A recent article by Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic entitled “Why Mitt’s Wealth Matters: It’s Policy, Not Envy” offers a meme that surely will be one line of Democrat attack against Mitt Romney should he happen to win the GOP nomination. Mr. Cohn’s article focuses on a speech that President Obama recently gave at the University of Michigan promoting his program for making college more affordable. What I found fascinating was Cohn’s argument echoing Obama’s not so subtle hint that because of Mitt Romney’s wealthy upbringing, and thus his never needing a student loan, he has no “standing,” for lack of a better term, to be targeting the student loan program for cuts as a part of his total package for reducing discretionary federal spending.
“Romney also benefited from the lottery of life – among other things, by being born into a family that could afford to provide him with the very best education at every step of the way. He seems unaware of that fact and the possibility that others, born into less fortunate circumstances, might need some of the government programs he’s promised to undermine.”
In other words, because of Romney’s wealth, he simply does not understand the needs of those who use government assistance. So what is Cohn’s argument, then? That only those who had a hardscrabble upbringing need apply for the presidency?
For a columnist who clearly is in the Democratic camp to offer such a notion is utter hypocrisy. In 2004, the “party of the little guy” offered up as their standard-bearer Senator John Kerry, who was at the time the richest man in Congress. Not only was Kerry fabulously wealthy (~$500+ million net worth), but he didn’t even earn it! He married it. Add to this Kerry’s coiffed and grinning side-kick John Edwards was a sleazy trial lawyer who amassed his own pile of tens of millions by bankrupting obstetricians using junk science, and you hardly have a representation of the 99%. So how come in 2004 the Democrats felt that immense wealth didn’t matter, yet now suddenly it is a legitimate issue?
When I asked him about the hypocrisy of a party that has nominated gazillionaires for president suddenly attacking an opponent’s wealth, Cohn told me: “Kerry wasn’t proposing to dismantle the safety net, slash funding on college assistance and other programs to support upward mobility, and make the tax code more regressive. He understood that most people weren’t as wealthy as he was – and could never become as wealthy as he was. JFK & FDR got that too. Romney doesn’t and, as I said, seems to lack any sense of the financial challenges large numbers of Americans face.”
Let us set aside that Cohn has labeled a man whose heart he does not know, yet who has been a missionary and given far more to charity and causes than Obama–fifteen times more as a percentage of his income in fact–as insensitive to the less fortunate. His general argument is fallacious. By Mr. Cohn’s logic then, only those who have depended on Social Security to live, utilized Medicare or Medicaid for treatment, or relied on food stamps for sustenance, etc. have the right to initiate cuts in social programs? That is utter nonsense. When Mr. Cohn says that Obama highlighting Romney’s wealth is not class warfare but a matter of “policy,” he cannot be serious.
The irony of Cohn’s position is side-splitting. The Democratic Party–whose president has raised more money from more wealthy individuals and corporations than ever before in history–long ago gave up the mantel of the party of the non-elites. Their unfeeling statist policies have bled the coffers dry with little to show but an immorally high debt and crushing taxation burden for the middle class; indeed the very poor and minorities they claim to represent also have suffered catastrophically at the hands of their “Great Society” whose inevitable verdict is now revealed in the form of devastated inner cities, socially destructive illegitimate birth rates, criminally uneducated poor leaving the public school system to face crime-ridden ghettos and an entire underclass of permanent dependents psychologically lobotomized out of any initiative to rise above their hopeless station.
Forget that Romney is not proposing to “dismantle the safety net” but rather bring unsustainable costs under control (although to liberals, these are one and the same, I guess). Mr. Cohn seems to labor under the common self-righteous delusion that only the left-wing uber-rich can have compassion (even though the odds are they too never received a student loan).
His examples of FDR and JFK are interesting and need historical context. FDR began many of his programs during a period when there were no safety nets at all (there are roughly ninety government assistance programs today), the country was in a depression and, most importantly, they would not break the bank…yet. JFK may or may not have been compassionate, but he did understand that higher taxes do not equal either social justice nor sound economics. JFK in fact slashed taxes to spur growth… something Mr. Cohn would surely oppose today but that does not prevent him from using JFK as a model.
But that was then. The system today in Romney’s time (and Obama’s) is broken and going broke. Social Security now spends more than it takes in, having gone red seven years before predicted just a decade ago. For every dollar a person going on Medicare today put into the system, they will end up utilizing three dollars for services and treatment. College tuitions are making education without federal loans prohibitive for most Americans, feeding the vicious cycle of: the higher the tuition, the more money the system demands from the government which then enables colleges to get away with higher tuition, as there’s plenty of borrowed money to pay them. Entitlements are metastasizing throughout the American body; we are shifting from a nation of citizens to a nation of wards of the State.
Anyone with a calculator, some common sense and the most rudimentary understanding of human nature and the demoralizing effects of dependency could see that the welfare state model was doomed from the outset. Unfortunately for today’s liberals who grew up believing that there was no problem too great for the central government to solve by writing a check, they are in the uncomfortable position of watching their delusions finally start to crumble under the weight of actuarial inevitabilities. So they stubbornly circle the wagons and fight to protect their sacred redistributionist model by pointing out that the great threat to their utopian vision is unfeeling rich Republicans, not impartial mathematics.
It is an election year and as such the Democrats, desperate to maintain their slipping hold on power, will pull out all the stops to paint Romney as an elitist member of the 1% and therefore unqualified or unable to make sound policy decisions re: social programs because he just doesn’t feel the pain. They will, of course, never admit that seven of the ten wealthiest members of Congress are Democrats as are 40% of the top fifty. They certainly will never call into account their wealthy standard bearers, and even their President’s obsequious man-crush on a multi-billionaire from Omaha who always seems to benefit from his policies be they bail-outs or cancellation of Keystone XL. That would obliterate their false narrative that the Democratic party is the people’s party and that the perpetuation of the failed welfare state is tantamount to compassionate governance that only a Barack Obama can provide. Romney’s calculator tells him a different story–a story no less true simply because the man relating the tale happens to be in the 1% club … even if half of the members are Democrats.