By Vicky Dickson
Romneyâ€™s remarks about the â€œentitledâ€ 47 percent were made at a fundraiser where the entry fee, at $50,000 a plate, was very nearly equal to the median household income in this country. I guess itâ€™s not surprising that people who can spend that kind of money on dinner might be out of touch with what the average American is going through.
Consider, for example, a family of two adults and two preschool-aged children living in Orange County on the U.S. median household income ($50,694 in 2012). After deductions for state taxes, social security and Medicare, that family would be left with about $3,800 a month. That might not sound too bad â€“ if you didnâ€™t consider the cost of day care around here, which for two children could easily total $1,500 or more. So that family would have to squeeze housing, transportation, food, clothing and health care for four people out of $2,300. The Wall Street Journal would still call them â€œlucky duckies,â€ because their child-care expenses would mean that they would pay no federal income taxes.
Or consider a single parent working as a sales associate at Staples in one of those 100,000 jobs Romney is so proud of creating. According to the Glassdoor website, which lists salaries posted by workers around the country, those jobs generally pay around $9 an hour, or $18,720 a year. That amount of income â€œentitlesâ€ a single parent to the earned income tax credit, which (along with other credits for children and child-care expenses) means that that Staples worker would get back more from the federal government than he or she put in.
In contrast to what Romney seems to believe, I think thatâ€™s a good thing. If a company run by a CEO with a salary of $8.86 million canâ€™t find the money to pay parents enough to feed, clothe and educate their children, those parents need a government-provided safety net.
Itâ€™s hard for me to believe that Romney would be so dismissive of those struggling families if he really understood what they were going through. But he, and the multimillionaires and billionaires who agree with him, live in a bubble that seals them off from the rest of America. Itâ€™s a bubble thatâ€™s kept inflated by the delusions of the entitled superrich that they created their millions all by themselves.
I believe in personal responsibility, and I think that those who work hard should enjoy the fruits of their labor. But you canâ€™t be in small business without realizing that the relationship between work and reward is not simple. You can work very, very hard and come out with nothing to show for your labor, or you can, like Romney, enjoy huge rewards for your efforts. Thereâ€™s a lot of luck involved.
And American multimillionaires and billionaires donâ€™t reach that status solely by dint of their own hard work. Like Romney, theyâ€™ve been smart and lucky enough to have profited by the labor of hundreds or even thousands of hard workers who are barely earning enough to get by.
So I think itâ€™s only fair to ask those multimillionaires and billionaires to contribute more to the general welfare.
The knee-jerk Republican response to such a suggestion is that it incites class warfare. Well, so be it. I think that the millions Romneyâ€™s stashed in the Caymans and Switzerland and Sherman Adelsonâ€™s $40 million campaign contribution could be better spent ensuring that children donâ€™t go hungry or die due to lack of medical care. If that makes me a class warrior, all I can say is, bring it on.
Vicky Dickson is co-owner of The Carrboro Citizen.