After I finished writing and walked home, I thought more about Mitt and my post. I want it understood, I have no problem with Mr Romney's wealth.
He was born into a decent family, apparently. I don't know much about his parents other than the public facts about his father. I'm not an expert on Mitt Romney or his heritage.
I have little concern about what he did at Bain. He is a vulture capitalist but that's part of the system. We are capitalists. Our society's businesses try to make money, and look for new ways to make money, save money, skirt rules on paying taxes, and rise to the top. That's what I was taught in school: work hard, learn the rules, apply your knowledge, get ahead. I'm just not that ambitious. Did his activitie create jobs? Yes, some. Did they cause job losses? Probably. But that sort of thinking is akin to weather systems. There's a lot of turbulence, unpredicted and unseen forces working on employment. To try to pin it down neatly as a simple equation is mindless.
Not do I begrudge Mr Romney his ambition. Good for him. We, as a world and society, need diverse types to get ahead. He's ambitious; I'm not. Go forth.
What bothers me is that Mr Romney's position that he's part of the middle class. I don't accept that he is. What is middle class changes for each part of the country and even each generation. My Mother is a retired nurse. My monthly income exceeds her annual income. It makes it difficult to discuss finances. What is extravagant to her and me is different, based on income, our past, our age, expectations, and experiences.
It's also different by where we live. What 100 grand will buy you varies across the country and even within states and cities. An income of $100,000 means different things in Medford, Ashland, and Portland, which are all parts of Oregon. What it means down in the SF Bay Area is different even there, depending upon where in the bay area that you live. Its impact changes for Pittsburgh, Pa, Dayton, Ohio, San Antonio, Texas, New York City, Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Washington DC.
That's one area where I really think the Federal tax laws need changed. Why not? Yes, it would make it more complicated but that shouldn't be that big a challenge for this computer age for a nation that sent people to the moon over forty years ago. National companies do it. Salaries are based not just on your skill but also where you live and the median and average salaries for comporable work in that region. Insurance is predicated on where you live, as are car prices, and of course real estate.
Can I sympathize and empathize with Mom and her financial challenges? Yes, but it is abstract. My wife and I were not wealthy and our parents weren't, although they were middle class. When she and I struck out, we had nothing but my car and our clothes. I used my first tax refund, $200, to buy her rings in 1975. We sat down at the beginning of each month and made out our budget. In the military and living in Ohio, I made $344 a month. $110 more was given to me for housing for being married, along with subsistence allowance, for food because I was a shift worker, of $86 a month. It was actually a daily allowance so if I went into the field and was supplied rations or fed in a mess hall, I didn't get food allowance for that day.
When my wife and I balanced our budget, we figured out how much we needed for the basics and what was left as discretionary. Part of that was determining how many tanks of gas we would use and how many haircuts I needed. Then we discussed whether we could go to the movies or go out to eat that month. Going out to eat meant pizza somewhere or fast food. We saved pennies for snacks like HoHos.
Those experiences allow me to understand pinching pennies but without experiencing it again, I don't suffer the anxiety and emotions connected to these decisions and discussions. And emotions and anxiety matter when discussing finance and trying to make ends meet.
That's why Mr Romney's claims frustrate me. For him to say that he, a man apparently worth some millions and with five house, thinks he's part of the middle class makes me think he's either clueless, unprincipled, extremely naive, or pandering, willing to say whatever it takes to get elected. I don't believe he's clueless. He might be naive in believing what people think and accept, or maybe he does think that his income and net worth makes him middle class. I really don't know.
I do know that statements like this, from him, makes me regard him less and trust him less. Why not embrace what he is and what he's done? No matter what his background, he has accomplished a lot. He's proven himself quite capable and successful.
That's what bothers me about much of our politics, across the spectrum. So many politicians seem to do it, to pretend, and say things like we don't know what you have said before belittles our intelligence.
My advice to him, don't do that, please. Try a little honesty. You may be surprised at how well it goes over.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com