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“Mitt Romney, Self-Made Man”: Delusional Millionaire Son Of A Millionaire

Yes, we know that Mitt Romney thinks almost half the nation is made up of welfare-grubbing leeches unwilling to separate their maws from the teat of Big Government. But what’s honestly more remarkable to me (because the “too many non-rich Americans don’t pay taxes” line is an ancient one, and one that the Wall Street Journal editorial page has been repeating since 2002) is that Mitt Romney actually doesn’t understand, apparently, that he is a child of privilege.

Contending that he is a self-made millionaire who earned his own fortune, Romney insisted, “I have inherited nothing.” He remarked, “There is a perception, ‘Oh, we were born with a silver spoon, he never had to earn anything and so forth.’ Frankly, I was born with a silver spoon, which is the greatest gift you can have: which is to get born in America.”

Being born in America is certainly a much bigger leg up than being born in, say, Haiti. But being born in America is a much better gift, on the whole, if you’re born to well-educated parents with a relatively large household income, as Mitt Romney was. As economic inequity has risen, social mobility has declined relative to much of the rest of the industrialized world. In other words, being born in Denmark, Australia, Norway, Finland, Canada, Sweden, Germany, Spain or France would actually have been a better gift. (Especially Denmark.) Of course, that represents a decline since the days of mass unionization and liberal activist government — being born American in the first half of the 20th century really was a nice deal, as long as you survived the wars.

But the important thing is that Romney considers himself wholly a self-made man. He Built That. Hard work and his own merit are what made him a success, and, by implication, made 47 percent of the population useless mooching parasites.

This is very silly and if Romney actually believes this about himself he’s much more delusional than I thought he was.

It’s technically true that Romney “inherited nothing” when his father died, as various conservatives shouted at me on Twitter last night. He “inherited nothing” because by the time his father died, in 1995, Mitt Romney was already a very wealthy man, thanks in large part to the many advantages he enjoyed as the son of a prominent politician and corporate executive. Romney could afford, at that point in his life, to give away his father’s estate. (To charities and, notably, to his children — both common means of avoiding the brunt of the estate tax.) He gave his father’s estate away because he’d already enjoyed its many advantages.

Mitt Romney attended maybe the most prestigious private high school in the Midwestern United States. He was not a scholarship student. His father was an automotive company executive and eventually the governor of Michigan, and, by the early 1960s, a millionaire. (And one who had legitimately started from practically nothing.)

If a theoretical non-rich Mitt Romney had gone to college (57 percent of male high school graduates enrolled in college in 1965), a prestigious private school like Stanford might’ve been out of reach. When Mitt Romney attended Stanford, tuition was $1,575 a year, which is more than $11,000 in today’s dollars, and this was just at the cusp of the age of financial aid. (If Romney were black, going to college in 1965 would’ve been significantly less likely.) And if theoretical working-class Romney had managed to bootstrap himself into a good school, it would’ve almost certainly been with the assistance of the federal government, in the form of the National Defense Education Act or the Higher Education Act of 1965 (the year Romney enrolled in Stanford).

Romney spent only a year at Stanford, and finished his degree at the less prestigious Brigham Young, at which point he was accepted into Harvard Law and then the very exclusive joint law/business degree program. When that happened, his father, by the way, was a cabinet secretary. I’m just saying.

And of course while Romney was getting his degree, he didn’t have to do anything rash like “go into debt” or “work,” because, as Ann Romney helpfully explained in 1994, the young couple survived by selling stock Romney received from his father. At BYU: “Neither one of us had a job, because Mitt had enough of an investment from stock that we could sell off a little at a time.” At Harvard, Ann was able to stay home with their children despite neither parent having a job, because “we had no income except the stock we were chipping away at.”

So, yes, self-made man, no inheritance, only silver spoon was the good old red, white and blue. It’s understandable that rich men enjoy the delusion that their own inherited virtue and work ethic are solely responsible for their success, but in men like Mitt Romney, it’s a particularly bizarre delusion.

 

By: Alex Pareene, Salon, September 18, 2012

September 19, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s The 1 Percent, Stupid”: The Case Against Pitting The 47 Percent Vs The 99 Percent

The news of Mitt Romney’s remarks at a closed-door fundraiser that were leaked by Mother Jones has been dominating since it broke yesterday. The scandalous content appears plentiful enough to keep pundits and political junkies glued to Twitter for the remainder of the cycle. And let’s be clear: between Romney’s callous “wait-and see” approach to the Middle East peace process, his instrumental view of Latino voters and his parasitic characterization of those who are too poor to pay income tax, he painted a devastating picture of himself as a leader and a person.

The line from the video that is the source of the most fascination is when Romney claims that he cares not at all for the 47 percent of Americans who pay no income taxes and freeload off the government, since they are sure to be Obama voters anyway. The statement is a window into the cynical and meanspirited worldview that would guide this candidate’s policies and priorities were he to win in November. This alone should give every voter pause, regardless of partisan affiliation.

But there’s a reason right-wing blogger and CNN contributor Erick Erickson’s first tweet after seeing the leaked tapes expressed joy:

Dammit! I’m just now seeing these Romney secret videos. We need that guy on the campaign trail!

A year ago this week, a small band of committed activists achieved a goal that had eluded the established political organizations and the progressive nonprofit sector: they successfully shifted the national conversation away from one about cuts and austerity to one about our nation’s yawning economic inequality. “The 99 percent versus the 1 percent” became the rallying cry for an reinvigorated movement, and Occupy Wall Street ushered in a new era where political fantasy gave way to economic reality in shaping the public discourse.

While the glory days of Occupy faded with winter, the movement left an indelible imprint on our collective consciousness: despite partisan claims to the contrary, most residents in this country have far more in common than we have that drives us apart.

(A big shout out to those committed activists who retook Zuccotti Park for the anniversary of Occupy. For more on this, see Nation reporting here.)

Panicked by the need to respond to the growing sense of outrage about a rigged system built by some of their architects, right-wing leaders cast about for a way to change the conversation back to their own advantage. It was this desire that drove Erick Erickson to start the “53 percent movement.” In launching his campaign, Erickson called the protesters “whiners,” and sought a new social division—one that pitted the 53 percent of Americans who pay federal income taxes against those he claimed were “free-loading” activists. Despite his entreaties and the cheerleading of the right-wing echo chamber, their manufactured meme could not compete with the much more resonant, organic and accurate 99 percent rallying cry.

Still, the mathematical and rhetorical trick has remained in the back pocket of a GOP desperate to change the subject back to their hobbyhorse of the deficit. They see their opportunity in the resurrection of the 47 percent argument, despite how the moment presented itself.

There is now, as there was then, much to take issue with in the 47 percent statistic. Those 47 percent of Americans live below the poverty line or are unemployed or are elderly, many of whom have paid taxes their entire life. Those 47 percent also almost certainly pay some form of taxes: be it payroll taxes, income taxes, state taxes, property tax or sales tax. And there is emerging an even more in-the-weeds debate about whether or not these 47 percent are actually more likely to vote for Romney or Obama, an answer we’ll never find because it’s different depending on how you count. It is tempting to jump on these arguments—passionate as we all are for getting the ever-dwindling facts out to our fellow Americans.

But doing so will cede the home field advantage to the GOP. This certainty accounts for Stuart Varney’s crowing that it’s about time we get back to talking about how “half of the population is living off of the other half” during Fox and Friends’s morning coverage of the tapes. It is the same reason that Brian Kilmeade on the same network stated unequivocally that Romney should be stumping on this issue all the time. If we’re spending time talking about what half the population does or does not get or do, we inevitably draw attention away from the fact that the GOP is running a candidate whose entire life experience and political vision is shaped by being part of the top tiny fraction of this country’s wealth at a time where most Americans are struggling to get by.

So, while the campaign can’t be happy about the GOP-patented guerrilla tactics now coming back to bite one of their own, early pronouncements that the election was won last night are premature and irresponsible. If Romney’s camp can weather this storm and find themselves washed up on the beaches of the 47 percent versus the 99 percent, they might have a chance of not getting voted off the Island. This election—and more important, the fight for economic opportunity—remains about the genuine struggles and solutions that benefit all but the most privileged in this country. Romney’s dismissal of half of those folks doesn’t change that fact.

A full timeline of the right’s campaign to move the 47 percent meme is provided here by Media Matters for America.

By: Ilyse Hogue, The Nation, September 18, 2012

September 19, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Americans Who Do Not Pay Taxes”: Isn’t Mitt Romney A Member Of The 47 Percent?

Mitt Romney, a son of privilege who used family connections and family advantages to accumulate a “vulture capitalist” fortune, and who now collects multimillion-dollar checks for doing absolutely nothing, claims to have identified 47 percent of Americans “who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them.”

Most of these people, Romney gripes, “pay no income tax.”

That, Romney suggests, makes them non-entities in his political calculus.

“My job is is not to worry about those people,” says Romney, who predicts all the “dependent” voters will back Barack Obama this year. “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

But Romney should not be so dismissive of the tax-avoiding class. After all, he’s one of them.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center says roughly 46 percent of Americans paid no income tax for the last year where numbers are available, 2011. Slightly less than half of those who do not pay take advantage of tax breaks designed to ease the burden on elderly Americans who live on fixed incomes. Roughly a third of them do not pay because they are beneficiaries of tax credits designed to help the working poor and children to get by.

In other words, the Americans who do not pay taxes are, for the most part either low-income workers or retired low- or middle-income workers. They are not dodging tax responsibilities. They are filing forms and taking exemptions that were designed to relieve or eliminate tax burdens for those who are least able to pay.

The Tax Policy Center offers the example of a working couple making minimum wages who have two children and earn under $26,400 a year. Using standard deductions and specific exemptions designed for families in their circumstance, they can file a form that has a zero in the amount due column.

Tens of millions of American households—many of them our hardest-working citizens—find themselves in this category. Remember that, according to the Census Bureau, 46.2 million Americans lived in poverty in 2011.

Mitt Romney is not a member of this class of Americans. As a quarter-billionaire, he is part of a multi-generational elite—the most privileged 1 percent of the 1 percent—that has never ever had to worry about making ends meet at the end of the month.

But Mitt Romney has something in common with the working poor.

Like them, he benefits from federal programs that are designed to allow some Americans to avoid paying some or all of the taxes that would otherwise be due from them.

Roughly 13 percent of high-income Americans use itemized deductions—mortgage interest, health payments, or charitable contributions, education tax credits, or tax-exempt interest—to zero out their taxes.

Mitt Romney has not released the tax returns that his dad said a candidate for the presidency owes the American people—forms for the twelve years before their candidacy. So we do not know if he is an actual member of the 47 percent.

By Mitt Romney’s own admission, his accountants make sure that he does not “pay any more (taxes) than are legally due.”

All indications, from Romney and his campaign, are that he has taken full advantage of: tax exemptions, tax credits, tax havens and tax loopholes.

What sort of loopholes? We get an indication from documents filed by the firm that continued to stream money into Romney’s personal accounts long after he quit as a partner.

“The Bain documents posted [in August] show that Bain Capital will go to great lengths to help its partners and its investors avoid tax,” explained Rebecca Wilkins, senior counsel at Citizens for Tax Justice. “Beyond simply putting their funds offshore, the Bain private equity funds are using aggressive tax-planning techniques such as blocker corporations, equity swaps, alternative investment vehicles and management fee conversions.”

That’s how someone who makes tens of millions of dollars says he pays around 13 percent of his annual income into the US Treasury, as opposed to the top marginal tax rate of 35 percent. For 2011, he estimated that he would pay $3.2 million on income of $21 million.

If Mitt Romney had paid at the 35 percent rate that he is supposed to be paying at, the check he wrote would have been for $7.4 million.

So he avoided paying $4.2 million in taxes.

That’s the same as the total amount that—were they paying at the marginal rate that would apply to the working poor if there were no exemptions—would be paid by roughly 1,100 of the low-income families Mitt Romney dismisses as “dependent.”

At the very least, it would seem that Mitt Romney has earned honorary membership in the 47 percent.

 

By: John Nichols, The Nation, September 18, 2012

September 19, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Hating On Ben Bernanke”: Mitt Romney Takes Up Residence In The Right’s Intellectual Fever Swamps

Last week Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, announced a change in his institution’s recession-fighting strategies. In so doing he seemed to be responding to the arguments of critics who have said the Fed can and should be doing more. And Republicans went wild.

Now, many people on the right have long been obsessed with the notion that we’ll be facing runaway inflation any day now. The surprise was how readily Mitt Romney joined in the craziness.

So what did Mr. Bernanke announce, and why?

The Fed normally responds to a weak economy by buying short-term U.S. government debt from banks. This adds to bank reserves; the banks go out and lend more; and the economy perks up.

Unfortunately, the scale of the financial crisis, which left behind a huge overhang of consumer debt, depressed the economy so severely that the usual channels of monetary policy don’t work. The Fed can bulk up bank reserves, but the banks have little incentive to lend the money out, because short-term interest rates are near zero. So the reserves just sit there.

The Fed’s response to this problem has been “quantitative easing,” a confusing term for buying assets other than Treasury bills, such as long-term U.S. debt. The hope has been that such purchases will drive down the cost of borrowing, and boost the economy even though conventional monetary policy has reached its limit.

Sure enough, last week’s Fed announcement included another round of quantitative easing, this time involving mortgage-backed securities. The big news, however, was the Fed’s declaration that “a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy will remain appropriate for a considerable time after the economic recovery strengthens.” In plain English, the Fed is more or less promising that it won’t start raising interest rates as soon as the economy looks better, that it will hold off until the economy is actually booming and (perhaps) until inflation has gone significantly higher.

The idea here is that by indicating its willingness to let the economy rip for a while, the Fed can encourage more private-sector spending right away. Potential home buyers will be encouraged by the prospect of moderately higher inflation that will make their debt easier to repay; corporations will be encouraged by the prospect of higher future sales; stocks will rise, increasing wealth, and the dollar will fall, making U.S. exports more competitive.

This is very much the kind of action Fed critics have advocated — and that Mr. Bernanke himself used to advocate before he became Fed chairman. True, it’s a lot less explicit than the critics would have liked. But it’s still a welcome move, although far from being a panacea for the economy’s troubles (a point Mr. Bernanke himself emphasized).

And Republicans, as I said, have gone wild, with Mr. Romney joining in the craziness. His campaign issued a news release denouncing the Fed’s move as giving the economy an “artificial” boost — he later described it as a “sugar high” — and declaring that “we should be creating wealth, not printing dollars.”

Mr. Romney’s language echoed that of the “liquidationists” of the 1930s, who argued against doing anything to mitigate the Great Depression. Until recently, the verdict on liquidationism seemed clear: it has been rejected and ridiculed not just by liberals and Keynesians but by conservatives too, including none other than Milton Friedman. “Aggressive monetary policy can reduce the depth of a recession,” declared the George W. Bush administration in its 2004 Economic Report of the President. And the author of that report, Harvard’s N. Gregory Mankiw, has actually advocated a much more aggressive Fed policy than the one announced last week.

Now Mr. Mankiw is allegedly a Romney adviser — but the candidate’s position on economic policy is evidently being dictated by extremists who warn that any effort to fight this slump will turn us into Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe I tell you.

Oh, and what about Mr. Romney’s ideas for “creating wealth”? The Romney economic “plan” offers no specifics about what he would actually do. The thrust of it, however, is that what America needs is less environmental protection and lower taxes on the wealthy. Surprise!

Indeed, as Mike Konczal of the Roosevelt Institute points out, the Romney plan of 2012 is almost identical — and with the same turns of phrase — to John McCain’s plan in 2008, not to mention the plans laid out by George W. Bush in 2004 and 2006. The situation changes, but the song remains the same.

So last week we learned that Ben Bernanke is willing to listen to sensible critics and change course. But we also learned that on economic policy, as on foreign policy, Mitt Romney has abandoned any pose of moderation and taken up residence in the right’s intellectual fever swamps.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, September 16, 2012

 

September 19, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“There Is No Real Romney”: Mitt Was Really Saying To Plutocrats, “I’m You”

Whenever we get a glimpse of a candidate speaking in a place where he didn’t know he was being recorded, there’s a powerful temptation to conclude that the “real” person has been revealed. After all, campaigning is almost all artifice, and every other moment at which we see the candidate, he’s acutely aware that he is on stage, with people watching his every expression and listening to his every word. This is how many people are interpreting Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” comments we learned about yesterday, even though Mitt was certainly on stage, even if he didn’t know he was being recorded. For instance, Jonathan Chait says, “the video exposes an authentic Romney as a far more sinister character than I had imagined. Here is the sneering plutocrat, fully in thrall to a series of pernicious myths that are at the heart of the mania that has seized his party.” McKay Coppins reaches the same conclusion, that “Romney seemed to give the closest thing to a candid description of his worldview,” as evidenced by the fact that “his delivery carried none of the discomfort or scripted nature of his stump speeches, and the tone was markedly different from that of the remarks he delivers at fundraisers open to the press.” Our own Bob Moser agreed yesterday.

I’m not buying it. As I’ve maintained for some time, for all intents and purposes there is no “real” Mitt Romney. His political beliefs are the equivalent of Schrodinger’s cat. They exist in every state at once until you open the box to observe them. If the one opening the box is a Tea Partier, they instantly lock into place as a set of Tea Party beliefs; if it’s a bunch of GOP plutocrats staring down, that’s whose beliefs he’ll mirror. Romney has spent the last five years in an intensive period of study, with his subject the contemporary American conservative mind in all its permutations. He’s well aware that the misleading talking point about 47 percent of Americans not paying taxes gets repeated all the time on the right, in private and public. What he was telling the people in that room is what he tells any group of people he speaks to. His message was, in Christine O’Donnell’s immortal words, “I’m you.”

And it just happens that before this particular group, “I’m you” was absolutely true. But it was necessary for Romney to explain to them not just that he’s like them, but he believes everything they believe. And the Randian idea that society is made up of makers and takers, and all those shiftless mooching takers are voting for their patron Obama, is something those funders believe with every fiber of their beings. Does Romney actually believe, as he says on the tape, that “I have inherited nothing. Everything that Ann and I have, we have earned the old-fashioned way”? Maybe, maybe not. But he knows that the ideas that every rich person got rich on nothing but merit, gumption, and hard work, and your wealth is proof of your virtue as a human being, have become absolute gospel among the kind of people who plunk down $50,000 to have dinner with the Republican nominee for president.

I’m not trying to let him off the hook here; “I was only pandering” is no defense for the repetition of abhorrent views (and subsequently, Mitt has insisted that he wasn’t only pandering, but saying what he really thinks). But show me an instance in which Mitt Romney tells a group of people something they don’t want to hear, and then I’ll believe we’ve gotten some insight into the “real” Romney.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, September 18, 2012

September 19, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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