Does Romney Dislike America?: Why Leaders’ Words Matter

E.J. Dionne writes in September 19th Washington Post, “Does Romney Dislike America?”

“The most incisive reaction to Mitt Romney’s disparaging comments about 47 percent of us came from a conservative friend who e-mailed: “If I were you, I’d wonder why Romney hates America so much.” A bit strong, perhaps. But the more you think about what Romney said, the more you wonder how he really feels about the country he wants to lead.”

It’s remarkable how some pandering comments to stroke wealthy donors have ignited a sense of indignation among voters, conservative and liberal. His statistics were inaccurate, his demeanor smug, and his purpose clear: win the election by galvanizing the self-aggrandizing misconceptions of his greatest supporters, the 1%.

After all, he’s one of them. According to USA Today’s calculations, compared to Romney’s reported income, Obama’s tax contribution makes him look downright poor. Although he’s doing very well, combining wages and other income to pay an income tax/payroll tax of 23.37% for an after tax income of $605,043, Romney’s income tax/payroll tax of 15.4% netted him a nice $17,674,452 income after taxes.

USA Today (8/20/2012) also compares these figures to two tax rates/incomes of typical Americans:
Upper-income couple with two dependent children: 23.81% taxes for after tax income of $103,695
Single person: $23.96% taxes for an after tax income of $32,924

Romney, by the way, has no taxable wage income — all of his money comes from “other sources” so unlike Obama and most of the rest of us, he pays very little in payroll taxes.  His comments, and his 1% status, make him seem very out of touch with the American citizens he says he wants to lead.

Tom Toles cartoon from the Washington Post

Dionne writes: “What kind of nation are we if nearly half of us are lazy, self-indulgent moochers who will never be persuaded to mend our ways? “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” Romney said, thus writing off a huge share of our citizenry….

But here’s the most important point Romney got wrong: Among the wealthy nations, it’s difficult to find one where people work harder than the United States. In a 2005 New Yorker article (written before the downturn), James Surowiecki noted that, compared with Europeans, “more people work in America, and since they work so many more hours, Americans create more wealth.” Yes, the riches enjoyed by the folks at that Boca Raton fundraiser were made possible in significant part by the strenuous efforts of proud, self-sufficient people, including many in the 47 percent.

Romney misses something else about America: We do believe in a certain amount of “redistribution” toward those in need. We have always rejected what one of our leaders called a “destructive mind-set,” which he defined as “the idea that if government would only get out of our way, all our problems would be solved,” an approach with “no nobler purpose than ‘Leave us alone.’ ”

That would be George W. Bush in 1999, as my colleague Michael Gerson reminded us the other day. Bush added: “Yet this is not who we are as Americans. We have always found our better selves in sympathy and generosity, both in our lives and in our laws. . . . Our national character shines in our compassion.”

Yes, it does, even if the Boca Raton Mitt Romney seems not to appreciate that about us, either.”

Looking at the facts, figures, and reactions, Romney’s statement looks far worse than a Tea Party statistical tweak to generate campaign dollars.

Because words matter — they carry thoughts and attitudes, convey many messages. Romney’s confirmed that he said what he meant. That means we need to take his words seriously. And the fact that conservatives are pulling their money and their pundit support, paying as much negative attention as liberals, shows the powerful effect of a leader’s words on his credibility.


  1. Joyce Burbank · · Reply

    Great , Carol. T and J approve.


  2. […] Leadership researchers talk a lot about personal authenticity based in values, and the ways those values show by what we do and how we lead, not just what we say. […]


  3. […] words and smug dismissiveness have brought us an understanding of his privileged status (i.e. over the 47%) and his leadership blinders (for example, the “binders of women” […]


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