ESCANABA - Words move people to action. Supposedly, the Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, was told in the late 1700s that the people had no bread to which she responded, "(l)et them eat cake." That phrase symbolized the French aristocracy's obliviousness towards the plight of the French people.
In 1964 Lyndon Johnson gave a speech in New Orleans. True then, as now, citizens often voted against their own interests. He told the crowd that whenever politicians wanted them to vote against their own interest they would say "nigra, nigra, nigra."
Now, instead of overt racism candidates use code words evoking racism. Newt Gingrich referred to President Obama as the food stamp president. His goal was to connect the feelings of some whites that food stamp recipients are black.
In his first speech after being nominated Ronald Reagan launched his bid for the presidency in Philadelphia, Mississippi extolling states' rights, code for discriminatory laws, in a county known for the murder of civil rights workers 14 years earlier.
In his quest for the presidency Mitt Romney uses his code phrase. Instead of saying "nigra, nigra, nigra" Mr. Romney accuses President Obama of class warfare. The phrase is potent because we wish to be classless. We reject dukes, duchesses or countesses. Our forbearers rejected royalty. Royalty abused them. Suggesting class is un-American.
Today people use wealth to exert power to accumulate more wealth, plutocrats. Mitt Romney is the poster plutocrat. A few weeks ago he told a forum "I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. You know, if someone doesn't give me the good service I need, I want to say, 'You know, I'm going to get someone else to provide this service to me."
Later Mr. Romney said his statement was taken out of context. He said he was talking about health insurance. The use of the word "fire" connotes an employment relationship. He did not say "cancel" or "change."
Mr. Romney wants to eliminate health care reform that passed two years ago. Health care reform prohibits insurance companies for refusing coverage to people with preexisting conditions. If Mr. Romney succeeds people with a preexisting condition will not be able to "fire" their health insurer because they will not be insurable.
Last week Newt Gingrich said he would colonize the moon in his second term as president. Mr. Romney said that if someone came to him with that idea he would "fire" him.
During one of the presidential forums Mr. Romney challenged one of his opponents to a $10,000 bet and when talking about his annual speaking fees he said he didn't earned "very much." Mr. Romney's "not much" was $374,000.00.
Money has been a central theme in Mr. Romney's life. While young people will take photos with friends making funny faces or in funny clothes Mr. Romney and his friends had a photo taken with money stuffed in their pockets. campaign2012.washingtonexaminer.com/blogs/beltway-confidential/romney-defends-raining-money-bain-capital-photo/264611
Being wealthy does not mean that a person lacks empathy. The Roosevelts of the 20th Century pursued policies to improve the conditions of mankind. President Kennedy was wealthy but promoted policies to even the playing field between the 1 percent and the 99 percent.
Mr. Romney attended Cranbrook Academy in Bloomfield Hills. Parents pay Cranbrook $28,500 for their children to attend high school, $38,500 if they board at the school. The school seeks contributions because tuition falls $2,500 short of paying the costs. Cranbrook spends more than four times the amount Michigan delivers to public schools for their students.
Someone from Mr. Romney's background could feel special and privileged. The Vietnam war raged when Mr. Romney attended Stanford. Stanford students demonstrated against the draft. Mr. Romney counter-picketed supporting the draft. He dropped out of Stanford after two semesters. He lost his student draft deferment when he dropped out of school but the Mormon church designated him a minister and he avoided the draft. He was sent to France. One cannot help but think he was as interested in saving himself as he was the French.
While Americans lose their homes Mr. Romney lives in four. With Americans homeless, unemployed and uninsured one can hear Marie Antoinette's echo in Mr. Romney's four homes, "(l)et them eat cake."
EDITOR'S NOTE - Richard Clark, Escanaba, practices personal injury law throughout the Upper Peninsula. He can be reached at uppermichiganlaw.com/richard-clark.html