Yes, Romney is Rich. Is that a Bad Thing?

Imagine that your husband, wife, or child was in a terrible car accident. Imagine you were told by physicians that a complicated surgery was the best option to save their life and assure a successful recovery.  Imagine that a skilled surgeon was readily available to perform the surgery. What would you think if a hospital administrator then sat you down and explained that there was something about the surgeon you should know… something that might influence your decision to let him operate. That crucial piece of information: The surgeon is extremely wealthy.

How would you react? Would you stew over the image of that surgeon owning fancy cars and homes that you’ll never own, and decide against letting him perform the procedure? My guess would be no. My guess would be that the surgeon’s personal wealth wouldn’t give you a single reservation about letting him save your loved one’s life. You might even consider that doctor’s wealth to be an assuring indication that he’s highly experienced and extremely good at what he does.

Does it make any sense at all to discount a successful individual’s expertise because they live an affluent lifestyle and may not know what it’s like to be poor? Such things might matter to people if they’re choosing a friend or a mate, but a surgeon? I think not.

Equating quality with financial success obviously isn’t something exclusive to the medical profession. We see it everywhere. There’s a reason Robert DeNiro is far more wealthy than the guy doing a shampoo commercial. There’s a reason Stephen King is far more wealthy than the struggling writers who can’t get their work published. There’s a reason Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are far more wealthy than the guys working at the Best Buy Geek Squad counter.

These people are exceptionally good at what they do. They’re major achievers. They’re major winners. And most people have no qualms in recognizing them as such while accepting that personal wealth is a byproduct of their accomplishments.

So why is it then, that while extraordinary wealth and success are legitimized under countless professions, they’re met with discomfort and sometimes even disdain if you’re a candidate running for the presidency – specifically a Republican candidate running for the presidency?

There are several reasons why I’m not a huge fan of Mitt Romney’s, but his personal financial situation is certainly not one of them. In fact, I find it incredibly disturbing when I hear people leveling criticism at him for essentially being too wealthy. The rationale of course is that his lifestyle is so removed from that of most Americans’ that he can’t possibly empathize with their everyday challenges.

We’ve seen that sort of analysis a lot lately. Most recently, Romney took some media heat for telling an interviewer (while breaking down his personal income) that he gets speaker fees from time to time, “but not very much.” Critics were quick to point out that he has earned close to $400 thousand in speaking fees, so what Romney considers “not very much” equates to over seven times the average American household’s annual income. Now, despite the fact that he was commenting on the amount in relation to his total earned income, and despite the fact that numerous high-profile politicians have made far more in speaking fees than Romney has, his statement was considered a gaffe that displayed insensitivity toward those of lesser means.

As hard as I try to understand why we should expect or prefer a candidate to be apologetic or dismissive about their wealth, I just can’t understand the logic of it. Why should we look down on the rewards of success?

After all, our country is teetering on economic insolvency. We’re racking up trillions of dollars in debt that our children and grandchildren can’t possibly pay off. Half of the households in America are receiving government assistance and there aren’t enough wealth-creators to support them. The very least of my concerns is whether or not my president has experienced the constraints of having to cut coupons from the Sunday paper to keep within a weekly grocery budget. The very least of my concerns is whether or not my president is sensitive to my feelings when it comes to expressing the luxuries he can personally afford. All I want is a competent president who sees the big picture and uses their acquired knowledge to fix the serious problems that are plaguing our nation. The fact that Romney is extremely accomplished in the business world is an asset, not a liability. It’s certainly a far more effective argument for why he would make a good president than someone who may be able to relate to middle-income Americans on a personal level, but is missing the skill-set and drive to actually better those Americans’ prospects.

As a country, we need to get passed this shallow notion that we should select a best friend rather than a leader. I don’t need a surgeon, actor, author, or technology mogul to see my life through my eyes, or downplay their wealth to prevent me from feeling inferior. I want them to do what they do best so I can benefit from the expertise that made them rich. Why on earth wouldn’t we want that same thing from our president?

Author Bio:

John Daly couldn't have cared less about world events and politics until the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks changed his perspective. Since then, he's been deeply engaged in the news of the day with a particular interest in how that news is presented. Realizing the importance of the media in a free, democratic society, John has long felt compelled to identify media injustices when he sees them. With a B.S. in Business Administration, and a 16 year background in software and web development, John has found that his real passion is for writing. His first novel, entitled "From a Dead Sleep", is now on sale! He lives in Northern Colorado with his wife and two children. Like John on Facebook. Follow John on Twitter.
Author website: http://www.johndalybooks.com/
  • cmacrider

    John: Well thought out article.Here are two small points to consider.
    First, Since Romney is wealthy it’s going to take a lot of money to bribe him since he already has more money than he can spend. (You’d better be thinking about more than $400K since he considers that chump change) I’m not a Romney supporter but maybe the fact he is “bribe proof” is a feather in his cap.
    Secondly, Why is it considered necessary that these candidates reveal their tax returns? Whether the candidate paid X$ taxes or 100X$ in taxes would seem to have nothing to do with their potential to be a good president. In Canada we have a very simple rule namely (a) any person running for office must get a certificate from the Federal Income Tax Department which says that (1) they have filed all their returns and (2) they have no outstanding tax. The candidate then has to sign a statutory declaration that they have honestly reported their income to the Federal Government. I haven’t the vaguest idea what Prime Minister Harper’s income is … and quite frankly it is none of my business as it has nothing to do with whether or not I like his policies. I suspect almost no American decides who he/she will vote for upon hearing how much tax they paid.

  • Dave O’Connor

    Oh, Sure! Expose the obvious!
    If there was any inquiry by the IRS, we’d surely hear about it.
    But dare don’t ask for Obama’s school transcripts, applications or grants (especially the sources thereof) or any Federal funds or largesse from which he might have benfitted.
    That would be playing the race card.
    Even the dodge of National Security would be a blinder (unless it discloses the gullibity of the American public).

  • G. Daylan

    My problem with all of the candidates and Romney is paticular is that they promise to “fix the economy.” The president does not make laws. He cannot repeal Obamacare. I would like the candidates to campaign on actions that the president can actually take. As to being rich – just as rich men are not all bad, poor man are not all good,

  • DOOM161

    In your scenario, the rich surgeon in the past wrote your current surgeon’s worst policy. And this “savior” likens himself to the current surgeon that only made your old surgeon’s policies worse.

    I don’t dislike Romney because he’s rich. Just like I don’t dislike Bush because he;s rich, or Obama because he’s black, or Bloomberg because he’s rich. I dislike these people because of their policies.

    Romney continues to defend the individual mandate, but promises in the same breath to work to repeal the individual mandate. He compares his work at Bain Capital to Obama’s work with the US economy. That alone tells me that Romney has no idea what he’s talking about.

    If you put your love affair with nominated the next in line, you might figure out that there must be a reason that Obama wants to run against Romney.

    • John Daly

      Like I said, I’m not a Romney fan. But viewing someone’s wealth as a detriment is absurd and hypocritical. That’s the point of the column.

  • Glen Stambaugh

    Tho he’s wealthy, he’s not as of yet trying to prove what a swell sort he is by promising taxpayer $$ to everyone else who isn’t.
    I need a prez is to understand keeping the money in the hands of those who earned it will ensure the best situation for most of us less fortunate than he. Romney gets that.

  • Mike Jackson

    My understanding about being rich is that it’s fine if your name is Kennedy, Rockefeller, Pelosi, Reid, ad nauseum, provided the letter D follows the name.
    There are very few allowances for the letter R unless that R has been vetted to be moderate by the main scream media. In which case, it’s acceptable as that individual is keeping to the left of main stream conservative principles.

    I have no problem with Mitt Romney being a wealthy man and potentially being president. In fact, I’d rather a guy with a large enough bank account be president than the guy who consistently has more month than money. He either lives frugally and within his means. Even if the means are great, he still doesn’t overspend his own money.

    Hopefully the next president will remember that when it comes to spending other peoples money. Eventually, the lender nations to the US are going to say “No” to more congressional borrowing. It’s already happening in Europe and it’s going to happen here if it continues.