Mitt Romney is rich.
He was born rich, he’s lived his whole life rich and - barring some catastrophic turn of events - he will die rich.
As is often the case with politicians born into extreme privilege, he tends to have some trouble connecting with the average, working American. He can’t talk about his own background because – y’know – he’s rich.
He can’t talk about his father’s background because – y’know – he was rich. Romney has to reach back two generations to even touch something in his family tree resembling the common man, and that guy he’s touching was an outlaw polygamist who fled to Mexico with his cadre of wives.
One of the ways Mitt's campaign has been dealing with this problem on the stump is by pushing the quasi-fact that, despite his father’s considerable wealth, Mitt earned his personal fortune on his own. To some extent, this point is accurate. The vast majority of Mitt Romney’s wealth comes from his time at Bain Capital and not from inheritance. It is fair to say that Mitt Romney created most of his own fortune. What's not entirely fair is to suggest that he earned it.
That’s because Mitt Romney didn’t amass his vast quantities of wealth with any stroke of ingenuity or invention. He didn’t come up with a novel idea and build a company from the ground up.
Romney made his cash burdening other peoples’ companies with debt and then selling them off piece by piece. I don’t think anyone in America has a problem with an entrepreneur finding success with great ideas and a sound business model. What Americans have trouble respecting is the ill-begotten fortunes amassed at corporate chop shops like Bain Capital.
The biggest lie of the Romney campaign (so far…) has been the touting of his business acumen and private sector experience. Mitt Romney has never run a real business. He’s never created and sold a product, tracked inventory, paid bills… He spent his whole career in that dubious sector of the American economy wherein selfish white guys move money from one pile to another to turn it into more money. He wasn’t doing anything illegal, but he wasn't doing anything admirable either.
Romney’s lack of legitimate business experience is only one aspect of his multi-faceted “rich guy” problem. Another troubling one reared its head again this week when he told a group of entrepreneurial Otterbein University students at a campaign stop in Ohio that they should just borrow money from their parents to get their businesses started.
"We've always encouraged young people: Take a shot, go for it. Take a risk, get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents, start a business," said Romney. "This is kind of an American experience.”
No, Mitt. This is kind of a “Romney” experience.
A gaffe like this one in isolation probably wouldn’t mean much, but a dangerous pattern is developing for the Romney campaign. Whether he’s offering up an off-hand $10,000 bet to Rick Perry or building a car elevator in his ninth home, Romney is making it increasingly obvious that he has no idea what it’s like for 99.99% of Americans. That’s a problem.
We Americans don’t expect our presidents to be poor, but we do expect them to be capable of empathizing with the increasingly large percentage of us that are.