Here again Latitude News synthesizes global headlines to distill a sense of the rest of the world’s perspective on the United States.
From France to Australia to Argentina, political writers have begun to sink their teeth into the U.S. presidential election. They’ve entered the fray at an exciting time: class warfare is raging on the campaign trail, and presumptive Republican candidate Mitt Romney is currently under heavy fire.
Mitt Romney, his wife, Ann, and their grandchildren wave to supporters at the Fourth of July Parade in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire on July 4th, 2012. We do not know if the Romneys own a controlling share of the Wolfeboro Trolley Company. (Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi)
The headline of France 24.com writer Jon Frosch’s piece says it all: “Is Mitt Romney too rich for the White House?” Frosch ponders whether Romney’s bank account is too big for him to win the support of American voters who are facing the toughest economic times in memory.
Frosch’s piece is interesting because it’s the first time I’ve seen the full scope of Romney’s wealth in unapologetically damning back and white. He bluntly points out Romney’s riches as revealed in a litany of news reports about the former Massachusetts governor.
The story notes how Romney recently earned $2 million from his former firm, Bain & Company. (Frosch didn’t include revelations that Romney was technically at Bain for a few years longer that he first claimed.) It relates how Romney has held $30 million in a Swiss bank account and, oddly, millions of dollars in IRAs where in theory one is not supposed to be able to put millions of dollars. It mentions his many houses, from California to New Hampshire. And so on.
While the report notes that President Barack Obama has around $7.3 million, mostly from book royalties, Frosch says the election is becoming a referendum on how Americans will interpret Romney’s wealth.
The Obama camp is hoping Romney’s aura of privilege, excess, and evasiveness clings to him right up until the election in November. Romney, meanwhile, will continue trying to convince Americans that his ability to make money and manage a big company have prepared him to give the economy a much-needed kick start.
So, American readers, which one will it be?
Tax that class
Writing in The Conversation, a site featuring independent analysis, commentary and news by Australian academics and researchers, Nicole Hemmer argues that Obama is using tax policy to cast Romney’s riches in the worst light possible:
…why tax policy? Wouldn’t something like a jobs bill or major infrastructure package be more appropriate, given the bleak job reports of the past few months? Such bills appeal to Obama’s liberal base, but it’s his tax policy that positions Obama to win the up-for-grabs voters in the middle.
By proposing that Congress allow the so-called Bush tax cuts to expire for the wealthiest American families while retaining those for families earning less than $250,000 a year, Hemmer writes, Obama is pursuing a three-pronged strategy.
First, the president’s tax proposal paints himself as a deficit hawk (i.e. tax cuts add to the U.S. deficit). Second, it forces Romney to oppose him and thereby align himself with conservative Republicans who refuse to even contemplate tax increases. And, third, it casts more light on the focus of Frosch’s story: Romney’s untold wealth.
Hemmer concludes with a thesis similar to Frosch’s, saying Obama is crafting a choice for voters:
For Obama to win in November, the election cannot be a referendum on his first term. It has to instead be a choice between two competing visions of America. On Monday, [when Obama unveiled his proposal] the president made it clear what he believes those visions to be: a government that protects the vast middle class from continued economic loss, or one that sacrifices it for the top two percent.
So, American readers, which one will it be?
Patricio Navia of the Buenos Aires Herald takes a slightly different tack, saying American voters are less liable to cast their ballots based on the choices the candidates present for them but rather on how the candidates present those choices.
In this regard, in part because of his wealth, Romney is at a disadvantage, argues Navio:
Romney will not win if the election turns out to be a personality contest between Obama and his opponent. Because his own professional experience puts him at a distance of the typical middle class American, Romney will find it difficult to transform the election into a curriculum vitae contest. Despite having an admittedly unusual upbringing and going through some complicated periods in his young life, Barack Obama appears as a candidate much closer to the typical American than his Republican rival.
Navio writes that, in the event that Romney succeeds in cutting through the fog generated by his finances and convincing voters that he, as a successful businessman, is the best-equipped to lead the country out of the economy, Obama has the Plan B option of turning the presidential election into a popularity contest. The wooden Romney might not be able to shake that depiction, says Navio.
So, American readers, which candidate would you rather have a beer with?