Romney: "If you can't afford a good education, like I can, you're screwed."
By Michael J.W. Stickings
Remember that neologism Dave Weigel came up with a while back?
Romneying: "Accidentally bragging about your place high up in the economic stratosphere."
Romney does it all the time. So does his wife.
Well, sometimes it spills over into policy, giving us a sense of what he really believes and what he'd do as president, and when it does it takes on a rather more nefarious hue. As, for example, in what he said yesterday on the campaign trail about education and opportunity:
Let me tell you though, there's one thing the President said in his speech I agree with. He said that every American deserves a fair shot and I could not agree more. I think this is a land of opportunity for every single person, every single citizen of this great nation. I want to make sure we keep America a place of opportunity, where everyone has a fair shot, they get as much education as they can afford, with their time they're able to get it, and if they have a willingness to work hard and the right values, they ought to have a shot at realizing their dreams.
Let me tell you though, there's one thing the President said in his speech I agree with. He said that every American deserves a fair shot and I could not agree more. I think this is a land of opportunity for every single person, every single citizen of this great nation. I want to make sure we keep America a place of opportunity, where everyone has a fair shot,
they get as much education as they can afford
, with their time they're able to get it, and if they have a willingness to work hard and the right values, they ought to have a shot at realizing their dreams.
I've bolded the key line.
Basically, he starts out agreeing with Obama, and in an agreeable way. I, too, think America should be "a place of opportunity" in which everyone has "a fair shot." But look where he goes from there: what opportunity means is that everyone gets not a fair shot but what he or she can afford. So if you have a lot of money, you get all the education you want and all the opportunity you need to stay on top of the socio-economic heap. Like Mitt himself. And if you're born into a lot of money, like Mitt's kids, well, aren't you fucking lucky.
Below that, though, well, your access to education, and specifically to the sort of quality education that can really help you get ahead, closes as you go down the socio-economic ladder. Regardless of merit, if you can buy your way into the right private schools and the Ivies, you've got it made. If not, well, too fucking bad. At least if you're somewhere in the middle you might be able to live in an area with a decent public school, and then maybe you can get into a decent state school or maybe even get some financial help to go to one of the better private universities. You won't be able to buy your way into a Harvard, for example, but maybe the top few will make it in. But that's about it. And if you're below that, your opportunity is pretty much non-existent. You might as well pick up a trade and then maybe you'll be lucky enough to be fired by Mitt Romney one day.
This is Romneying, but worse. Romney's rich, as he implicitly reminds us here, and so he has every opportunity you can imagine. And his policy platform is basically all about expanding opportunities -- and specifically money-making opportunities -- for himself and his plutocratic ilk.
But don't believe for a second that he really wants everyone to have a fair shot. Sure, he may argue that everyone has a fair shot in the unregulated market of his dreams, but that's bullshit. Opportunity comes with money, and he wants to keep it that way, America as a Hobbesian state in which the rich get what they want, profiting and dominating and fulfilling their avaricious desires, while everyone else fights for the scraps and struggles for survival.
The alternative to this isn't necessarily enforced socio-economic equality, the plundering of the rich to create equal outcomes. No, the alternative in a liberal American context is a system with progressive taxation, sufficient entitlement programs and safety nets, and government that provides help to those who need it -- including high-quality public education and affordable higher education -- so that how much money you have doesn't determine entirely how much opportunity you have. (This is Obama's view, and the view of most sensible, compassionate, civilized people.)
There's something remarkably un-meritocratic, and un-American, about Romney's view that the rich should rule simply because they're rich. But that's just the sort of guy he is.