What’s Wrong with Mitt

Home-headsWhat aren't conservatives rallying around Mitt Romney? I don't think it's because the other candidates are so strong. It's simply because Mitt is a terrible candidate. He's coming into these debates over caffeinated and over prepared. He breathless tries to get out every answer that he and his advisers have agonized over for hours. He's too anxious to cover up his weaknesses. He's so wooden and robotic that he makes Al Gore look like Mr. Natural. 

He also is completely clueless about how to deal with the fact that he's fabulously wealthy. Last night, he again bragged that he made Kennedy take out a second mortgage on his house when they were running for office. It was a mean spirited, nasty remark. In a previous debate, he said that his father told him that nobody running for office should have to take a mortgage out on his house. Like only the wealthy should run for office. Like politics should be a hobby of the rich. 

He put off showing his tax returns, because he knew that it would annoy people that he only pays 15% taxes every year. Money earned passively through investments should be taxed at the same rate as money earned actively. 

Mitt may still end up winning the nomination. He has a well funded campaign, and he's backed by party elites, but the average voter is having a hard time pulling the ballot for him. 

28 thoughts on “What’s Wrong with Mitt

  1. “Money earned passively through investments should be taxed at the same rate as money earned actively.”
    You should ask Megan McArdle about this.
    Short answer: the corporation already pays 35% corporate tax before Mitt gets his share. So if the corporation makes $100, it pays $35 federal tax, leaving $65 for Mitt. Mitt then pays 15% tax ($9.75) on the $65, leaving $55.25. Woo hoo.

  2. Amy — I’m not sure why taxes the corporation pays before Mitt gets his cut should be attributed to Mitt.
    I mean, my boss decides how much it can pay employees in salary and bonuses based on its projected after-tax income. If they could project $0 in taxes, there would be a lot more money to pay me with. Why add the 35% to the taxes of the corporate shareholders, but not the corporation’s employees?
    We could keep going other other way, too. “And then mitt bought a pack of cigarettes with a $2.50 excise tax, leaving his only $52.75, and paid the gardener, properly depositing the employer’s share of the payroll tax, leaving . . .”
    Also, a company can decide to be a “S Corporation,” and then they can skip the corporate tax and the shareholders can be taxed on the payouts as regular income. The fact that Mitt’s companies chose not to do that indicates that there was a determination that this method of taxation is more profitable.
    I think it’s pretty disingenuous to lump Mitt’s corporate taxes all together, and then comparing them to split out income taxes for “regular” workers.

  3. Those tax returns are very interesting reading, newt’s too. Anyone have a link to Obama’s and Ron Paul’s?
    Interesting tidbit that Mitt objected to Newt’s idea for 0% capital gains tax ’cause then Mitt would have nearly no taxes — guessing that would have really looked bad.
    But, is it really that he paid 15% in taxes that bugs people? or that he made 20 million. Would Mitt be the richest president? Anyone done a comparison to the other competitors?

  4. I think people are most bothered that not only is Mitt phenomenally wealthy, but that he has lived his entire life in pretty extreme privilege. We’ve had wealthy presidents with family money before (FDR, JFK, etc), but I think Mitt’s in a different league, in a time when there’s extreme income stratification in the country as a whole (and awareness of that stratification). Also, he doesn’t have a story of personal travail to offset his privilege (war hero stories, chronic health issues of his own, not his wife’s); it’s always been pretty good to be Mitt Romney.

  5. Per wikipedia, JFK’s dad had $180 million in 1935, which is said to be the equivalent of over $2 billion. I don’t think there is another league above that.

  6. “Also, he doesn’t have a story of personal travail to offset his privilege (war hero stories, chronic health issues of his own, not his wife’s); it’s always been pretty good to be Mitt Romney.”
    Gingrich does actually have that sort of story . It doesn’t necessarily make you an easy person to deal with.

  7. Well, both Roosevelt and Kennedy demonstrated a sort of magnanimity which comes with being wealthy & privileged and having a sense of awareness about that. Instead of defensiveness, they exhibited largess. Regardless of actuality, this made them appear less out of touch, as they appeared to at least understand or care about life for the bottom 99%. The problem across the board with the Republican candidates is their mean-spiritedness. There’s not drop of magnanimity among the lot of them.
    Also, I’m not buying the argument that since corporations pay taxes, then their employees shouldn’t have to pay very much. If that’s the case, why should any of us pay taxes? We as individuals aren’t the same entity as the corporations we work for (though, apparently they ARE people), so why should their taxes cover our responsibilities (individual income vs. corporate taxes)? The point is, regardless of any other taxes paid by any sort of institution affiliated with Romney, Romney himself made 20 million a year in income, and paid proportionately less on it than someone earning $50,000 a year. This is pretty clearly regressive, and if people aren’t irritated, then they aren’t particularly paying attention.

  8. I still think Mitt is in a different league than the Kennedys, because JFK didn’t have his own personal fortune (not a trust, but actual earnings), separate from his father’s earnings, whereas Mitt made his own pile from Bain.

  9. “Well, both Roosevelt and Kennedy demonstrated a sort of magnanimity which comes with being wealthy & privileged and having a sense of awareness about that. Instead of defensiveness, they exhibited largess.”
    I think the term you are looking for is not largess but noblesse oblige.
    In terms of actual dollars donated or dollars donated as percentage of income, it would be interesting to compare Romney, JFK and FDR. Romney donates more dollars than he pays in taxes. (Of course, some people here think it doesn’t count if you’re giving to your church, but I feel the same way about giving to PBS.)
    http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-01-24/romney-tax-returns-show-7-million-in-donations-over-2-years.html

  10. People liked Kennedy. He seemed real. He had flaws, but he seemed to be fighting for everyone somehow. You don’t get that from Gingrich or Romney. You get the idea that they’re fighting for keeping all the money and power with a small number of people. Gingrich wants to put kids to work, for crying out loud. And Romney’s tax plans leave the middle class hung out to dry.
    Every time I see him, he just seems like he has no idea what it’s like to actually work for a living. And honestly, I have no idea if that’s how he really is or not, because he just seems so scripted. He’s better at it than Cain, but I’m willing to bet most of what comes out of his mouth has been put there by advisors. He’s like a stepford wife. He’s kind of creepy.

  11. With regard to taxes, I think the example of the corporation and the shareholder is quite a bit different than the corporation and the employee. For one, I’m not sure about the legalities of this, but I think that if Mitt is a shareholder, he is in some sense part of the corporation, so under our system, he is being both taxed as the corporation and as a shareholder, and the rates in our tax code are set to reflect that. I believe in some other countries, the corporate taxes are set much lower than in the US, while the personal income tax rates might be stiffer. At the higher income levels, it may even out. However, I’d argue that our US system of tax rates is quite unfair to the lower-income small investor, who is not taxed at anywhere near 35% on their own earned income, but really gets the thumbscrews when it comes to investment income (taxed first inside the company at 35%, then taxed again when they receive it). From the point of view of smaller investors (i.e. lots of us), it would be much better for a very minimal corporate tax to be accompanied by personal taxation, perhaps even at their normal income tax rate. (I’ve probably botched the terminology here and perhaps some math, but I hope you follow me.)
    I am not crazy about Romney, but I think it’s interesting that his personal generosity seems to count for nothing in assessment of his character. I suggest that magnanimity means something other than eagerness to give away other people’s money. (Until he reached the Senate, Obama’s charitable giving was pretty minimal (in the 1% range), and Biden gave an average of 0.2% over a decade.)
    http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/election2008/2008-09-12-biden-financial_N.htm
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/26/us/politics/26taxes.html

  12. “People liked Kennedy. He seemed real. He had flaws, but he seemed to be fighting for everyone somehow. You don’t get that from Gingrich or Romney.”
    In JFK’s case, wasn’t that image mostly a Potemkin village created by an adoring press? On JFK’s actual policies, I don’t have that many quibbles, but his larger-than-life image was largely concocted. He probably didn’t write the book he got a Pulitzer for, his marriage wasn’t as idyllic as advertised, and he wasn’t the youthful, healthy specimen that the press portrayed, but a very sick man who was taking astonishing quantities of drugs.
    “The medical records reveal that Kennedy variously took codeine, Demerol and methadone for pain; Ritalin, a stimulant; meprobamate and librium for anxiety; barbiturates for sleep; thyroid hormone; and injections of a blood derivative, gamma globulin, a medicine that combats infections.
    “During the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961, and the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, Kennedy was taking steroids for his Addison’s disease, painkillers for his back, anti-spasmodics for his colitis, antibiotics for urinary tract infections, antihistamines for his allergies, and on at least one occasion, an anti-psychotic drug to treat a severe mood change that Jackie Kennedy believed was brought on by the antihistamines.”
    http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=125593&page=1#.Tx9pfaWJd0s
    It’s pretty scary realizing what kind of mental and physical state JFK was probably in during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
    “You get the idea that they’re fighting for keeping all the money and power with a small number of people. Gingrich wants to put kids to work, for crying out loud. And Romney’s tax plans leave the middle class hung out to dry.”
    I think a federal jobs program for kids is dumb on many different levels, but kids really ought to be working if they can. (I’m planning to hire my 9-year-old out as a mother’s helper to a friend this summer.)

  13. You assume that he gives to charity out of personal generosity instead of as a tax dodge. Also, it’s easier to give a lot more of your income when you have much more. I am still the same person I was before my husband inherited money from his parents, but I give a heck of a lot more now, and it probably still isn’t 1% of my income. Or let’s do the math: If someone making $100K gives 50% to charity, s/he has $50K, which is probably sufficient to live on but not much more. If someone is making $4M and gives 50% to charity, s/he still has $2M, which is much more than I’m ever going to see in my bank account, much less as an annual salary.

  14. I’d be perfectly happy to see the phrase “unearned income” return to public discourse. Especially since “the malefactors of great wealth” isn’t likely to come tripping off too many pundits’ tongues.
    Also, “He looks like the guy from HR come to tell you you’re laid off” is a deadly accurate description. Politically deadly, that is.

  15. Well, yes, JFK’s image is somewhat concocted, but so is Reagan’s. I was alive for Reagan and I never bought into his rhetoric. I suspect the same was true for many people and JFK. Both of them still seemed more real, whether it was a practiced image or not, than Romney does. The man sucks as an actor. I’ll give Reagan that much at least. And I’d say Reagan was in a pretty sorry state during a time when I thought we might blow up half the world as well.
    “Kids ought to be working when they can.” Maybe. Unemployment for teens is incredibly high. All those low-paying jobs they might have taken are taken by older adults. And, frankly, if my kids don’t want to work at 9, fine. You’re only a kid for so long. Yes, I believe in developing a work ethic and all that, but I also believe in summer camp, summer courses, and plain old fun.

  16. “And, frankly, if my kids don’t want to work at 9, fine. You’re only a kid for so long. Yes, I believe in developing a work ethic and all that, but I also believe in summer camp, summer courses, and plain old fun.”
    The difference between the two being that you get paid for working and have to pay through the nose for summer camp, summer courses, and plain old fun.
    I think there’s time for both (especially during the summer), and encouraging children to work may prevent them from turning into the helpless, parasitic, whiny critters that we read about in so many articles.
    I was originally inspired to hire C out when my friend told me about her 12-year-old mother’s helper, who comes in, says she’s hungry, says she’s bored, wants to watch TV, and is basically expecting to be paid for being babysat. My 9-year-old has her quirks, but I think she can play LEGO with a preschooler for $5 an hour while my friend gets stuff done. I also want to catch my daughter before she turns into that good-for-nothing 12-year-old.

  17. “He looks like the guy from HR come to tell you you’re laid off”
    In my experience, HR is transitioning into a pink collar job and they always send a woman to deliver bad news. Cuts down on the spree shootings.
    Not that I disagree Mitt’s looks are against him in the current climate.

  18. Well, neither of my kids worked, and I can tell you they’re not whiny brats. They have tons of household chores for which they earn an allowance. They’re responsible for doing the dishes, walking the dog, and other chores as assigned, often yard work or larger cleaning projects the whole family is involved in. My kids are great about doing these kinds of things, often without being told.
    I don’t think kidwithoutajob = whinykid. Whininess comes from many places, sometimes from a lack of appreciation for their place of privilege. Sometimes it’s just their personality or just a lack of being taught manners.
    And yes, it’s a privileged position to be able to send kids to camp and go on vacation. But since both my husband and I are off in the summer, we often take advantage of that time together. Because it’s also true that families have a limited amount of time to spend together. As the saying goes, no one ever puts “I wish I’d worked more” on their tombstone.

  19. However, I’d argue that our US system of tax rates is quite unfair to the lower-income small investor, who is not taxed at anywhere near 35% on their own earned income, but really gets the thumbscrews when it comes to investment income (taxed first inside the company at 35%, then taxed again when they receive it).
    Not at all. The “lower-income small investor” (if such a thing exists) is buying regular shares of Microsoft and AT&T. The price of the shares are based on the expected after-tax income of the company. In a world where there is no corporate income tax on Microsoft, she will just buy shares at higher prices to buy into the higher corporate profits. So the higher tax rates will just be replaced by more expensive shares.
    I know it is the Republican view that rich people are taxed too highly, but that is only because that is the result they want to get to. Any even-handed comparison will show that they are not.

  20. My two oldest daughters work and have since they were 16. They both work 15 to 20 hours a week, in addition to attending school full-time. They still do household chores, all their own laundry and have social lives.
    They didn’t need to start working at 9 to become productive citizens. At 9, or 12 or whatever, there are plenty of ways for a kid to learn responsibility without getting a paying job.
    I think kids get a lot of unfair generalizations, little of it based on fact.

  21. Also, corporations don’t really pay a 35% tax, do they? given that the tax is calculated on highly processed numbers (and offshore accounts, and losses and profits that don’t make a lot of sense to non-accountants or non-lawyers).
    I have seen numbers, somewhere, that try to take into account the “corporate” taxes (as well as sales tax, payroll tax, property tax, and receipts, like the ETC. . . .). I think the numbers show that the rich do pay a higher percent of their income in taxes than the poor (notwitstanding Mitt). But, the tax rate peaks slightly (I think at the 200K or so level) and then declines slightly and flattens. (Can’t remember where i saw it, though, or what tax numbers it really took into account).

  22. Also, corporations don’t really pay a 35% tax, do they? given that the tax is calculated on highly processed numbers
    There is that. And also the fact that Romney’s investments were in “tax haven” places like Ireland, where companies incorporate because of the low corporate tax rates on the amounts that they do pay. So the “35%” number was never the right starting point to begin with.

  23. I think children should learn responsibility, and working for someone else is one way of learning about it. But, I think there are lots of ways to learn responsibility independent of paid labor, especially for young children, and the use of the money incentive for teaching responsibility will work differently for different children.
    Some may learn the value of an honest days labor. Others might learn to commercialize every transaction (i.e. if you get $5/hour for playing with the 5 year old neighbor, shouldn’t you also get $5/hour for playing with your 5 year old cousin?).
    I also think a lot of kids in my circle aren’t learning the kind of responsibility that I think they should (and are, instead, learning that they are the center of the universe). I’m actually kind of bitter about it. But that might be a local effect of having spent a bit too much time with them in the last week.

  24. If my 9 year olds aren’t working in the coal mines, then I’ve done something wrong.
    Interestingly, I never worked in high school, because my mother thought the measly amount I’d earn wouldn’t balance out the need-based financial aid I’d get if I got accepted to an elite private school, and that if I wanted to, I should spend my time engaging in activities that would make me more likely to get accepted at one of those schools. Instead, I spent my time doing other sorts of activities (research in a neuroscience lab, playing in an orchestra, sports, volunteer work, etc.) Her attitude was: “I’m not rich enough for you to work.” Of course, I spent my teenage years also being completely broke, which also teaches things like thrift and responsibility–going to the dollar movie theater was a major treat, and I can count on one hand the number of times I ate with my friends in the four years. (I don’t know how applicable this is to other people, but it’s at least one counter example the idea that work teaches fiscal responsibility.)
    I can see how working odd jobs can teach responsibility (and I did babysit in middle school), but I’d hardly say that the lessons of forcing children under 10 to earn money to support the family outweighs allowing kids that age to have free time, or engage in enrichment activities. Also, I wonder to what extent is thrift a disposition? My family is very thrifty, and as a kid I bordered on miserly, refusing to spend money on anything unless absolutely forced to. (My earliest memory of my allowance was saving it in a rainy day fund.) I’m less miserly now, but I’ve never lived beyond my means or taken on cc debt. Conversely, I had a coworker whose mother cut her off at 15, forcing her to work to support herself (although still living at home, she had to pay for her own food and chip in with utilities). When she went to college, she got as many credit cards as possible, racked up 10s of thousands of dollars in debt (still paying it off 12 years later), and even today spends money like it was water (eating out at expensive restaurants every lunch, buying the lates electronic gadget, tons of clothes, shoes, etc.) The fact she had to work so much when she was young left her with this well of resentment and feelings of privation which made up through extravagant spending.

  25. So, I was reading about Newt and Mitt in the New Yorker, and they made a good point: you can project yourself into Newt.
    Mitt holds one position, and then changes sides to an incompatible position, and you think, “I don’t trust Mitt. I don’t know what Mitt really believes.”
    Newt holds one insane position, and then holds another, incompatible insane position, and you think, “I bet if I had five minutes alone with Newt, he would completely understand why my idea that everyone thinks is crazy is really completely awesome!”

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