Anne Romney recently stated that she doesn’t think of herself as wealthy. I believe her, and don’t need to vilify her for saying so. But isn’t that the problem with our current election process? There is no way for someone who isn’t wealthy – and knows it – to mount a campaign.
In the 2008 elections, President Obama spent $750M to win the presidency. John McCain spent $333M to lose it. Those numbers do not include the efforts of their national party committees. The New York Times projects that the spending in 2012 will exceed $1B.
In the land of living paycheck to paycheck, that kind of money is more than unattainable, it’s surreal.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 42% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. They are paying their bills but don’t have any wiggle room. If something happens, like an unexpected car problem or a medical issue, that money has to come from somewhere.
Though Ms. Romney doesn’t feel rich, she never has to feel scared about money. Because of that, she and her husband have absolutely no clue about the lives most people lead.
Opinion Versus Experience
I used to make a six figure salary. Through a combination of difficult circumstances and poor choices, I ended up in bankruptcy and foreclosure. When I look back now, I see how easy it is to spend thoughtlessly – $5.00 coffees, $30.00 bottles of shampoo, $500 purses and $200 dinners for two. I didn’t think twice, because I had the money to spend. I’m sure that’s how it is for Ms. Romney, albeit on a much grander scale.
When gas prices rose, it didn’t really hurt, it was just something to bitch about. Grocery shopping was only a pain when I got stuck behind some woman with coupons. When you always have the money for your co-pays and prescriptions, it’s easy to forget that people don’t. Harder to imagine what it feels like to choose between getting your kid’s asthma medicine and keeping your lights on.
Being wealthy doesn’t mean you don’t face challenges or have problems, but it does mean that the solutions available to you are not limited by financial resources. When you live in that world, the limitations facing the rest of Americans slowly become incomprehensible – or simply their own fault.
I learned a lot from my down fall. The least of which is that you can buy shampoo for $1.89 and that $40 for groceries doesn’t go very far.
In Another Man’s Shoes
Presidential candidate Rick Santorum points to his blue-collar roots to demonstrate his empathy with the working class. Yet when asked about the cost of healthcare rising beyond most people’s ability to pay, he compared it to buying an iPad. Americans were willing to pay for technology, but not for drugs that keep them alive. Maybe they are, but I think very few parents drowning in medical bills are going on a gadget-buying spree.
Santorum almost proudly holds the terminal illness of his daughter Bella up as proof of his fight against universal healthcare. He supports the fact that he must pay more for her pre-existing condition because treating it will cost the insurance company more money. “And I’m okay with that,” he says.
In the never-ending series of GOP debates, not a single moderator has asked him how much he pays for that insurance. Because there’s about 10M kids out there whose parents aren’t offered or can’t afford health insurance. What if the only choice you have is to watch your daughter die – would Mr. Santorum be okay with it then?
See, opinion is what you think you would do. Experience is what you actually did.