I’ll admit it – I’ve become a little obsessed with the secret video taken of Mitt Romney at a fundraising event.
There is almost too much commentary out there about Romney’s claim that 47% of Americans will vote for Obama because they depend on the government to take care of them. The ever-brilliant Ezra Klein posts at Bloomberg a great piece explaining that Mitt Romney doesn’t understand that the poor are overwhelmed by responsibility. Klein also explains who does and doesn’t pay taxes, and why, in an insightful Washington Post article. These charts from the Tax Policy Center of the Brookings Institution put the data in easy-to-grasp format.
But Romney’s comments went far beyond the 47%. The mainstream media has been so focused on the 47% that many of Romney’s other remarks have gone virtually ignored. Together, though, they help fill in the gaps about who Mitt Romney is, and what he does, and does not, believe in. All quotes are taken from the full transcript of the Romney video, posted on the Mother Jones site.
1. The importance of education.
Romney tells a rather remarkable story about Ann Romney’s father, the son of a Welsh coal miner who moved to Detroit for a better life. The family realized that, if everyone worked, they could afford to send one child to college – and Ann’s father was that child. Ann’s dad started a company, became successful enough to hire his brothers, and everybody won. Nice story.
Here is what Romney had to say about the sacrifice Ann’s entire family made so her dad could go to college:
“Can you imagine working every day, taking a couple of jobs, saving your money so that your brother could go to—I mean, I would never do that for my brother—that he could go to co…so he went to college…”
“I would never do that for my brother”? In the middle of a heartwarming, up-by-one’s-bootstraps story? Sure, it was said in jest, before a friendly audience. But often the things we say in jest bear more than a bit of truth. It’s also interesting that Romney chose to tell this particular story of how education was the path to financial independence for his wife’s family, at a time when the GOP is attempting to do away with education assistance for underprivileged families, and when Romney himself suggested that college students should simply “ask their families” for help paying tuition.
Romney makes a few telling comments on this subject:
“And, and frankly, I was born with a silver spoon, which is the greatest gift you could have, which is to get born in America. I’ll tell ya, there is—95 percent of life is set up for you if you’re born in this country.”
This was a more benign remark, but it shows how little Romney actually knows about the lives of the people who are poor and struggling, right here in the U.S.A.
“Gosh, I’d love to bring in more legal immigrants that have skill and [unintelligible]. I’d like to staple a green card to every Ph.D. in the world and say, “Come to America, we want you here.” Instead, we make it hard for people who get educated here or elsewhere to make this their home. Unless, of course, you have no skill or experience, in which case you’re welcome to cross the border and stay here for the rest of your life. [Audience laughs.] It’s very strange. It’s run by people who don’t understand the words “global competition of ideas,” and our idea has to win, but only if America reigns strong.”
As people like Ph.D. student and Ms. Magazine education blogger Tressie McMillan Cottom (@tressiemcphd on Twitter) have pointed out, current immigration policy already favors Ph.D.’s. Romney’s claim that immigration policy under the Obama Administration disfavors the educated and bestows all the benefits on the unskilled is, at best, misleading. But not everyone with a degree from an overseas institution is welcomed with open arms. Try asking any taxi driver in New York what they did in their home country.
3. The Federal Debt
Romney claimed, “the Fed’s buying like three-quarters of the debt that America issues.” Paul Krugman debunks that claim here. Krugman’s best line:
“What is crucial is that a sort of urban legend developed that the only thing keeping rates low was the Fed; this legend was proved wrong by events; but Mitt Romney still believes it.
“And why does he believe it? Because he talked to some guy.”
There are other tasty nuggets of Mittness in the Mother Jones transcript. It’s a fascinating window into a man who usually keeps his most candid opinions quite guarded.