Washington Watch: Mitt Romney, man of the (rich) people

The Republican front-runner may be “not concerned about the very poor,” but many Jewish voters are.

Republican presdential hopeful Mitt Romney in Maine 390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Republican presdential hopeful Mitt Romney in Maine 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Mitt Romney told the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Friday in Washington that he is “severely conservative” and always has been. He is ardently pro-life (after he used to be pro-choice), anti-gay marriage, ready to eviscerate Medicare and Medicaid, opposed to funding Planned Parenthood and God’s defender against the anti-religion heretics now running the government.
For God and country, he said, he is willing to descend into the depths of Satan’s world – Washington – a place where he likes to boast he “has never worked a day.” How that qualifies him to run the government is unclear, but he did say he wants to get rid of large numbers of federal employees.
Romney doesn’t even pretend to be what George W. Bush said he was but wasn’t, a compassionate conservative. Romney may be “not concerned about the very poor,” but many Jewish voters are, and the insensitivity demonstrated in a series of statements by the Republican front-runner, and his own lavish personal wealth, may outrage the Jewish sense of social justice and undercut whatever gains he might expect to make among Jewish voters.
At first, Romney was the Republican Jewish Democratic operatives feared could do the most to peel away some middle class Jewish votes with his brand of fiscal conservatism, but the more they hear of his insensitive statements and his attempts to outflank Rick Santorum on the far Right on social issues, the less team Obama has to worry about.
Initially Romney tried to blame the media by saying his statement on the very poor had been taken out of context, but that collapsed when his CNN interview went viral. It’s not just the Democrats who will be quoting Mitt’s gaffe. His Republican opponents have already picked it up and are using it in their anti-Romney ads.
Even Rush Limbaugh found that kind of thinking outrageous, saying Mitt “comes across as the prototypical rich Republican.” Romney’s tin ear and awkward attempts to show an empathy that just isn’t there is reflected in the lack of enthusiasm for his candidacy. That was clear last week in Rick Santorum’s big victories in two caucuses Romney had won four years ago.
A Wall Street Journal editorial last week said conservatives don’t trust Romney and he isn’t winning friends with his relentlessly negative campaign.
“What Mr. Romney needs is to make a better, positive case for his candidacy beyond his business resume.”
Mitt is not a quick study; it took weeks of getting knocked about before he decided to release his tax returns, and by his delay and limited disclosure he turned it into a major issue. He clumsily went from “no” to “maybe” to “later” to “some but not all” in a painful progression that made it look like he had something to hide. His father set the standard when he ran for president in 1968 by releasing 12 years of tax returns. Didn’t anyone tell Mitt? He makes more in one day than most Americans make in an entire year, and more in a year than most of us will make in an entire lifetime. And it is all unearned income – interest, dividends, stocks. He also pays a lower tax rate than working Americans, and under the tax plan (his) he would like enacted if he becomes president, he’ll pay even less.
This is the candidate who touts himself as “someone who understands how the economy works.” But does he know anything about the people who make the economy work? He’s the potential leader who thinks “corporations are people, too” and “the banks aren’t bad people.
They’re just overwhelmed right now.” He knows where his brioche is buttered.
He is this year’s Gordon Gekko, the character in the movie Wall Street whose motto was “Greed is good.” That slogan was typified in a now-infamous photograph of Romney and his colleagues at his investment firm Bain Capital tossing around cash.
Romney, who likes to boast he is “unemployed,” said he makes “not very much” giving speeches, just chump change. That minuscule sum was $428,871 in 2010, more than seven times the income of the average American family.
“Romney’s returns illustrated... the array of perfectly ordinary ways in which the United States tax code confers advantages on the rich, allowing Mr. Romney to amass wealth under rules very different from those faced by most Americans who take home a paycheck,” noted The New York Times.
Republican strategists continue to act as if Israel is the only issue Jewish voters care about. But the polls and political scientists tell a different story; the economy and social justice remain high priorities for most. For these Jewish voters, Romney’s lurch to the Right and his apparent insensitivity to the plight of growing numbers of poor people – including many elderly and unemployed Jews – could undercut whatever gains the GOP hopes to make with this important segment of the electorate.
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