This week Republican primary co-front runner Mitt Romney demonstrated once again that neither he, nor his increasingly radical political party give a fig about the quality of life of America’s middle class. Multiple media outlets reported Romney’s compassionately conservative response to a struggling college student who queried him at a town hall meeting about the profoundly unaffordable costs of a college degree in the 21st Century.
My favorite headline came courtesy of New York Magazine writer Jonathan Chait: “Mitt: Pay for Your Own Damn College!” Chait distilled Romney’s heartless rejoinder rather well. What Mittens actually said was:
It would be popular for me to stand up and say I’m going to give you government money to pay for your college, but I’m not going to promise that. Don’t just go to one that has the highest price. Go to one that has a little lower price where you can get a good education. And hopefully you’ll find that. And don’t expect the government to forgive the debt that you take on.
Charles Dickens first published his classic novel David Copperfield in 1850, featuring the villainous Uriah Heep, described in a Wikipedia entry as a character “notable for his cloying humility, obsequiousness, and insincerity, making frequent references to his own ‘humbleness.’ His name has become synonymous with being a yes man.”
It’s tempting to believe Dickens may have been clairvoyant in his creation of Heep, conjuring a future in which a quarter of a billionaire automaton can make like a living, breathing regular guy. I thought that the gold standard for radical right wing pandering had been provided by “Maverick” John McCain during the 2008 campaign, but McCain’s about faces on issues like immigration in order to secure his party’s trust simply don’t do Romney’s kowtowing justice. Is there anything this former moderate, somewhat socially liberal fraud won’t say to get the nomination?
In this case however, we have reason to suspect that Mittens said exactly what he means. After all, why should he care? He and every friend he has possess the cash and the Ivy League legacies to ensure that their offspring will go to the higher learning institutions of their choosing. It’s not they who will be saddled with debt after graduation. And if that “little lower price” degree from a state school that Romney so generously recommends for you should still run an average of $40,000 before factoring in room and board, well you’ve got two choices don’t you? A lifetime of debt or minimum wage. It’s your problem for not being born rich.
What’s perhaps more telling is Chait’s observation that Romney’s comments at the town hall were met with “sustained applause from the crowd at a high-tech metals assembly factory.” Now I am going to go out on a limb and hazard that attendees at a Romney gathering are going to lean mostly right, so ok, these folks were predisposed to drink in the bland Kool-Aid that is the Mitt brew. But factory workers cheering a candidate who unapologetically snubs his nose at the idea of affordable, universal education? How much longer can Republicans expect they are going to find willing accomplices within the hard working, low paid ranks of their base? Sooner or later the spell will be broken. It has to be.
Bold attacks on middle class infrastructure is nothing new to the GOP. You won’t hear them complaining about the stagnant wages of workers while CEO pay has skyrocketed. They have no qualms touting party planks that champion the withholding of rights from everyone from members of the gay community to females who wish to make decisions regarding their own bodies. But the blatant, sound-bite ready pride with which these candidates can look a student dead in the eye and tell them to toughen up, while boasting about the two Cadillacs in the driveway, is just sickening.