The Bubble Boy Does it AgainPosted: September 14, 2012
Every time Romney tries to prove he’s “one of us” he just digs himself into a deeper hole. It’s pretty obvious the man discovers middle class Americans in the same way a near-sighted Anthropologist studies primative tribes from the safety of a duck blind.
In an interview with ABC, Mitt Romney offered his definition of the middle class. “Middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less,” he said.
Who knows what “middle class” really means. It’s more of a feeling than a statistical definition. But as a matter of arithmetic, it doesn’t make much sense to think of people earning $200,000 as being in the middle of anything, except the top decile of earners. Using data from the Tax Policy Center 2012 projected distribution, here’s a look at the share of American tax units that make less than $200,000. The big blue slice is Romney’s definition of middle class.
This is a reminder of the “college days” struggles of Mitt and Ann. We all were supposed to recognize our own experience in this.
Mitt Romney is going around saying that he made all his money himself, aside from a loan from his dad to buy his first house.
Journalists who buy that have short memories. I was living in Massachusetts when Romney first ran for the Senate, and remembered this interview with Ann Romney in the Boston Globe (by Jack Thomas, October 20, 1994; the abstract is here; the full text costs $4.95). Of her student days with Mitt at BYU, Ann said:
“They were not easy years. You have to understand, I was raised in a lovely neighborhood, as was Mitt, and at BYU, we moved into a $62-a-month basement apartment with a cement floor and lived there two years as students with no income.
“It was tiny. And I didn’t have money to carpet the floor. But you can get remnants, samples, so I glued them together, all different colors. It looked awful, but it was carpeting.
“We were happy, studying hard. Neither one of us had a job, because Mitt had enough of an investment from stock that we could sell off a little at a time.
“The stock came from Mitt’s father. When he took over American Motors, the stock was worth nothing. But he invested Mitt’s birthday money year to year — it wasn’t much, a few thousand, but he put it into American Motors because he believed in himself. Five years later, stock that had been $6 a share was $96 and Mitt cashed it so we could live and pay for education.
“Mitt and I walked to class together, shared housekeeping, had a lot of pasta and tuna fish and learned hard lessons.
“We had our first child in that tiny apartment. We couldn’t afford a desk, so we used a door propped on sawhorses in our bedroom. It was a big door, so we could study on it together. And we bought a portable crib, took the legs off and put it on the desk while we studied. I had a baby sitter during class time, but otherwise, I’d hold my son on my lap while I studied.
“The funny thing is that I never expected help. My father had become wealthy through hard work, as did Mitt’s father, but I never expected our parents to take care of us. They’d visit, laugh and say, `We can’t believe you guys are living like this.’ They’d take us out to dinner, have a good time, then leave.
“We stayed till Mitt graduated in 1971, and when he was accepted at Harvard Law, we came east. He was also accepted at Harvard Business School as part of a joint program that admits 25 a year, so he was getting degrees from Harvard Law and Business schools at the same time.
“Remember, we’d been paying $62 a month rent, but here, rents were $400, and for a dump. This is when we took the now-famous loan that Mitt talks about from his father and bought a $42,000 home in Belmont, and you know? The mortgage payment was less than rent. Mitt saw that the Boston market was behind Chicago, LA and New York. We stayed there seven years and sold it for $90,000, so we not only stayed for free, we made money. As I said, Mitt’s very bright.
“Another son came along 18 months later, although we waited four years to have the third, because Mitt was still in school and we had no income except the stock we were chipping away at. We were living on the edge, not entertaining. No, I did not work. Mitt thought it was important for me to stay home with the children, and I was delighted.
“Right after Mitt graduated in 1975, we had our third boy and it was about the time Mitt’s first paycheck came along. So, we were married a long time before we had any income, about five years as struggling students. …
“Now, every once in a while, we say if things get rough, we can go back to a $62-a-month apartment and be happy. All we need is each other and a little corner and we’ll be fine.”
Ann was widely mocked for this at the time. I don’t dissent from the mockery. Her idea of her and Mitt facing “not easy years,” having “no income,” “living on the edge” as “struggling students,” was that the couple had had to face college with only sale of stock to sustain them. By Ann’s own account, the stock amounted to “a few thousand” dollars when bought, but it had gone up by a factor of sixteen. So let’s conservatively say that they got through five years as students—neither one of them working—only by “chipping away at” assets of $60,000 in 1969 dollars (about $377,000 today).
Both my husband and I worked full time and went to school full time during all of our degrees. My husband had a scholarship for tuition based on a perfect SAT score. We paid for my tuition by hawking our NU football tickets to our barber. I can tell you with certainty that neither of us had investments other than an Air Force Credit Union savings account held by my husband. Neither of our dads bought us a house either.
I still remember the shocked look on Perry’s face when he was offered a $10,000 bet at one of the primary debates. Here’s a very effective Obama ad.
Romney’s comments came an interview broadcast Friday on ABC’s ‘‘Good Morning America.’’
‘‘No one can say my plan is going to raise taxes on middle-income people, because principle number one is (to) keep the burden down on middle-income taxpayers,’’ Romney told host George Stephanopoulos.
‘‘Is $100,000 middle income?’’ Stephanopoulos asked.
‘‘No, middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less,’’ Romney responded.
His campaign later clarified that Romney was referencing household income, not individual income.
The Census Bureau reported this week that the median household income — the midpoint for the nation — is just over $50,000.
Obama wants to extend Bush-era tax cuts for those making less than $250,000, while Romney wants to extend the tax cuts for everyone.
Romney has not explained how he would keep his plan from growing the nation’s deficit.
This is another one of those examples where I think a University should be able to recall a student’s diploma and degree on the basis that they obviously learned nothing.