By JULIANNE MALVEAUX
If you needed evidence that Republicans are out of touch with America, look no further than recent exchanges among candidates. Mitt Romney bet Rick Perry $10,000 over something in his book. I understand that Mr. Romney is disturbed that Mr. Perry has taken some of his work out of context, but a $10,000 bet! Give me a break. With the average American household surviving on about $50,000 a year, that 10 grand represents nearly three months living expenses for the average family. Could Romney have figured out a way to make his point with Perry without thumbing his nose at the rest of us?
On a roll, Romney also took on now-frontrunner Newt Gingrich for making more than a million dollars in a contract with Freddie Mac. He thinks Newt ought to return the money. I want to know what Newt was doing for the mortgage company that made him worth $1.6 million. And it just goes to show how differently Newt lives than the rest of us. Of course, that point was made when he dropped a cool half million dollars at Tiffany’s.
There is a yawning gulf between the economic status of these presidential candidates and the rest of us. Even the Obamas were still paying off student loans when elected in 2008! No wonder these folks don’t want to tax the wealthy – they are the wealthy.
The Tea Party populists talk about the “little people,” but not many little people make $10,000 bets or earn millions of dollars consulting for mortgage companies. It’s enough to make you chuckle in dismay at how out of touch these people are.
Meanwhile, although the unemployment rate has dropped, there are still more than 14 million people officially out of work. Out of touch Republicans who refuse to pass legislation to put people back to work. The concerns of such ordinary working people are a concern that certainly Mr. Romney has never had to experience. No wonder he can run around making five-figure bets.
Whenever the wealth of some Republicans is raised, others talk about “class warfare” and suggest that economic envy is at the root of talk of taxing the wealthy more. But folks like Bill Gates Sr. say the wealthy should be taxed more, not less. Romney and Gingrich are using their wealth to finance their campaigns, and so I guess they need every nickel they can scrounge together.
Maybe this seems a little mean-spirited, but the audacity of a wealthy candidate to make a five-figure bet has just flabbergasted me! It reminds me of Marie Antoinette, who probably never said, “let them eat cake,” but was beheaded for her free spending ways. I’m not suggesting beheading as punishment for Romney or Gingrich, but the French Revolution raises interesting parallels to the present time. The Occupy Movement speaks to the deep economic frustration that so many people are experiencing, but there are probably more people who went shopping the day after Thanksgiving than occupied anything, even for a minute.
That’s why Romney’s bizarre behavior won’t even raise eyebrows in some circles. Romney may be out of touch with America, but sometimes I think that we, too, are out of touch for electing people who have essentially told all of Americans who can’t afford bread that they, too, can eat cake.
Dr. Julianne Malveaux is president of Bennett College for Women.