Romney and His Wealth

There has been a lot of talk – too much in my view – about Mitt Romney’s riches.  Indeed, I half expect Ann Richards to rise from the dead and talk about how Romney was born with a gold spoon in his mouth (since he’s probably too “elitist” for silver) and eats the fruit of the poor’s labor with it to amass even greater wealth.  CNN is suggesting that Republican voters think Romney is “too rich” (which I don’t think is possible to objectively define or cast judgement upon as long as it was legally and morally earned).

I really don’t care how rich politicians are unless their wealth was earned in a way that suggests something problematic about their character which could be reflected in their use of power.  For example, “bad” wealth would be money gained as a product of rent-seeking behavior or other morally dubious or fraudulent acts. 

In Romney’s case, I haven’t heard about anything that suggests this.  Indeed, quite the opposite as he took responsibility for making tough business decisions that affected many people but that were often growth-enhancing.  That suggests something positive about his ability to lead as President. 

What I care about most in a candidate for national office is his/her commitment to the Constitution and the extent to which he/she believes in and will be guided by a political philosophy dedicated to securing individual liberty and a free society.  Unfortunately, there are few (none?) that can fully meet this standard.  But it is a useful standard of judgement.  It tells me I should prefer Barry Goldwater to Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan to Jimmy Carter, Mitch Daniels to Newt Gingrich, and so on and so forth.  Are those men perfect, no.  But there is still a meaningful choice along those dimensions for the American public as a whole.   

More importantly, I think there is something crucial that seems to be escaping public attention through all of this talk of how rich Romney is.  Specifically, former community organizer and current President, Barack Obama is also very, very wealthy.  The Obamas adjusted gross income for 2010 alone was $1,728,096.  Their 2009 AGI was $ 5,505,409.  In 2008, it was $2,656,902.  Not exactly 99% right?  And that is just for a three-year period.  Worse, is that his wealth has largely been the product of his political life (see where he stood – especially before his DNC speech in 2004 – in this 2007 piece).  So if we are going to cast aspersions about someone’s wealth, I’m pretty sure we should pay more attention to the fact that politics pays – just ask Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich!

3 thoughts on “Romney and His Wealth

  1. Well said. How is it, exactly, that people expect “Cowboy” and “Really Good at Real Business” to be features conservatives would be afraid of in a GOP president.

    What’s the next insult? He’s an astronaut! He’s builds hotrods in his garage! He fended off a wild animal attack with comment firearm use? Oh wait, they did use that one already…

    I”m not a Romney fan, but the closest I’ve ever been to consider voting for him was the day he said he likes being able to fire people that don’t perform.

  2. President Cleveland, I agree with your posts so often that I am genuinely surprised at myself when I find I am in disagreement.

    But when you blithely say that you ought prefer the Presidential candidacy of Ronald Reagan to that of Jimmy Carter–as if it’s not even a hard choice–this strikes me as entrenching a great myth that Reagan was the near-libertarian he claimed to be in his rhetoric and that Carter was some sort of admixture of Karl Marx and Franklin Roosevelt.

    But here’s the reality: Carter gave us important deregulations in trucking, airlines, and railroads; he appointed Paul Volcker who defeated inflation as surely as he sunk Carter’s prospects for reëlection; and he legalized craft beer and he had this to say about drugs and crime–“Penalties against drug use should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against the possession of marijuana in private for personal use.”

    Reagan gave us an exploding national debt, unconstitutional funding of the Nicaraguan Contras against the express wishes of Congress/the Arms for Hostages scandal, a new, more expensive War on Drugs, etc., etc.

    Can a case be made that Reagan is the more libertarian of the two Presidents? Perhaps. But it’s no easy call.

    1. Maybe I was too quick to compare it to those other obvious cases. You are right that we need to be careful to distinguish between the Reagan rhetoric and the reality of his presidency (something even Agricola admits but suggests he really wanted to do more but faced massive constraints, esp on the Hill). And there is no doubt that Carter wasn’t nearly as bad in office as commonly thought – especially compared to his two elected predecessors (Nixon – a terrible, terrible President from a libertarian standpoint, and Johnson – war and welfare, yikes!).

      But Carter was still pretty bad:

      1. Created two new depts: Energy and Education.
      2. Failed miserably during Iran hostage crisis to defend American national interests and honor. Rescue effort was botched – but hard to blame this directly on Carter — however can partially blame him for the problems in the DoD that led to this.
      3. Chrysler bailout
      4. Energy policy, including price controls.

      But your point is well-taken. And glad to see we’re usually on the same page!

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