It was a privilege, Mitt Romney
"1 simple rule to making a fortune overnight," the pop-up ad teased.
Perfect. That's what greeted me when I went to open the Web release of The
I didn't bother to find out what that simple rule is. I think I already know: Pick a rich daddy. It's not the only way to make a fortune, but it certainly is a simple one.
That was on my mind as I perused the
A useful source of reflection on wealth and opportunity is the report "Born on Third Base: What the
To begin with, the report's authors take
One inescapable conclusion is that it is much easier to make more wealth if you had a nice chunk handed to you at birth or by marriage. Add in tax loopholes and shelters and preferences for investment income, and watch the riches grow.
"Born on Third Base" fleshes out another factor -- social capital -- that plays a crucial role in the success of the elite. You may not inherit much money, or any at all, but still get a serious hand up based on who your daddy knows, what the family business is, how introductions are made to the right people, access to financial and political patrons, and other difficult-to-quantify resources.
Social capital is a bit like good health. If you possess it, it's easy to dismiss its value. If you don't, life can seem like a struggle to survive. It is not necessarily something to be ashamed of; after all, some measure of privilege is inevitable in any society.
However, social capital and other sorts of privilege become noxious when those who are blessed with them are incapable of recognizing their unearned advantage. An attitude of entitlement without honest reflection is especially dangerous in a leader.
He concluded his infamous fundraising dinner remarks with this observation: "Everything that Ann and I have, we earned the old-fashioned way, and that's by hard work." As if boarding school, paid-for college education, growing up the son of an auto executive and governor in America meant nothing. As if gaming the American tax code added nothing to his considerable fortune.
We Americans like to think of our country as a place where hard work and ambition are rewarded with prosperity, where the disadvantages of birth can be overcome. We may dream of wealth, but what most of us work for is security -- to get to a better, more certain place. Unfortunately, tens of millions of us have lost that. And more and more of us are abandoning our faith in upward mobility.
The 2012 presidential race, perhaps more than any other in recent history, needs to be about why some people in this country are doing far better than others. It's not all about hard work and perseverance. It's about whether our political system is structured to spread opportunity or to preserve it for the few.
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It was a privilege, Mitt Romney | Politics
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