Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Romney Says American Politics Is Only for the Rich, and He's Probably Right

I hope this will be my last post about Mitt Romney for a while, but I just couldn't let this one slide.

Many commentators, both on the left and on the right, noted that this may prove to be yet another embarrassing statement that Romney's campaign will come to regret. From the most recent Republican debate last Sunday morning:
Romney said his father, Michigan Governor George Romney, had told him, "Mitt, never get involved in politics if you have to win an election to pay a mortgage... If you find yourself in a position when you can serve, why you ought to have a responsibility to do so if you think you can make a difference," he recalled his father telling him. "Also, don't get in politics if your kids are still young because it might turn their heads."
A few seconds later, he bragged about his run against Teddy Kennedy. "I was happy he had to take a mortgage out on his house to ultimately defeat me," he said.
Watch the video for yourself here:

I'll do my best to ignore the quip about being "happy [Kennedy] had to take a mortgage out on his house to ultimately defeat me," though to me, that is a telltale sign of someone small-minded and vindictive - not exactly the main qualities we want to have in our Commander-in-Chief.

The more important idea is that Romney believes that American politics should be the province of only the rich - and he may be right.

A few months ago, the University of California at Santa Cruz published a study on wealth, income, and power, focusing on income inequality in the USA and the intersection of income inequality with Congress and people in power in the US. This was the most powerful graphic to come out of the study:

Nearly half of Congress is in the top 1% of US wealth holders, and almost all of Congress is in the top 10%. So, it shouldn't come as much surprise that U.S. laws favor the wealthy - for the most part, it's the wealthy who are writing and passing the laws in the first place. It's rather logical that the rich super-majority in Congress would consistently pass laws that benefit themselves - that's only rational self-interest.

In a similar vein, here's a great infographic from Good comparing the actual composition of Congress to what the composition of Congress would be if it actually reflected the demographic makeup of the USA:

Click on the graphic above for the huge version.

So, there is a disproportionally large number of rich, white, male Protestants, Jews, and Catholics in Congress, while the poor, women, Hispanics, Asians, and people with no religious affiliation are particularly underrepresented.

And according to Mitt Romney, that's the way it should be, thank you very much - now get back to work, you plebeians, and be grateful for the benevolent leadership of your economic and moral superiors!

But seriously - given 1) how much money it takes to run for office in the US, 2) that there's little public support for election campaigns, and 3) that the Republicans are trying to dismantle public funding of elections completely, it shouldn't come as a surprise that it's mainly the rich (or, more specifically, people with lots of rich friends, who are themselves almost certain to be rich) who can and do participate in and win elections. This is a serious problem for American democracy - noteably, one that we've been struggling with since the founding of our country, when only land-owning white males could vote and hold office. Thankfully, it's not that bad anymore, but we still have a long way to go before the American political process is truly open to all - and people (particularly politicians) with attitudes similar to that of Mitt Romney's do nothing to help America form a more perfect union.

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