What really makes Mitt Romney tick
|Hard work, providence, a rich daddy...|
Earlier today, I wrote about the many gaffes, missteps, and otherwise revealing incidents that plagued Romney's trip to Israel, including his suggestion that Israeli/Jewish success and Palestinian (apparent) lack of success can be attributed to culture and the "hand of providence" (i.e., Israel thrives because it has a culture that allows it to, whereas the Palestinians do not; moreover, God is with Israel, directing its success, and against the Palestinians).
This is wrong for so many reasons, not the least of which is that these two peoples are not living in a vacuum but rather in a devastating situation in which one, the supposedly successful one, is militarily occupying the other. Indeed, as Dan Amira wrote at New York's Daily Intel, "a recent [World Bank] report on the economies of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip... concludes that the 'major constraints to private sector activity are the tight Israeli restrictions, and growth will not be sustainable until Palestinians have access to resources and are allowed to move freely.'"
Now, clearly, Romney's goal wasn't to provide an accurate analysis of the situation -- nor to offer a thorough, nuanced understanding of the two books he cited (and misrepresented), Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel and David Landes's The Wealth and Poverty of Nations -- but to score political points. And if that meant insulting an entire people, so be it. As Amira's colleague Jon Chait points out, though, "Romney has expressed versions of this belief over and over, including in his book. It appears to be a foundational belief of his."
And just what is that foundational belief? "The shorthand version he offers up on the campaign trail is little more than a modernized version of western self-congratulation: Those of us who are rich owe our success to hard work and strong values, and those who are poor have only themselves to blame."
This is "western self-congratulation," to be sure, but for Romney it is also self-congratulation, a self-validation of himself and his values. Israel is rich and Palestine is not, owing to hard work and values, but so too is Romney rich because of his own hard work and values, while those beneath him on the socio-economic ladder, which is to say almost everyone else on the planet, just isn't as good as he is. (Perhaps he also has the "hand of providence" helping him out?) It's a foundational belief -- and also the basis for so much of his self-aggrandizing plutocratic policy agenda (e.g., lower taxes on the rich, like himself; disregard for the plight of the poor; America as crusader for righteousness).