He should leave class warfare to the professionals.
Add class warfare to the list of contemporary political skills that Mitt Romney hasn’t quite mastered.
In a mere 18 hours, he managed first to step on his big Florida primary win with a lollapalooza of gaffes, declaring that he “was not concerned about the very poor.” Then, in the classic GOP style of doubling down on stupid to overcompensate for any hint of a compassion deficit, he called for raising the minimum wage to keep pace with inflation. Gee, Mitt, just for inflation? Why not double or maybe even quintuple the minimum wage?
Such are the perils for a pandering pol, paddling the swirls of the welfare state without a constitutional compass. It should go without saying — although it won’t — that Mitt didn’t really mean to blow off the poor. In the now-notorious CNN interview, he was quick to explain that the poor are not a priority only because we already “have a safety net.” Perfect: While arming the Left with a luscious sound bite with which to caricature him as a callous vulture capitalist, Romney simultaneously stokes the Right’s fear that he is really a man of the Left — or, at least, a man without a core, who doesn’t get that the welfare state is not the solution but the problem.
Romney being Romney, the first problem panicked him, while the second probably hasn’t even occurred to him — and won’t, unless Gingrich or Santorum surges and a little Tea Party stroking is suddenly in order. So, within hours of the CNN fiasco, Mitt shifted into “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” mode and got jiggy with the minimum wage.
Beloved of the Democrat-academe-media axis, and thus impressed on the craven Republican establishment, the minimum wage is the safety net in small compass. Whatever wage Romney would nominally make the minimum, the actual minimum wage will remain zero. As the Club for Growth’s Chris Chocola countered, the minimum wage is “an absolute job killer.” To appreciate why, read Kevin D. Williamson’s powerful essay, “Keeping Blacks Poor” (NR, February 2010 – linked here): In one fell swoop, this exhibition in government compassion not only prices low-productivity workers out of the labor market but stokes a crisis of permanent joblessness in some of America’s poorest areas.
It is, of course, impossible that a businessman as savvy as Mitt Romney does not grasp the wages of the minimum wage. He is pandering. He is the GOP establishment candidate. The establishment does not believe electoral success lies in winning voters over with the strength of conservative ideas. Elections, such Republicans believe, are won by batting your eyes at conservatives while planting your feet in the regnant progressive consensus. They are won by saying, “I care.”
Mitt does care. Really. The eye-popping $7 million he has given away to charity in the last two years dwarfs what most of the “rich,” as defined by President Obama, will gross over a decade or three. It certainly compares quite favorably to the beneficence of Senator John Kerry, the well-heeled 2004 nominee of the Poor People’s Party, whose tax returns tended to show a big fat zero on the charitable-donation line. But then, that’s the point, isn’t it? We are a compassionate society because of what ordinary Americans, whatever their means, can be relied on to give of themselves. “Compassion” is not what politicians do with other people’s money.
Where he most craves it, Romney will get no credit for his good works and no acknowledgement of the true intent behind his clumsy words. Progressive operatives are interested only in an edge, not a discussion. The rest of the “social justice” crowd figures that if you’re going to vote feelings rather than economics, then you might as well go with the other guys — they’re the pros. So unfortunately for Mitt, he’s stuck with us Regressives. Yes, we’ll put his faux pas in context and give his good intentions their due. But we’ll also tell you that Mitt Romney, the would-be president, could learn a lot from Mitt Romney, the virtuous citizen — that is, the typically American citizen.