Of late Mitt Romney seems to have a fixation on “envy.” He has made it part of his stock speech to claim that Barack Obama fosters and promotes a culture of envy and class warfare in the United States. Mitt, however, has it all wrong as usual. The correct word to describe the President’s core values is “fairness.”
When Mitt Romney dutifully recites his rhetoric about “One nation under God” as a substitute for common-sense solutions that can improve the lives of hard-working families, he seems to miss the point about one nation. America is about working together for the common good; not about every person fending for him or herself.
I think we can safely say that most Americans would like to be wealthy. As Tevye sings in Fiddler on the Roof, “Would it spoil some vast eternal plan, if I were a wealthy man?” Giving people a chance to accomplish that is a key American value and a building block of the U.S. economy.
The late Senator and presidential candidate Paul Tsongas in speaking about the Democratic Party once said that the creation of wealth is a good thing and Democrats should be known for encouraging opportunities for all citizens to create wealth. I agree completely. As a small businessman and now a public official, I have devoted my energy to creating jobs and wealth.
Yet Mitt Romney ignores so many obvious ways in which the deck is stacked against most Americans and in favor of those who have created significant wealth and whose principal goal is to preserve and protect that wealth at the expense of those whose aspirations include providing for their families, saving money for college education for their children, and creating a sustainable retirement income.
How can Romney ignore Warren Buffet’s deeply expressed concern that his secretary pays a higher income tax rate than he does?
How can Romney ignore the fact that private equity players like himself pay a 15% tax rate, even though we all know much of what they earn is ordinary income on which most moderate and high earning Americans are taxed at a dramatically higher rate.
How can Romney ignore the fact that the Bush tax cuts, which primarily favor him and the top 0.1% percent of Americans, have been responsible for an estimated $2 trillion dollars of the $15 trillion national debt he decries?
How can he ignore the fact that the tax cuts were implemented at a time when this nation was fighting two wars, the first time in American history that we’ve adopted such irresponsible policies?
The President has consistently preached the gospel of fairness, of social and economic injustice, fundamental precepts of the three monotheistic religious traditions. When the prophet Isaiah commands us to “Offer compassion to the hungry and relieve the oppressed,” to be “repairers of the breach,” he is appealing to every citizen to practice fairness toward our neighbors.
Mitt, drop the envy rhetoric. It doesn’t pass the honesty or truthfulness test. It’s never been part of Barack Obama’s values or his rhetoric. As the likely nominee for President, tell us how you are going to restore a culture of fairness for all Americans. Otherwise you’re just a cheerleader for the plutocracy you appear to be working so hard to preserve, protect, and enhance.
Steve Grossman is State Treasurer of Massachusetts