Saturday, September 15, 2012

Middle of the Road: Mitt Romney’s $250,000 Trap

With all the hoopla over Mitt Romney’s latest and most recent foreign policy gaffe, he did manage to say something during an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that caught my attention.  During an exchange between the two, Romney said that “middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less.”

Of course he never clarified whether he meant individual or household, so for the moment let’s assume he meant individual.  That would mean that in Mitt Romney’s mind, someone earning $250,000 is considered middle income.

So why is it a trap?  Because Romney knows he isn’t going to win by appealing to lower middle income earners and the working poor.  That ship sailed a long time ago.  What he’s hoping to do is split the middle class vote down the middle and by floating the idea that someone earning between $200,000 and $250,000 is middle income, he just might pull it off.

Spare me the statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau that state unequivocally that only 4% of households make over $200,000, or for that matter the righteous indignation of the great majority of you that you have never made six figures yet, much less $200K.  The problem with defining middle income is that it is open to interpretation.  One man’s middle income might be another man’s made in the shade.  It’s completely subjective, despite what the “experts” say.  That Mitt Romney gets this and most progressives don’t is disconcerting.

For instance, if I live in Montana, or Alabama, or Nebraska, or West Virginia, $200,000 is a king’s ransom; however, if I live in New York City, San Francisco or Los Angeles, $200,000 a year buys me a modest house and the privilege of being in debt for the next thirty years.  There are a number of people I know who made six figures last year, and while none of them earned between $200,000 and $250,000, that goal is not completely out of reach.  I dare say none of them would classify themselves as rich and to a man and woman all of them would steadfastly maintain they are as much a part of the middle class as those who earned under $100K.

The difference between someone earning a million dollars a year and $250,000 is far greater than the gap between a $90,000 earner and a $250,000 earner, and I'm not referring to the actual dollar amounts.  The simple truth is that over the last twenty years, with the rising cost of housing and increased property taxes, the term comfortable ain’t what it used to be.  It’s getting harder and harder for people of all incomes to make ends meet.

And that’s why I’m concerned that Mitt Romney, of all people, could possibly strike a nerve within this demographic.  Yes, it’s probably true that it will go unnoticed thanks to his John Bolton impersonation the other day over Libya and Egypt, and for that we can all be grateful.

Because it would be a tragedy of epic proportions if King John came off looking like Robin Hood.



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