If there is one thing Americans do not like these days, it is being reminded that someone out there has more money than we do.
So when Mitt Romney offered Rick Perry a $10,000 bet at Saturday night’s debate, all of Twitter and the Talking Head-o-sphere went nuts. $10,000? That’s practically fifth of an average Iowan’s income!
It’s the last thing staggering Shoo-In Front-Runner Mitt Romney needed, the straw that, if not actually breaking the camel’s back, leaves the camel groaning on the couch and unable to move for a week or two.
At times like this, one is liable to get depressed. But Romney should cheer up! The glass is not half-empty! It’s half-full. Worse things have happened at sea.
In times of adversity like this, it helps to think how it might have gone worse. I can think of quite a few ways:
“Oh, look at this,” Romney could have said. “I found another $10,000 in my jacket pocket. Guess that’s what happens when you don’t wear them in a while. Okay, let’s make it $20,000.”
“I learned the habit of hard work early,” Romney could have said. “As my father said, it’s all about the Salmons, baby.” He could have guffawed (the $10,000 version of a laugh), and a man a few feet behind him dressed in Harris tweeds could have tittered and waved a Salmon P. Chase $10,000 bill.
“Make sacrifices? Of course I’ve made sacrifices!” Romney could have said. “Once, growing up, we had to drink burgundy from glasses made for port!
“Once, for our annual game of Pelt The Proletariat With Bricks of Money, we had to use bricks of one-dollar bills instead of tens! Once, by the time the butler brought it, the consomme was tepid.”
When Tim Pawlenty tried to make bets, they were always in the service category. “If you prove this,” he’d say, “I’ll come and cook you dinner.”
Good thing Mitt didn’t try that. “If you prove this, Rick,” he could have said, “I’ll come over and organize your Waterford crystal chronologically.”
“I’ll bet you, Rick. Loser has to come curry the winner’s polo horses.”
See? It could have been much worse. I bet Mitt feels better already.
Never mind where the wealth came from.
And Romney’s whole persona is a job-creating machine, constantly looking for opportunities to generate a profit. I’m sure he just viewed this as a sound investment. It was a show of confidence, he insists, not out-of-touch wealth flaunting!
But that doesn’t play these days, when our new national pastime is Resenting People Who Have Too Much Money.
“Can’t watch the game this afternoon,” we mumble. “Gotta go yell at rich people. Jeff, got your sign ready?”
“I thought you looked up to us!” Romney yells. “We’re job creators! I thought this was the American dream — wind up with more than you started with!”
Not nowadays. We don’t gaze in awe at the limos and private jets. We egg them.
“Hey, Newt’s the one with the jets!” Romney tries. Sorry.
Newt Gingrich gets a pass, because he does exactly what we would do with our money — spend more of it than we have, on jets and jewelery we cannot afford, or, as I like to call it, “Ging bling.” That doesn’t bother us. It’s when you flaunt your wealth without meaning to flaunt your wealth that we can’t stand you.
When Romney started out in this business, being a wealthy businessman was something people aspired to. Now? Seems dubiously 1 percent-y.
But is this wager a game-ending, worst-case scenario? Nonsense, Reginald!
I’ll bet you.