“If your daughter’s in Cotillion and your son’s enrolled at Choate
and you wife is worth a million I’m sure I’ll get your vote”
Washington’s Grid Iron Club parody March 1988
Do you call dinner supper, or refer to lunch as dinner? Indeed do you call supper tea? Even more telling do you worry? When you drink the drink tea, rather than eating the meal tea, is it Darjeeling, Builders or Char? Do you buy your undergunders at M & S? Do you feel regional accents are common? I only ask because my mother, an incorrigible old snob, could parse social contacts like an old pro and was always deeply concerned with the niceties of being middle class.
So, it was with some interest that I noted the speech by Mitt Romney that he was like everyone else it seems “Middle class”. Americans, so we are told, usually magisterially by visitors on their high horse, are unconcerned with “class” as a method of social division. This popular “truth” is far from accurate and holds as much credence as John Adam’s line about politics in America being free of heredity. America is every bit as riven by class divides as either Britain or France. It’s just that unlike Britain they don’t bang on about it all the time. Until this week that is when a window was opened by Mitt’s crass nonsense in claiming that he too is “middle class” and thus by extension feels their pain.
It’s difficult to define what it is to be “middle-class”. Some economists describe those earning from say $50,000 to 80,000 as being “middle class” which feels a little on the low side to me. Mitt says it’s anyone earning under $200,000. Hmm. Rich Hall, one of my favourite American comedians says, with his usual dryness, that if when you go to work, if the building has your name on it then you are upper class, if your name is on your desk then you are middle class, and if your name is on your shirt then you are working class.
Some like Mitt try to say 85-90% of Americans are now middle class which is a nice fantasy if it makes everyone happy.
To be middle-class these days is to say that you are worried about paying the mortgage, to worry that the fact that the value of the home keeps falling, it is to be frightened that this damned recession – brought about by the very party that Mitt represents – threatens your job. The middle class are squeezed. They don’t get rises. Rises are reserved for those company directors who come from the same pond as Mitt. Middle class people find their property is worth less each week, their savings are eroded, investments made over a lifetime of hard work are being burned in front of their eyes by the idiot savants of Wall Street every day, and as for medical provision and college fees, don’t even ask. Really dont ask or you will be there all night!
Mitt Romney however has a personal wealth of anywhere from $190,000,000 to $250,000,000 as revealed in his candidate disclosure to Federal Electoral Commission, which I would suggests puts him well north of most Americans.
And as for being a regular guy, well he has always lived a life far removed from “middle-class”. Our Sanford and Harvard Business school graduate, whose father was Governor and Presidential contender, comes of a long line of Mormon royalty and has Mayflower ancestry at the top of his tree. Just like you eh?
Middle class Mitt? Dream on.
Copyright David Macadam 2011