"I inherited nothing," the millionaire son of a millionaire declares
Yes, we know that Mitt Romney thinks almost half the nation is made up of welfare-grubbing leeches unwilling to separate their maws from the teat of Big Government. But what’s honestly more remarkable to me (because the “too many non-rich Americans don’t pay taxes” line is an ancient one, and one that the Wall Street Journal editorial page has been repeating since 2002) is that Mitt Romney actually doesn’t understand, apparently, that he is a child of privilege.
Contending that he is a self-made millionaire who earned his own fortune, Romney insisted, “I have inherited nothing.” He remarked, “There is a perception, ‘Oh, we were born with a silver spoon, he never had to earn anything and so forth.’ Frankly, I was born with a silver spoon, which is the greatest gift you can have: which is to get born in America.”
Being born in America is certainly a much bigger leg up than being born in, say, Haiti. But being born in America is a much better gift, on the whole, if you’re born to well-educated parents with a relatively large household income, as Mitt Romney was. As economic inequity has risen, social mobility has declined relative to much of the rest of the industrialized world. In other words, being born in Denmark, Australia, Norway, Finland, Canada, Sweden, Germany, Spain or France would actually have been a better gift. (Especially Denmark.) Of course, that represents a decline since the days of mass unionization and liberal activist government — being born American in the first half of the 20th century really was a nice deal, as long as you survived the wars.
But the important thing is that Romney considers himself wholly a self-made man. He Built That. Hard work and his own merit are what made him a success, and, by implication, made 47 percent of the population useless mooching parasites.
This is very silly and if Romney actually believes this about himself he’s much more delusional than I thought he was.
It’s technically true that Romney “inherited nothing” when his father died, as various conservatives shouted at me on Twitter last night. He “inherited nothing” because by the time his father died, in 1995, Mitt Romney was already a very wealthy man, thanks in large part to the many advantages he enjoyed as the son of a prominent politician and corporate executive. Romney could afford, at that point in his life, to give away his father’s estate. (To charities and, notably, to his children — both common means of avoiding the brunt of the estate tax.) He gave his father’s estate away because he’d already enjoyed its many advantages.
Mitt Romney attended maybe the most prestigious private high school in the Midwestern United States. He was not a scholarship student. His father was an automotive company executive and eventually the governor of Michigan, and, by the early 1960s, a millionaire. (And one who had legitimately started from practically nothing.)
If a theoretical non-rich Mitt Romney had gone to college (57 percent of male high school graduates enrolled in college in 1965), a prestigious private school like Stanford might’ve been out of reach. When Mitt Romney attended Stanford, tuition was $1,575 a year, which is more than $11,000 in today’s dollars, and this was just at the cusp of the age of financial aid. (If Romney were black, going to college in 1965 would’ve been significantly less likely.) And if theoretical working-class Romney had managed to bootstrap himself into a good school, it would’ve almost certainly been with the assistance of the federal government, in the form of the National Defense Education Act or the Higher Education Act of 1965 (the year Romney enrolled in Stanford).
Romney spent only a year at Stanford, and finished his degree at the less prestigious Brigham Young, at which point he was accepted into Harvard Law and then the very exclusive joint law/business degree program. When that happened, his father, by the way, was a cabinet secretary. I’m just saying.
And of course while Romney was getting his degree, he didn’t have to do anything rash like “go into debt” or “work,” because, as Ann Romney helpfully explained in 1994, the young couple survived by selling stock Romney received from his father. At BYU: “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.” At Harvard, Ann was able to stay home with their children despite neither parent having a job, because “we had no income except the stock we were chipping away at.”
So, yes, self-made man, no inheritance, only silver spoon was the good old red, white and blue. It’s understandable that rich men enjoy the delusion that their own inherent virtue and work ethic are solely responsible for their success, but in men like Mitt Romney, it’s a particularly bizarre delusion.
More Related Stories
- There's no substitute for government disaster relief
- Holder signed off on search warrant for reporter
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
- Closing Gitmo is not enough
- Murkowski: Palin too disengaged to run for Senate
- In IRS scandal, new GOP tactic is ignorance
- Code Pink activist berates Obama at national security speech
- Cuomo: "Shame on us" if New York City elects Weiner
- Coburn calls questions about tornado aid "typical Washington B.S."
- Conspiracy theorists clash over London attack
- Voting is not a right
- Destroying the planet for record profits
- Ahead of Obama's speech, U.S. acknowledges four American drone killings
- Pic of the day: Barack Obama at prom
- Anti-Islam backlash in London after machete attack
- Must-see morning clip: Bill O'Reilly visits "The Daily Show"
- Obama’s drone speech will probably be maddening
- Boehner: "Inconceivable" Obama didn't know about IRS targeting
- Obama to announce new effort to close Guantanamo Bay
- House supporters of KXL received $56m from fossil fuel industry
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11