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Becky Sarwate

Becky Sarwate
Chicago, Illinois, USA
December 31
Communications Manager
Insurance Brokerage
I am about as liberal as they come, and please don't expect to change me, though I do sometimes sneak up on you with a surprise (pro-death penalty, for instance). Although gainfully employed as a full-time Marketing Manager, I keep my toes in the freelance pool as a journalist, theater critic, blogger and proud President of the Illinois Woman's Press Association. To read my work on this page is to find vignettes about Chicago, Hollywood, my own turbulent life, and of course, my number one passion: local and national politics.


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MARCH 13, 2012 8:58PM

Romney: GOP Indifference Toward the Middle Class Personified

Rate: 13 Flag



 Last 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.

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Great post. Thinks are heating up and everyone is feeling the angst about their situation and how the GOP is in lala land. There is a war going on in this country. Just because they aren't making any money off the goods of war here, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, they aren't interested. We have to start hitting them where their lies and greed really get affected. Oh, skip the lies, it is the greed.
Excellent read! Funny how the pundits keep saying that Mitt needs to loosen up and just be himself. The way I see it, his so called gaffes (and they have been plentiful) paint a very accurate picture of the real Mitt. For him saying his wife has two Caddys is akin to saying the family has two color TVs. The world of wealth and privilege is the only world he truly understands and the one he will always protect. But if he is the nominee, poor and lower middle class folks will vote against their self-interest...hoping against hope that they will someday breathe that rarefied air.
And what, Rebecca, you'd like him to say? That the government's going to pay for the education as well, as it should, you believe, pay for medical care, for contraceptives, for mortgages that people couldn't afford, because they wanted to buy houses too expansive for them in the first place, and for many more other things? Please, explain to me what Romney should've said. In France, students go to Sorbonna, one of the best school in the world, and they pay very little. But... and there is always that but... they have to take 4 or 5 exams and be very good at those exams. Would you imagine our kids caming from our "progressive" schools where they are taught everything but things they need for life, and taking serious tests in math, language, history, etc.? Why you, people, write these things? Just to see your words typed here. Words that do not make any sense! You, so called liberals, are so envy of other people successes. Let me tell you something: I'd like to drive Mercedes. I really love the car! I want it big and shiny. What a heck - I WANT CONVERTIBLE! Give me the damn car! I worked all my life, I paid all my bills, I did whatever I could to have a nice life, and I still can't afford one car I wanted all my life! Take my Toyota and give me a Mercedes! What? You're not giving it to me?- I'll proclaim a WAR on you!
You have got to be kidding me. Obama just gave you Obamacare, and now you want ObamaEd?

Since everybody has got to eat how about ObamaFood, and or ObamaShelter so we can all have million dollar homes in Chicago?

The reason you can't see with your rose colored liberal blinders on that these factory workers liked what Romney was saying is that they know there has to be an end of free everything and a beginning of personal responsibility. If you make bad decisions then the blame is on you. Even if you don't bad things happen to good people. That's life and I'm sorry it can't be perfect for you and everybody else.
Catnlion- no one's asking for a million dollar house. We're asking that the policymakers who are charged with the legacy of a state college system originated to provide "affordable" degrees of caliber, with the intention of generating and sustaining a skilled employment economic structure, realize that when tuitions rise at a rate faster than wages are able to pay for them the economic stucture it was designed to maintain will implode upon itself.
To catnlion and ingaz--all she's saying is that students today want what yesterday's students got. The following link shows the rising cost of college compared to median income, from 1988 to 2008.

No one's asking for a free lunch, or a Cadillac. People just want to be able to afford to get an education. People who went to college in the 60s, 70s, and 80s love to sit back and say "In my day, I put myself through college, so these lazy kids today can do the same!" Do the math. As the revenues to states drop, the tuition burden on students rises. Is this really the country we want, where only the elite can afford an education, and everyone else starts out life under crushing debt?
froggy, I agree - the tuitions just went wild, but so did the prices for food, gasoline, phone services, etc. And we are so deep in debt, it's scary even to think what our kids would be left with. But in regard to the education, if a child did good at school, STUDIED, he/she would be able to get scholarships and manage to get to the desirable school. Or, as Romney said, start at the cheaper school, STUDY, and then get a scholarship and transfer. Everything comes to the one and only one thing: personal responsibility. To go to college, spend four years drinking and partying is a waist of money. If you have parents who are willing to pay for it, that's fine, if not - bad luck. And maybe, just maybe college is not for everyone. After all, Bill Gates did not graduate from the college and he did quite nicely, right?
Froggy - The OP implied that a 4hool will0K / year state school will get you a minimum wage job. Well in TX a 40K school would be UT. And no one considers it a shabby school It is a top notch school. OP wants that for free.

I went to school in La in the mid 70s. The cost was $700 a semester including room an board. This school currently costs about 5K for the same. That is 40K for a degree.

I could not got out of state or the major school , LSU, because it was too expansive for my parents. Tulane and Loyola were certainly not workable. So it was the regional state school.

I was very successful in high tech. Many of my friends are earning good incomes in all different disciplines. Brother in chemistry, friend in speech therapy. One is a public school teacher in an even smaller town and makes 65K plus good benefits and retirement. Few of us had any extra money.
All of us worked summers and breaks and during school.
If it had been available, none of us would have had cell phones or cable TV or computers. Certainly did not have a microwave of a Betamax. We drove clunker cars lucky to make the hour trip home occasionally to New Orleans or Baton Rouge. We were not there because we could not get in
better schools. Those that lived in the country wanted to be near by. Those of us that lived in the big cities wanted to get away from home and could not afford LSU.

Some kids came from better off parents and had more luxuries but the cost of school was the same. Few left with substantial debt. We were from middle class and we went whee we could afford to go.

My little school has been one of the fastest growing in population in the country for the last 10 years.

The OP seems to think it is either Ivy league or the best state school as a miserable second place. That is just not correct.

My point is this. For a southern boy good schools would be UT, LSU, Alabama, Ole Miss, GA St., UNC. These are top notch state schools and cost big money. I guess in the north those would be like Ohio St. , Michigan, WI, etc , etc.

No, not everyone can afford those schools. And not everyone can get in anyway.

You have to choose well. My small school was rated in the top 5 in computer science in the country. Above LSU and UT and many private schools.

You have to find the school and what to study. A liberal arts or general studies degree, even from Harvard, will likely not get you much in terms of a job.

Has it crossed your mind why major state schools cost so much? Professors make too much money for teaching the same think for a lifetime. I don''t think either early American history or calculus has changed since I went to school.

So some math professor gets a 150K salary and great benefits for teaching how to calculate the area under a curve for 30 years. I could teach it. Anyone with an undergraduate degree in math, science or engineering can teach it.

And at least I had PhD's teaching me in almost everything. In big schools today you are probably lucky to see one.

Basically the system is broken and kids expectations of free fancy degrees from prestigious schools is out of whack.
Most people clap when they think they are supposed to. Seeding the crowd is common. Audience clapping is often no more spontaneous than a TV laugh track.
These students should simply work their way through college the way Mitt Romney did: by periodcally selling the stocks his father gave him. I suspect that's Mitt's idea of "working" your way through college. Why doesn't everybody do it?
Here in Finland education is free including the university. It's an investment the society makes in the abilities of its citizens to produce the most competent and useful citizens. That's because the most valuable resource a country has is the capabilities of it's citizens and it pays off for the whole country, just as investment in the military is for the benefit of the country as a whole. The GI bill which paid for the education of the returning veterans after WWII was a very wise investment and it paid off to the entire country handsomely. To not see to it that the development of the capability of all citizens is taken care of is to toss away a very valuable treasure.
The concept that it is necessary for a public to be literate, to be informed to appreciate the origins and aims of society and to be able to critically evaluate goods and services and the people involved in controlling society and keeping it in good operating order is a basic in maintaining and improving the functioning dynamic that permits society to operate. This is not a privilege, it is a necessity for all citizens. Without it society could not function.
When I attended City College in New York there was no tuition. It produced some of the finest and most skilled people in society and their skills and efforts gave them the opportunity to ear enough money to pay the taxes necessary to keep the system running and provide the same opportunities to new qualified students to enter the same processes. This was not a privilege or what today is termed an entitlement, it was a basic that enriched society and kept things running. To use money to deprive all citizens of the benefits of education to themselves and to society is a social mistake of monstrous proportions.
Given the poor writing skills of baltimore aureole, I’m certain that he would have benefited from a “worthless” liberal arts degree. I have no problem having part of my taxes pay for baltimore’s additional (and needed) education. This may even help open his eyes to the world around him.
On additional point.There seems to be no objection to subsidizing businesses such as the nuclear power industry, the fossil fuel industry and others in the interest of producing future wealth and new advances in society so that all might benefit. Why is it such an outrageous concept that the populace itself out of which all wealth is produced is somehow unworthy of government investment to enrich the nation?
@Jan Sand,
Thank you for your excellent comment. It ties in to the home schooling issue as well. Do any of the posters on OS read any history at all? Jefferson's views regarding education are well documented.

One of the things that goes along with what you are saying, that people here overlook, or don't want to see, when they complain about "subsidizing businesses " is the "tax breaks" big oil etc are the same ones that the little business man gets. They are nothing special.

Now before someone shots themselves in the foot, yes there are special tax advantages for different businesses. For example the gas station may sell gasoline but they don't drill the wells or have pipelines, but lots of businesses have something special for their industry.

People here seem to not like oil companies but I've not heard what they would do without them, nor have they quit using their hated products. What's the term for that?
The effect of corporate welfare and tax cuts for the rich are nowhere more pronounced than in public education. When Prop. 13 passed in California, anybody who could gain acceptance to the University system could easily afford it. Now, you have be be accepted into Stanford, or another college with a huge endowment, to be able to afford the enormous costs, if your parents can't foot the bill. I understand your phrase "two Cadillacs in the driveway." We know what paid for them -- the money that used to send people to college.
Great, well-written post. Loved this: "...these folks were predisposed to drink in the bland Kool-Aid that is the Mitt brew."
I really do think that it would be better off if the middle class did not exist, or that people stopped thinking that it still did. There is only the confrontation between a very small group of very rich and powerful people, and the vast mass of poor people. There's nothing else.


That you cannot perceive the pervasive destructive influence of the oil companies who are a major component of, not only the frightful government policies domestically but the overwhelming murderous military adventures in the Middle East from the installation of the horrifying Shah of Iran to the resulting counter-reaction of the basically insane current theocracy there which is driving a totally nutty Israelis to wave atomic armaments at the world and threaten WWIII indicates an astounding lack of comprehending reality . To say the totally unjustified subsidies to a corporate monstrosity drowning in wealth is equivalent to government subsidies to struggling small businesses is equivalent is way beyond weird.
The current Krugman column at is pertinent in this matter. The Koch brothers whose fortune is derived largely from petroleum have a strong responsibility for the existence of the chattering lunacy of the Tea Party and the troop of babbling baboons now posing as presidential eligibles. That a catastrophic sector of the American voting public is accepting these tissue thin frauds as viable political agents is clear witness to the almost total disintegration of the US education system in the area to confer sanity and reason and general awareness of reality on a major sector of the American voting public.
Ask the right question and the scales fall away... "Is there anything this former moderate, somewhat socially liberal fraud won't say to get the nomination?" That says it all.

It has become abundantly clear there's only one thing Mitt Romney is really passionate about, one thing he really wants that his money can't buy, and one man in the world he really envies: the one who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.

Good post.
And this is just the tip of that iceberg. This is from my own experience. I went to one of those "Private Technical Certificate Schools over 25 years ago. Ultimately the school left the state is was in with the money and records under the cloud of an investigation by the state AG for Criminal Fraud. They bilked Students/Taxpayers for many hundreds of thousands, if not millions during the 4 years they operated. The Dept. of Education's stance? They went and are continuing to go after the students, not the criminals that robbed them. I wonder how Mr Tool feels about that?
It sounds to me like you are just a part of the "culture of envy." :) I loved the picture with the well-placed neon've certainly stirred up a hornet's nest!
First, please pardon me for this lengthy comment. I would say the following to that college student.

Yes, the cost of education is expensive. Yes, I realize the cost of tuition when I first went to school is a fraction of what it is today. Yes, I realize students need help to get the education they so desperately are seeking. But, no! I will not condemn Mr. Romney for his comments or his position.

It isn’t easy to make it through school. But, no one said it was supposed to be easy. Anything…ANYTHING…of value costs a great price. The work and toil we exert to pay that price is testament to its value. And, somehow the prize is much more cherished when we have to pay for it. So no! I will not pay for your education. It’s not that I don’t want to or even that I can’t. It’s that it is much more valuable and precious when you earn it.

When I began my college education, tuition for a state school was about $900 per semester. That’s a far cry from the $4,500 it takes today (look it up—the average cost per semester in the US is $4,500.) From just that perspective, one can certainly understand the angst of the writer and the lowly student. But, remember, when I began my college education the average annual salary was about $6,000 per month. I know; that’s how much I brought home to my wife and infant. To further set the perspective, our first home came with a purchase price of $13,500. The poverty level today, is measured around $22,000; the middle income today, of which is the target of this article, ranges from $22,000 to $90,000—much more than my simple $6,000 in 1970.

My point is—it was not easy getting an education when I did it, and I have my Masters. But, it was not given to me. I worked through two-year colleges, transfers, scholarships, and 2nd jobs to get mine—no loans. Sometimes that’s what you have to do. I don’t mind my taxes going to help students today with some of the load. I’m just not going to be happy with paying most of the burden. That’s all Mitt is saying. And, although he came from privilege, I didn’t. Nevertheless we can still arrive at the same conclusion.
Great post. Maybe we should tell Romney's survival of the fittest oligarchy that they can have their pound of flesh but not one drop of blood. If they want to hire any of those workers who've gone to public schools or public universities then Romney's buddies should pony up and cover the total cost of those public investments they're piggy-backing on. Either that, or they can grow their own educated workforce. Otherwise its they who are having their college debts forgiven by us.
"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."

You are so right. I hope the spell is broken. On the other hand, I'm not convinced the Dems are much better. . . [r]
@PlannerDan---Is that a typo? In some golden past day the annual salary was $72K a year. I and most people I know would jump for joy at hearing there is a job paying that much....most people make far less than that.
@rrbill: Nope, its not a typo. The problem is that no one seems to really know where middle income is. When you do some research, most folks are surprised. Here's something to consider:

Economist Gary Burtless of Brookings Institution indicates that the middle class encompasses from one-half the median income to twice the median income. This would make the middle class income range $25,117 to $100,466.

MIT economist Frank Levy that families in their prime earning years are middle class if they fall between $30,000 and $90,000.

The National Center for Education Statistics defined middle income to range from $35,000 and $69,999 in 1994. That was eight years ago.

Even the US Census Bureau doesn't have an official definition of middle income, although they tend to use the middle quintile, which is families with annual incomes between about $40,000 and $65,000. In some cases they've expanded it to include the fourth quintile, yielding a range of $40,000 to $95,000

Last, take a look at this chart (if I can make the link work):

Its interesting that many of us make our arguments as to what is typical of the middle class, and yet, no one seems to be able to determine just where that is.
"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."

One would certainly hope so, but the evidence suggests otherwise, suggests it quite strongly. Blue-collar workers have been voting against their own interests since at least 1968, and a majority of them have supported Republicans in nearly every election since. A couple of elections may be dismissed as an anomaly, several as a trend -- but after fifty years, it's probably safe to assume that blue-collar workers have become like the pig in the old story about ham and eggs -- the chicken just has to lay an egg, but the pig is committed.