Romney’s Comments Reveal Much

What do you call a family of five who makes a combined income of $50,000, maybe with one or even both parents working two jobs to make ends meet?

I call that family typical, hardworking Americans — the people to which Kix cereal and Chevrolet commercials are geared.

Mitt Romney calls that working-class family freeloaders, dependent on government, and claims that he will never be able to convince them to take “personal responsibility” for themselves.

And, oh by the way, vote for him to be president.

By now, Mitt Romney’s comments about the 47 percent of Americans who he believes will vote for President Barack Obama, no matter what, have been discussed ad nauseam. In case you missed it, Mother Jones last week released a video of the Republican nominee telling supporters at a fundraising dinner that 47 percent of the country is reliant on government, and that he could never convince them to take personal responsibility for themselves.

While many fed-up conservative elites have blasted Romney’s remarks, he and his surrogates on the campaign trail have tried to explain them. Kelly Ayotte, a senator from New Hampshire, claimed that his words were “a political analysis,” on NBC’s Meet the Press, while the candidate himself admitted to speaking inelegantly.

What’s missing in the spin that followed the release of the controversial video? Romney taking back the dishonest and hurtful things he said — that almost half of Americans are essentially lazy freeloaders who rely on the government for their every need. In other words, he’s missing a retraction. There’s been no “I misspoke,” or “I was wrong,” just that he shouldn’t have phrased his words the way he did.

To me, that, more even than the words themselves, show how unfit he is to lead this country.

Romney has been cast throughout the campaign season as out of touch, and his private sector career at Bain Capital has been scrutinized in more detail than any other presidential candidate’s former job in recent memory.

Generally, I think judging the merits of a candidate based on his or her background and upbringing isn’t a very good idea — most presidents, with a few exceptions (like Obama), came from some sort of wealth or privilege, and their resulting political ideology has varied wildly. You can’t tell a person’s political beliefs based solely on their income growing up.

But in Romney’s case, he seems, even after nearly two years of campaigning, to not have a single clue of what most Americans go through. And it’s reflected in both his tax plans — which would cut taxes heavily for the wealthiest but are mathematically impossible without large increases on the poor and middle class— and the callous words he said about nearly half of his potential constituents behind closed door.

Ayotte’s comments — that Romney was making a “political analysis” — were clearly spin (watching her trying to defend the indefensible on Meet the Press was painful to watch), but nobody should be fooled into giving Romney even the benefit of that  copout defense. Much of the Republican base is located firmly in the 47 percent — senior citizens and white working-class voters.

See, when you insult half the country, there’s inevitably some collateral damage.

Romney doesn’t know what it’s like to live poor, or even middle-class. He, despite his assertions to the contrary, inherited a million dollars from his father, and was lucky enough to attend both Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School. There’s nothing wrong with that, and attacking him for winning the birth lottery is as unfair as him attacking the poor and middle class for their lot in life.

But it also means that he never had to struggle. He never knew what it was like to be worried about making rent, or paying certain bills. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that, except that he never bothered to learn how the average person — or the “47 percent … who are dependent on government,” according to Romney, lived.

I don’t begrudge Romney his wealth. But I do begrudge his belief that a person’s income is tied to how hard they work and how much responsibility they take for themselves. Romney himself earned $14 million in 2011, despite being unemployed. It betrays a man that, more than just being unsympathetic to the plight of most Americans, has no clue what most Americans go through.

Both campaigns have harped on “doing the math” this election year. Whether they’re talking about proposed tax cuts or the changes involved in “Obamacare,” each side thinks the numbers are on their side. But this situation poses another math problem: the president is supposed to represent 100 percent of Americans. If Mitt Romney chooses to not understand and write off 47 percent of this country as lacking personal responsibility, it isn’t just wrong – to quote his running mate, Paul Ryan, “the math is downright scary.”