Are people just a bit envious of Romney? I say yes, although President Obama disagrees with me.
In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, Obama said, “We don’t begrudge financial success in this country. We admire it. When Americans talk about folks like me paying my fair share of taxes, it’s not because they envy the rich. It’s because they understand that when I get a tax break I don’t need and the country can’t afford, it either adds to the deficit, or somebody else has to make up the difference — like a senior on a fixed income, or a student trying to get through school, or a family trying to make ends meet.”
All true. Still, too much faux outrage is coming from both conservatives and liberals about Romney’s millions for it to be anything other than old-fashion jealousy.
Apparently, it doesn’t matter that Romney has given millions to charities and his church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The cynical just get more cynical, saying he did so for another tax break, or because he knew the returns would be made public.
Many Twitter posts have recently compared Romney to Richard Gere’s character in “Pretty Woman” minus the escort. Gere’s character was a “corporate raider,” who bought a substantial interest in companies and then sliced up them up in various ways to make hefty profits. Not a pleasant way to earn a living, but that’s capitalism.
Satirical candidate Vermin Supreme is selling a T-shirt that says “Mitt Money for President.” Twitter user LOLGOP cracked, “Why isn’t English the official language of Mitt Romney’s money?” The account later tweeted, “During this speech, Mitt Romney earned more money than you will through May.”
In the Reagan 1980s, we couldn’t get enough of people like Romney.
Television shows like “Dallas,” “Dynasty,” and “Hart to Hart” showed glamorous lifestyles of characters like J.R. Ewing, Blake Carrington and Jonathan Hart who made millions wheeling, dealing and playing dirty. Private jets, expensive champagne and designer clothes were all the rage.
Movies, too, echoed the “Gimme Decade.” Remember Michael Douglas’s 1987 “Wall Street” character Gordon Gekko saying, “Greed is good”? Jackie Collins shot to the top of the bestseller lists with raunchy novels about the rich and famous.
Fiction mirrored real life. According to some statistics, 100,000 Americans became millionaires every year during the 1980s. Whether we like to admit it or not, we couldn’t get enough of selfish, rich, beautiful people.
Who didn’t want to make, marry or inherit millions and stash it away in the Cayman Islands?
If this were the 1980s, Mitt and Ann Romney would be eating caviar on a yacht with Robin Leach for an episode of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” Instead, the Romney campaign is releasing photos of the couple doing their wash in a laundromat, trying hard to look like everyday Americans who would star on their own reality television show.
Unlike a transgression like adultery, Romney can’t beg forgiveness for his affluence. Instead, he finds himself wearing a crimson “W” for wealth. He can’t pretend to know what life is like in the 21st-century middle class any more than the majority of us can know what’s it like to have money in the Cayman Islands.
That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be president. But he’s got a lot of resentful people to woo first.
Greed is good? Not anymore. Even if you do tithe religiously.
Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt.” Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker