Unless you’ve been living in a coma for the past week, you are aware that Mitt Romney holds a deep and abiding scorn for American workers and those who represent their interest.
Long a suspicion regarding the wealthy like Mr. Romney, when he was speaking to donors in Boca Raton, he confirmed in no uncertain terms, his scorn and total disregard for almost half the voters in the country. Mr. Romney, in his own words claimed that, regarding the 47 percent who don’t pay income taxes, “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” I’m sure Mr. Romney and his ilk in the Republican party will try to lie, twist and manipulate the reality of this scorn, but aside from like-thinkers, even those supporters who do not realize they themselves fit into this category, it will be remembered as voters step into voting booths on November 6th.
Also by now, many are aware that the great bulk of Mr. Romney’s 47 percent are hardly moochers; most are working families who pay payroll taxes, and that elderly or disabled Americans make up a majority of the rest.
Once I got past the amazement that a candidate for president could feel that way, I had to ask myself, “Should I imagine that Mr. Romney and the Republicans would think better of the 47 percent upon learning that the great majority of them actually are or were hard workers, who very much have taken personal responsibility for their lives”? My answer was a resounding NO.
The sad fact is, the Republican Party just doesn’t have any respect for people who work for other people, no matter how hard they work or how well they do their jobs. All the party’s attention is reserved for those they refer to as “job creators,” employers and investors. Leading figures in the party find it hard even to pretend to have any regard for ordinary working families — who, it goes without saying, make up the vast majority of Americans, including the vast majority of the The Tea Party.
Am I laying it on a bit thick? Consider the Twitter message sent out by Eric Cantor, the Republican House majority leader, on Labor Day, a holiday that specifically celebrates America’s workers. Here’s what it said, in its entirety: “Today, we celebrate those who have taken a risk, worked hard, built a business and earned their own success.” On a day set aside to honor workers, the best Mr. Cantor could bring himself to do was praise their bosses.
If you think that Mr. Romney’s “Boca Moment” was just a personal slip, consider Mr. Romney’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. Did he make a single reference about average hard-working Americans? Of course not: the words “worker” or “workers” never occurs to him. This was in complete contrast to President Obama’s convention speech a week later, which put a great deal of importance on workers; especially, but not limited to, workers who benefited from the auto bailout.
And when Mr. Romney spoke “eloquently” about the opportunities America offered to immigrants, he affirmed that they came in pursuit of “freedom to build a business.” Not a single mention about those who came here simply to make an honest living. Of course not. They aren’t worth mentioning.
Needless to say, the G.O.P.’s scorn for workers goes deeper than mere rhetoric. It’s deeply rooted in the party’s policy emphasis. Mr. Romney’s remarks spoke to a prevalent belief on the right that taxes on working Americans are, if anything, too low. The Wall Street Journal famously described low-income workers whose wages fall below the income-tax threshold as “lucky duckies.”
What really needs cutting, according to Republicans, are taxes on corporate profits, capital gains, dividends, and very high salaries. This despite the fact that people who originate their income from investments, not wages, like Willard Mitt Romney, already pay remarkably little in taxes, and a fraction of the percentage of “bring-home-pay” all other Americans pay.
Where does this scorn for workers come from? In my humble opinion, some of it reflects the influence of money in politics: big-money donors, like the ones Mr. Romney was speaking to when he went off on half the nation, don’t live paycheck to paycheck. But it also reflects the extent to which the G.O.P. has been taken over by an Ayn Rand-ish vision of society, in which a handful of heroic businessmen are responsible for all economic good, while the rest of us are ancillary at best.
For those who share this vision, the wealthy are entitled to special treatment, and not just in the form of low taxes. They also deserve our respect, indeed reverence, at all times(just listen a few times to Ann Romney speak). That’s why even the slightest hint from the president that the rich or bankers may have behaved badly, or that “job creators” depend on government-built infrastructure brings out hysterical cries that Mr. Obama is a socialist.
These types of reactions aren’t new; “Atlas Shrugged” was, after all, published in 1957. In the past, however, even Republican politicians who privately shared the elite’s scorn for the masses knew enough to keep it to themselves and managed to fake some appreciation for ordinary workers. At this point, however, the party’s scorn for the working class is apparently too all-encompassing to hide.
The point is that what was captured in “Boca Moment” wasn’t an insignificant faux pas. It was a brief window into the true position of what has become a party of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the wealthy; a party that considers the rest of us unworthy of even a pretense of value.