We’re still shaking our heads at Mitt Romney’s caught-on-tape comments to wealthy donors, in which he said that 47 percent of Americans think of themselves as “victims” and are “dependent on government.” These comments really say a lot about how Romney thinks about the economy, and about politics.
But Romney’s comments yesterday about teachers—made in a public forum, not a quiet room with people who paid $50,000 to be there—really illustrate how little he understands what working people go through.
The problem is that Mitt Romney isn’t just hostile to government programs that help lift people out of poverty and give them a shot at a decent life. He is, if anything, even more hostile to working people’s ability to get ahead for themselves, through bargaining collectively.
Romney was a strong supporter of Ohio’s SB5, the unpopular bill that would have stripped collective bargaining rights away from thousands of Ohio workers. He endorsed SB5 even as it went down to stunning defeat at the ballot box. He’s still using unions as a punching bag on the campaign trail.
And yesterday, Mitt Romney even said that unions representing teachers shouldn’t be allowed to donate to political campaigns. Romney has previously said that he supports the ability to make unlimited donations to campaigns, and he’s gotten some $28 million in donations from finance-industry players like Goldman Sachs and Bank of America. But apparently when a campaign contribution comes from hundreds of thousands of teachers pooling small contributions, it suddenly becomes a conflict of interest?
The freedom to form unions is a vital part of a healthy economy. Collective bargaining doesn’t just raise wages and benefits for union members—it boosts them for everyone. The erosion of collective bargaining—of power in the workplace and in the political process for regular working people—has contributed to inequality and a shrinking middle class.
So Romney thinks it’s a terrible thing for people to get a helping hand from government—but he also seems to think it’s awful for working people to join together to get better wages, better benefits or a louder voice in the political process.
He’s just incapable of thinking about the economy beyond how it affects people as wealthy as him.