Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mitt Romney's Wealth

The Republican nomination contest has been in high gear the past couple of weeks, and South Carolina's primary is today.

Regardless of what happens today, Romney is going to win the nomination. I agree with Jacob Weisberg and others who say that the media is drumming up Gingrich and Santorum momentum in a self-interested effort to prolong the race.

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Romney announced this week that his effective income tax rate is 15% because so much of his income is from capital gains and/or benefits from the carried interest loophole. Romney's 15% illustrates to me the absurdity of the tax code; I hope that if he becomes President, his personal situation -- and the attention it draws -- might encourage comprehensive reform.

On the issue of Romney's wealth, David Brooks had an interesting column yesterday tracing Romney's family history and arguing that his defining character trait is his (and his ancestors') ambition and determination:
Is Romney a spoiled, cosseted character? Has he been corrupted by ease and luxury? The notion is preposterous. All his life, Romney has been a worker and a grinder. He earned two degrees at Harvard simultaneously (in law and business). He built a business. He’s persevered year after year, amid defeat after defeat, to build a political career. Romney’s salient quality is not wealth. It is, for better and worse, his tenacious drive — the sort of relentlessness that we associate with striving immigrants, not rich scions.
Brooks may be getting at why Romney is less off-putting to me than I would expect. Although I have a hard time understanding why someone would be politically ambitious given our screwed up system, I think ambition is a valuable trait in a leader, and a lack of ambition (à la George W. Bush) can actually be more problematic.

513. Has there ever been a less pleasant Presidential contender than Newt Gingrich? He is mean and uninspiring. I don't think he was quite so mean in the 1990's -- back then, he was more of a caricature of a grouchy but ultimately well-meaning conservative.  

514. Who drops out first, Santorum or Gingrich? I think probably Santorum, since he has more of a future to consider.

515. The online piracy legislation has been in the news this week; Wikipedia "went dark" on Wednesday to protest the possible effects of the legislation, and an (alleged) pirate site called MegaUpload was shut down by the Department of Justice yesterday.  Do Obama and Romney support or oppose the legislation? Do I support or oppose it? So far, the fight strikes me as rich Hollywood corporations versus rich internet corporations, so I have a hard time viewing one side as more "right" than the other.

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This morning I looked back to see what I was writing about two Januarys ago. The big news at the time was Scott Brown's surprise victory in the Massachusetts election and its effect on Obama's health care reform effort. 

Here's an excerpt:

I think E.J. Dionne hit the nail on the head in a column this morning (here) when he argued that the Democrats in Congress dithered for too long on the health care bill -- timing and momentum do matter. Here's Dionne:
Brown's victory is also a rebuke to the Senate, which acted as though it had unlimited time to pass health-care legislation and ignored how foolish its listless ways appear to normal human beings. Like a bottle of milk kept out of the refrigerator too long, the health bill went sour for voters who felt they never heard an adequate explanation of what was in it.
As far as Scott Brown, I read on wikipedia that his day-job is real estate lawyer (!) and that he's a graduate of BC Law School. The oddest thing I've read about him yet is in Gail Collins's column this morning (here):
During Tuesday night’s victory speech, Brown veered off-script and offered up his college-student daughters to the crowd. (“Yes, they’re both available!”) As his girls laughed with embarrassment and his wife yelled at him to stop, Brown just dug deeper. (“Arianna’s definitely not available, but Ayla is.”)
OK, that's a bit of a bizarre opening statement on the national stage.

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The late-breaking news this afternoon is that Pelosi has announced the House will not attempt to pass the Senate version of the bill.

There's not been much talk, since Tuesday, about the possibility of swinging Susan Collins (to replace Paul Kirk's 60th vote), so I assume that the remaining options are reconciliation in the Senate or a significantly slimmed-down bill.

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