Romney's 47% comments are exactly what wealthy conservatives think: that they are the true victims.
So, Mitt Romney now tells Sean Hannity he was “completely wrong” about the 47%. On the surface that looks like a typical etch-a-sketch campaign pivot. But I think there is more to it than a little clean up in aisle three.
My theory is that after careful research and analysis, the smartest guys at 1% World Headquarters reached a disturbing conclusion. They decided that the whole fiasco needs to be contained as much as possible because it has the potential for serious damage well beyond the November election.
How? Let’s see.
First, the setting. This is how they think and talk among themselves. It’s not just at fundraisers, but in their churches, country clubs and board rooms as well. Their servants hear them all the time. But they can’t tell for fear of being easily dismissed. Thanks to YouTube we now get to see and hear for ourselves.
Yes, they really do believe there is something wrong with the people. What is it? It’s that our default preference is to be lazy moochers. As employers this is definitely how they think about us as workers. This is why there are entire schools devoted to “management”. We also hear a lot about their true worldview any time we start to talk about forming a union.
The roots of this mindset run very deep. Did the job creator plantation owners ever want to consider there was anything wrong with the slavery system? Of course not. But they were very eager to talk about all the things that were wrong with the slaves.
That legacy is very much with us. They still don’t want anyone to think there is anything wrong with the system.
For one thing, it matters greatly to their own sense of self-worth that they be seen as deserving of their riches and power. Most of them were born on third base. Real economic mobility in our society has been essentially frozen for decades. Nevertheless, the rich and the super-rich desperately want to believe that they hit a triple or a home run.
And even if they are genuinely “self-made,” in the Horatio Alger myth sense, their “achievements” occur within a system. The nature of that system is that for every LeBron James “success” there are dashed hopes and dreams for bazillions of others.
That aside, it’s even more important that we-the-people believe that the rich are “deserving” too. It is a critical component of the “legitimacy” of their rule. It’s all OK because they weren’t born into feudal era royalty. Theirs is a privilege of “merit.”
The entire edifice of capitalism is wrapped around the protestant work ethic which compels us to be loyal, grateful and subservient to employers and their power. If we are poor or unemployed or not employers ourselves, it must be because there is something wrong with us. That is as core as core belief gets. According to them, to even consider that an economy organized differently might produce more equitable outcomes is to wallow in envy, resentment or worse “socialism,” (aka: anything that isn’t the status quo.)
Confusion on issues of “dependence” is also central to the philosophical grip they maintain on our minds. The last thing they want is for ordinary citizens to be self-reliant. That would mean we wouldn’t need them. In particular it would mean we wouldn’t need their J.O.B. system as the means by which we work in order to live.
By portraying us as lazy moochers dependent on “government,” they deflect attention from the reality that we are utterly dependent on them. That dependence is just fine in their view. In language worthy of Orwell, they call our dependence (on “job creators”) “personal responsibility.”
The joke of course is that amongst themselves, the super-rich know that capitalism has never met the needs of all the people all the time. It never will. As capitalism evolves, it does so less and less.
Consequently, for various reasons, capitalists compel the government to pick up some of the slack. This includes direct government hiring (job creation which keeps the unemployment rate down), mass incarceration (reduces the size of the available workforce and creates jobs in the prison-industrial complex) and gigantic subsidies to profit making businesses (bailouts, defense contracts, tax incentives etc.).
Unemployment insurance, food stamps and other such programs also mask and offset the intrinsic inability of the private sector to meet the needs of tens of millions.
Not that we should pay attention to any of that. To the contrary, exercising their god given right to whine about the moochers is one of the privileges that comes with their wealth and power, like private jets and country club memberships.
As Steve Perlstein of the Washington Post put it recently in his brilliant column “Manifesto for the Entitled:”
I am the misunderstood superhero of American capitalism, single-handedly creating wealth and prosperity despite all the obstacles put in my way by employees, government and the media.
I am a job creator and I am entitled.
I am entitled to complain about the economy even when my stock price, my portfolio and my profits are at record levels.
I am entitled to a healthy and well-educated workforce, a modern and efficient transportation system and protection for my person and property, just as I am entitled to demonize the government workers who provide them.
And speaking of whiners, isn’t Mitt Romney an Ayn Rand Hall-of-Famer for honestly expressing the victimization of the rich at the hands of the moochers? Didn’t he basically say, “Isn’t it clear that they have rigged the election against us! And yet for only $50,000 from each of you my brothers and sisters I will soldier on against these moocher barbarians!”
(Note to my fellow 99 percenters. Surely we should repent. My God what is wrong with us that we have no compassion for the burden we are to the Mitt Romney’s of the world?)
All of which brings us to the number one reason Romney has to try to make it all go away.
Forty Seven percent are lazy moochers? Forty Seven percent!
That’s got to include a sizeable number of white people.
Now if Romney had said 100% of the people were lazy moochers, some whites would still insist that he wasn’t talking about them. The people who don’t want the government messing with their Medicare are but one example of this widespread capacity for willful ignorance.
But others are more reasonable. And indeed, you can almost see the light bulbs going on in the heads of white people all over the country. It shows up in letters to the editor, sound bites on the news and private conversations.
For example, the day after 47% went viral, the Detroit Free Press quoted a white voter as follows:
Daniel Pier, 54, of Warren caught the comments on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Tuesday. He had been undecided and was leaning toward Romney. Now, he’s moved toward Obama. Pier is on Social Security disability for a bad heart.
“I’m hearing him (Romney) talk about entitlements. … We’re depending on the government. I couldn’t live unless we collected that,” he said. “Every valve in my heart is bad.”
Mitt thinks white people are lazy moochers? Well then what’s the point of being a Romney Democrat? Isn’t the whole idea that our shared resentment over working hard and paying taxes to take care of them is our bond with you, Mr. Romney.
Being caught on tape implying that white people are lazy moochers too puts the whole Lee Atwater, Ronald Reagan, welfare queen, food stamp president, dog-whistle Republican Party franchise in jeopardy.
Do we owe Mitt our thanks and gratitude? I think so. He has given us a gift that will keep on giving long after the election is over. Thanks to this video more of us might stop apologizing for ourselves and start questioning the system. As if that weren’t enough, this video might also make it harder for them to use race to divide and conquer.
Surely even Sean Hannity could see that anything leading to either possibility, let alone both, would be “completely wrong.”