It’s time we asked if Mitt Romney knows enough about real money to make decisions for average Americans. We already know he grew up privileged. We know he’s out of touch. But wouldn’t you think that by now, he would have brought in some experts who might have helped him understand what “middle class” is — what it buys and does not buy?
Mitt Romney was lecturing Americans on how he can fix this economy and why we should elect him because he knows how to save us all, when he pointed to Staples and The Sports Authority as examples of places where he is going to create jobs for us, while wearing his super hyped face and declaring the US can be “the best place in the world to be middle class again.”
I guess no one told Mr. Romney that jobs in retail are not typically creating middle class families. Does Mitt know what a retail job makes? Maybe if he figured this out, and then tried to pay a mortgage, car insurance and loan, doctors bills, etc. he might get a glimpse as to why Americans really do not want to hear about his four cars and his wife’s two Cadillacs right now. And they really don’t want to be told that their anger over his not getting it is jealousy over his “success” (aka: luck of being born into silver spoon).
According to Businsessweek, Retail jobs at Staples and Sports Authority (where they pay on average less than 3 dollars an hour from the national average- good pickings Mitt) make an average of less than $9 an hour (with cashiers making less). This means that someone working a 40 hour week (if they were so lucky which many are not because stores like Wal-Mart keep hours below a certain level in order to block workers from qualifying for certain benefits) is making $19,090, which is below the poverty line for a family of three.
Maybe Romney’s team needs to take him on a tour of a middle class neighborhood and he can go to work with someone for the day, come home and watch as said person pays some bills and shares one vehicle with said spouse in order to save money so they can pay their mortgage on a house they no longer have any equity in. Oh, and the daycare, don’t even get me started.
Retail jobs will never make up for manufacturing jobs, which pay far better. When you hear Mitt Romney talk about how he can create “middle class” jobs like he allegedly did at Staples, you should be asking yourself is this “Mitt Middle Class”, which is actually below the poverty line, or is this the Real Middle Class.
CNN reported in September of 2011:
The government defines the poverty line as income of $22,314 a year for a family of four and $11,139 for an individual. The Office of Management and Budget updates the poverty line each year to account for inflation.
Middle-class wealth falls: For middle-class families, income fell in 2010. The median household income was $49,445, down slightly from $49,777 the year before.
Median income has changed very little over the last 30 years. Adjusted for inflation, the middle-income family only earned 11% more in 2010 than they did in 1980, while the richest 5% in America saw their incomes surge 42%.
Can Mitt Romney see the problem here? How can Mitt Romney and his fellow Republicans suggest that union labor is the problem in our economy, when it’s clear that the middle class is losing their average income while the uber rich are watching their income grow by almost 50% and just how long do they think American “exceptionalism” can survive at this rate?
The fact that Romney thinks retail jobs at big chains will solve our nation’s jobs problems tells us that he has no idea what those companies pay and how they structure their benefits and that he also has no idea what $19,000 buys a family of three.
Might I suggest he live off of the proceeds of just one of his vehicles, if he has one that has lost enough of its value to be worth only $19,000. Romney might want to just give that a shot — see how it feels to try to raise a kid on that and not have the connections and the cushion that Romney has always had to fall back on when he failed, thanks to his father’s hard work and appreciation for labor.
Of course, this is the Mitt Romney who it’s reported responded to an AP reporter’s question at a NASCAR race yesterday that he doesn’t follow NASCAR, but his friends own some of the teams.
Do you follow NASCAR? “Not as closely as some of the most ardent fans, but I have some great friends that are NASCAR team owners.”
Oh, right. And I’ll bet Mitt thinks everyone has access to NASCAR team owners who can drop $19,000 for a weekend trip. NASCAR fan, NASCAR team owner – what’s the diff, right?
This is the guy who says union workers make too much money and he’s going to make sure right to work states dominate. Romney said, “People are going to say you know what? If we want jobs, we’ve got to be right-to-work. And individual workers want to have the ability to choose whether they want to join a union or not. It’s extraordinary that we force people to join a union whether we want to or not.”
Yes, that’s right, people who are protected by unions so that they can make a living wage and get some health insurance feel that they are being “forced” to join whereas true freedom lovers would rather work for less in a right to work state with no benefits because heck, at least they are free to be taken advantage of by people like… Mitt Romney and they can go work to earn less than $20,000 a year at Staples as part of Romney’s “job creation” plan. Oh freedom!
We note that there are no states where union membership is “forced”, and Mitt might want to review federal law if indeed he is thinking of being President, for under federal labor law, workers cannot be legally required to join a union as part of a collective bargaining contract. Right to work states have a law that prohibits employers and employees in a unionized workplace from negotiating a “union security clause,” which essentially punishes those who pay into the union for representation because others can skate along for a free ride, taking the benefits without paying for the representation, thereby rejecting personal responsibility in what can only be seen as a Republican race to the bottom via pitting the working people against one another until they’re willing to work for dirt cheap for the 1%. The Maine Center for Economic Policy reported, “Fully half of all right-to-work states — 11 out of 22 — have poverty rates over 15 percent.”
The real point of right to work laws is to starve the unions, because pretty soon those California union members will get tired of paying for representation that a Georgia right to work state person benefits from while refusing to pay into, and as the pool grows smaller, so does the ability to collectively bargain. This benefits the 1%.
I wonder if Mitt Romney even has one clue about what workers make on average in right to work states versus strong union states, and I wonder if Mitt Romney can explain why he feels entitled to multiple Cadillacs but thinks workers should make a poverty level income that could not buy a Cadillac even if the family spent every penny that year on their vehicle. As Felix Salmon wrote in Reuters, “(W)e’ve reached the point at which 80% of workers don’t earn enough to support a good-sized family. How much further can that ratio rise, before we say ‘enough’?”
We should be saying “enough” rather than talking about how unions are ruining the economy or trying to sell a $9 an hour job at Staples as a good living. It’s not. It’s an honest living, and it’s hard work, but it’s not enough to raise a family on and it’s not an example of job creation for the middle class.
The more Mitt Romney talks, the harder it is to like him. And while he rides on the goodwill of his father’s name in Michigan, Willard Mitt Romney is obviously nothing like his father. It’s too bad, because George Romney was a good man who had seen hard times and understood the value and contribution of labor to both companies and a thriving economy. And yes, George was a Republican, back in the day when that meant something other than being a shill for big business and corporate tax dodgers.
Image: Money CNN
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.