would give credit to the Mormon God, ‘Our Heavenly Father.’ [I’m not sure that the Mormons think ‘Our Heavenly Father’ created the entire universe from nothing; that’s one major difference from orthodox Christians.] But I consider if anything he has upheld my point, that “we are all trustfunders to God,” whether he meant to or not.