WASHINGTON, July 23, 2012 — The question just won’t go away: Is Romney too rich to be president?
After all Americans love rich people. They are not envious. They want to be rich themselves. Many Americans believe they are only one scratch away on the lottery ticket from being millionaires.
Their favorite shows over the years include “Dynasty,” “Dallas,” “The Lives of the Rich and Famous,” and now the endless “Housewives” in New York, Orange County and Beverly Hills. In fact, polls often find Americans think they’re richer than they actually are. Maybe that comes from carrying knock-off Louis Vuitton bags.
So why is Mitt Romney, a proud multi-millionaire, not a big hit with the electorate? He certainly qualifies as a member of the rich and famous.
America has had wealthy presidents in the past, who were very popular. Two of our first presidents, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were quite well off. And in the last century there was FDR, an iconic figure who inspired the poorest of the poor during the Great Depression. Then there was JFK, heir to a fortune worth hundreds of millions. Yet there wasn’t a working class family that did not proudly display his portrait on their walls. Teddy Roosevelt, a rich Republican, was admired and loved, inspiring the Teddy Bear.
What’s the Secret of Not Being Too Rich?
Even rich politicians like Republican New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who was comfortable sitting in an ethnic diner and chewing the fat or pastrami, and Illinois’ Republican Senator Charles Percy, who had the common touch with voters from the farm belt to Chicago’s immigrant neighborhoods, found their money was no obstacle to being elected. No one asked if they were too rich to be president.
Yet a recent Gallup Poll shows that 20% of the voters say Romney’s wealth makes them less likely to give him their vote. So why is his wealth an encumbrance?
ABC anchor Diane Sawyer’s question earlier this year to Mitt Romney on “World News” went to the heart of the matter when she asked him, if he was too rich to relate to the American public. The key words are “too rich to relate to the American public.”
Worth more than $250 million, Romney defends his wealth, as he should, saying, “I’m not going to apologize for success at home. I went out and began a business, and the business turned out to be far more successful than I ever would have imagined.”
The Romneys are living the American dream. What’s the problem?
Simply put, Mitt lacks the common touch of a Teddy or an FDR or a JFK or even a Charles Percy. Instead he comes across as out of touch with the travails of average Americans, even as he talks about the economic slump. As one wise soul put it, “He doesn’t seem comfortable in his own skin.”
Is Romney Too Much Like Trump?
Perhaps it’s because on a closer look, voters can see for themselves that Romney is more akin to one of his fundraisers and Birther, Donald Trump than JFK: “He who has the most toys win.”
Point in case: the 3,000 foot house in La Jolla, Ca. overlooking the beach that Romney bought for $8 million in 2008. He then hired a lobbyist to get the town to OK his plans to build a place almost four times as big, 11,000 square feet, complete with an elevator for four cars and a “water feature,” in addition to the pool overlooking the ocean. When was the last time you hired a lobbyist when you remodeled your home? Romney’s house won’t be built until after the election (smart political move), but when it is finished, you will be able to tuck six average American homes into it. That kind of rich guy stuff gives voters pause.
That and the million dollar investment in a stable of dressage horses and hanging out with NASCAR owners, not drivers, much less the guys in the stand, separates him from the average Joe.
However, it is the way he made his money that voters have a truly hard time getting their minds around. Americans are all for the business guy who builds his company from the ground up, producing batches of widgets that turn out to be just what we need and thus ends up becoming a millionaire. That’s the American dream.
But Bain Capital is something else again. What did Romney build? And what about all those jobs he sent overseas? And the plants he closed? And the profits he made doing so? This form of capitalism is known as Creative Destruction and Romney adheres to its gospel. Translation of the term: “…the new must relentlessly replace the old so that companies and the economy can become more efficient.” Another key word: relentless. No wonder on the campaign trail earlier this year, Romney bragged, “I love to fire people.”
Creative Destruction the New American Way?
Creative Destruction doesn’t sound like the American way to do business, does it? But that is what’s happening in our financial sectors. It’s considered business as usual, not manufacturing goods and hiring workers at home. So while Americans don’t really understand how Creative Destruction works, it just doesn’t sound kosher.
Add to that Romney’s tax problem. It looks like it’s a dilly and voters don’t like what they’re hearing. After releasing only the 2010 tax return and an estimate for the 2011 tax return, he has refused to release anymore. Is he afraid that voters might learn that he had taken advantage of a wide variety tax loopholes, the kind only available to hedge fund and private equity guys, who can pay the big bucks to expensive accountants and tax attorneys?
Thanks to those returns he did release, we have now learned of his Swiss bank account and other off-shore tax havens where he stashes his millions such as the Cayman Islands.
We also know now that he paid only 13.9% in taxes while the middle class worker paid a tax rate of 29.9% on an average income of $60,000. But what about those off-shore accounts? Did he pay taxes on that money? Yet to criticize high rollers like Romney is to be labeled as playing “class warfare.” Even Romney himself says so.
Funny, but the only people you hear tossing around the term “class warfare” are the ultra millionaires and billionaires. You never hear auto workers or cops hurling that epitaph at the fat cats who don’t pay their fair share in taxes. Hmmmm….
No wonder the Gallup Poll this past week showed that 54% of Americans say Romney should release his returns and 44% who said that it would be helpful by giving “legitimate information that helps voters make better decisions.”
But Romney is so adamant against releasing any further returns, even in the face of demands by his own party’s leaders, that it makes thinking people draw one conclusion or the other about Mitt: either 1) he’s nuts or 2) he has something to hide, like perhaps a year when he didn’t pay any taxes and maybe even got a monster refund from the government. I suspect the reason is #2.
Nevertheless, Romney remains buttoned-up and tight-lipped, trying to be one of us. Or so he says. But he just isn’t. Each passing day makes the answer to the question that won’t go away more obvious: Yes, Romney just may be too rich to be president.
To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib at the Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. She can also be heard on Democrats for America’s Future. She is also a contributor to broadcast, print and online media.
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