Romney Doesn’t Carry Small Change

December 12th, 2011 at 4:46 pm | 47 Comments |

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Mitt Romney’s proposed $10,000 bet with Rick Perry has earned a lot of criticism for the candidate. Given that it was a rhetorical device (albeit a clumsy one) rather than an actual bet and given that a $10,000 is not really a lot of money for a presidential campaign, I’m personally inclined to give Romney a pass.

That said, another story that got much less media attention at the time it happened does really seem to show that he is out of touch on financial issues. Here are the basics: during a campaign stop, a small boy offered Romney a small bird he had folded out of a dollar bill, Romney glanced in his wallet and, at first, the Washington Post reports, could only find a $100 bill. (He eventually found a $5 to give to the boy.)

Here’s why it shows him to be out of touch: everyone I know gets money out of ATMs and, except in casinos, I’ve never seen an ATM that dispenses $100 bills. Such bills, furthermore, are hugely inconvenient in real life: its difficult to make change for them and , because they’re so rarely passed, merchants will often give them a once-over. And, in any case, since most that operate on a cash-only/cash mostly basis–parking lots, taxi cabs, newsstands–sell things that cost well less than $100, nearly all $100 bills get “broken” into smaller denominations very quickly.

This leaves two major reasons why an ordinary American outside of a casino would have a $100 bill in his or her wallet. First, the person is poor or unsophisticated or involved in the underground economy, does not deal with banks, and thus needs to pay major bills like rent in cash. Obviously, none of these things describe Romney.

Second–and this is my point–that person doesn’t actually dirty his or her hands by purchasing anything but, instead, has a staff that picks up restaurant checks, drives him everywhere, arranges for private planes when a car won’t do, and fetches the large cinnamon dulce lattes from Starbucks. Thus, when the person sends a staffer to the bank to get “walking around money” the $100 bill that comes back just sits in the wallet for weeks. The later very probably describes Romney and, more than his bet with Perry, it indicates that he’s out of touch.

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47 Comments so far ↓

  • Reflection Ephemeral

    I’m sure that this is all true about Romney, but I’m not sure what the larger implications are.

    At the end of the day, we care about the government because it implements policies that affect people’s lives. Warren Buffett is also very wealthy, but his views on policy matters are quite different from Mitt Romney’s. I don’t really care that Gov. Romney could be (accurately!) described as “out of touch” on the basis of his purchasing habits; I think we should care about what he claims he’d like to do as president. I don’t see a showing in this blog post (which is just a blog post, in all fairness) that his out-of-touchness is connected to his policy proposals or his worldview.

    Plus, pretty much everyone in the Senate is fantastically wealthy, and most of the folks who run for president are astonishingly wealthy. Huntsman, McCain, Kerry, Edwards, Gingrich, Clinton, Perry are all in the top 0.3 percent, I’d bet. (Specifically, I’d bet maybe $5).

    The out-of-touchness of our entire political class and everyone they spend any amount of time with is probably a greater concern that Romney’s fondness for Benjamins.

  • Geprodis

    I disagree with the author of this article. Watch the video again of his $10,000 debate gaffe. Notice how serious he is when he makes the bet. He was being emotional, he let down his guard, and showed his true colors. He is extremely out of touch, and the $10,000 wager shows it much more than the $100 in his pocket. The $100 in his pocket is not news…I just think the author is totally wrong.

  • Holmes

    Mitt’s dare of a $10K wager was an expression of unguarded frustration. He just blurted it out. And, yes, it does reveal a level of wealth and privilege that is unimaginable for the rest of us. If you or I were in that pressure-cooker situation and said something aggressively rash without thinking, would we ever say “I’ll bet you ten thousand dollars”? Not bloodly likely. Now the question: can you trust someone like that with your financial future and the future of your children and grandchildren. I don’t see how. He’s cannot relate to your circumstances and your peril if things go wrong. Would I trust Warren Buffett? Yes, he gets it. Mitt doesn’t.

  • Oldskool

    He only had one $100 bill? I’d expect he’d have a wad of them. JFK probably carried larger bills if they were in circulation back then and he still had an easier time relating to average people. Romney has the persona of someone raised in a privileged bubble.

    • Crime Dog

      Ditto both Roosevelts. Just because you’re not one of the little guys doesn’t mean you can’t empathize with them.

    • Carney

      JFK was raised in luxury. Romney was not, and was required by his (blue collar origin) father to earn every dime of spending money with physical work.

      • PracticalGirl

        Carney, give me a break. Except when the family was ensconced in the Governor’s Mansion, Romney grew up living in a 5,000 square foot home, which was 4-5 times the size of an average family dwelling for the time. That’s the very definition of luxury living for the time, and quite different from a wealthy father who insists that his son get a part time job outside the confines of the family mansion.

        Does it disqualify him from being considered as President? Of course not. Does that sort of lifelong lifestyle insulate a person from the concerns of a regular citizen? I’ll bet you $10,000 it does. :)

  • armstp

    who gives a crap. really. this whole GOP selection process has been a joke. absolutely no one is focusing on the issues. what these morons want to do if elected. what is their plan?

  • Frumplestiltskin

    When has Romney ever been in touch? He acts as though his two year stint as a missionary in his early 20′s in France (yes, FRANCE!) was somekind of third world horror.

    Here is Romney relating his time there: “Most of the apartments I lived in had no refrigerators,” Romney told a crowd of 300 at a VFW hall here Sunday afternoon, launching into a long anecdote about life as a Mormon missionary in France that touched on the difficulties of shopping before every meal and living in buildings without a shower. “If we were lucky, we actually bought a hose and we stuck it on the sink, and we’d hold there with the hose and the big bucket underneath us in the kitchen and wash ourselves that way…And so, I lived in a way that people of lower-middle income in France lived and said to myself, ‘Wow, I sure am lucky to have been born in the United States of America.”

    Oh, the horror, to have to see the cobblestone French towns and eat the horrible pastries.
    As to the hose part This doesn’t even make sense, how can you be lucky to buy a hose? And what he describes is typical for most Americans who take their kids camping, yet he acts as though it were the harshest privation in the world. How the hell can he make himself look like an even bigger douche?

    And he was a young man when this happened, what college kids have fridges in their dorms?

    If this is all he got, travelling around France for 2 years as a young man, something most Americans would have loved to have been given the chance to do so, then he is really up against it.

    Lets also remember that Mitt got a deferment, how many Vietnam vets would have loved to trade places with him and have “survived” France.

    What a creep he is.

    • valkayec

      In the interests of full disclosure, I must confess that my eldest daughter, my ex-husband, and his children of a second marriage are Mormon. I’m not; I could, I suppose, be considered agnostic in that I do not ascribe to any religious affiliation. (I’ve read too much theology, I suppose.)

      That said, Romney’s spending his mission in France is a pretty big deal. Most missionaries, as I understand it, are sent primarily to Third world countries. I’d guess that the cream of the crop get sent to Europe.

      My second confession is that my youngest daughter (she considers herself an atheist) spent almost two years in the backwoods of Niger as a Peace Corp Volunteer. She helped the villagers build a clean water well; build solar ovens from cheap, available materials; build a school and get books, etc.; assisted in increasing medical care to the villagers; develop new (for poor, uneducated Niger villagers) agriculture methods and economically sustainable crops; and showed women how to improve their families’ lives. (FYI, most of the men were pretty lazy and self indulgent; women did 90-plus % of the work.)

      Compared to the living standards and work my daughter did in rural Niger, Romney’s year in France was a life of luxury, especially when you consider that although the LDS provides a small stipend, the missionaries’ families can contribute any amount they choose to send to their sons. Moreover, the work of attempting to convert the locals to the Church of LDS is a great deal less arduous than digging wells, tilling fields, and making mud bricks to build schools.

      • Giggles

        That must make the American poor so much better than the backwards French since they have fridges and TVs and stuff.

    • Carney

      A buddy of mine has a catchphrase, that everything outside America IS the Third World. You have two choices. America, or the Third World. He’s not too far wrong.

      I spent my honeymoon in Bavaria, Austria, and Northern Italy. They have these ridiculous non-showers where you’re supposed to be sitting down or something, and no actual shower curtains. Everything is tiny, a result of the government-enforced poverty caused by stupidly high taxes and regulation. Pathetically tiny rooms, tiny meals, tiny cars. Prices were insanely high, in large part because the ridiculously out-dated Italian economy literally forbids economies of scale.

  • balconesfault

    given that a $10,000 is not really a lot of money for a presidential campaign

    Perhaps after Sarah using campaign cash to beef up her families wardrobes, and Cain using campaign cash to pump money to his private consulting venture, GOP standards for appropriate uses of campaign money are kind of jaded … but I am pretty sure that the FEC would have something to say about using campaign cash to pay off what’s essentially a bar bet.

    • valkayec

      Balcon – I’m pretty sure that bet was a spur of the moment bullying move that he knew Perry would back down from. School yard bullies use their muscle to intimidate. Rich kids use their money.

      • PracticalGirl

        Spur of the moment? C’mon, Val- you know better than that. This was an extremely calculated move on the part of Romney, down to the way he extended his steady hand. If anything shows how out of touch Romney and his campaign staff are, it’s the obviously precalculated “throw down” designed to highlight Romney’s “brash and brave” honest streak.

        As a complete aside- why in the hell hasn’t somebody put this book thing to rest? If Romney is right, it wouldn’t be difficult to provide a first edition hard copy of his book, but he hasn’t. Rather than asking why he’d offer a ridiculous bet, perhaps the question should be why he just doesn’t offer the truth, if it’s there.

  • valkayec

    I’m curious, will Romney’s $10 grand bet be like GHW Bush’s not knowing about grocery check out scanners? It seems likely since in both instances the candidate showed how out of touch they are with everyday American lives: just a couple of rich guys who never had to struggle to make ends meet or take out the garbage, mow the lawn or buy the groceries all while worrying about whether or not they’d have a job next week to pay the bills. Classically isolated from average working American lives by their gated communities, grand estates, servants, and high society living.

    As to Eli’s blog post, what does Romney’s $100 bill anecdote have to do with his $10 grand bet? While I agree Romney is out of touch with and incapable of understanding the economic realities most workers/labor are experiencing (which in my mind disqualifies him from the office of Presidency), I don’t see the equivalence of both instances.

  • zaybu

    Mitt Romney vs. Newt Gingrich 2012: Bell rings on GOP slugfest

    Read more:

  • Ray_Harwick

    Today In GOP Anti-Gay Bigotry – Romney Episode: Romney Seeks Photo-Opt With New Hampshire Old-timers To Tell Them He Opposes Same-Sex Marriage: Old-timers Were A Gay Married Couple And Viet Nam Veterans.

  • ottovbvs

    Eli is ready to give Romney a pass. Is water wet? Does it matter a damn that Eli is willing to give him a pass?

  • Ray_Harwick

    Given that it was a rhetorical device (albeit a clumsy one) rather than an actual bet and given that a $10,000 is not really a lot of money for a presidential campaign, I’m personally inclined to give Romney a pass.

    You are a saint.

    The house I live in cost me $10,000.00. It’s not a rhetorical device. It’s a double-wide trailer made in 1976 and I rent the ground it sits on. I remember the last bet I made. It was a rhetorical device. I bet $2.00 I could shoot the best out of ten from the corner of the basketball floor. I lost. My opponent didn’t think my bet was rhetorical. After he clobbered me, he got paid. I confined my begs to “I bet you a shiny new nickel” from then on.

    • Geprodis

      The author of the article is a saint for giving Romney a pass on his stupid gaffe? What are you talking about?

  • Rubicon

    When asked to play Liar’s Poker for one million dollars, John Meriwether in response to the Chairman of Salomon Brothers, John Gutfreund replied…, “No, John, if we’re going to play for those kind of numbers, I’d rather play for real money. Ten million dollars. No tears.”

    Just to put things into perspective….

  • nuser

    er..Mormons are not allowed to bet on anything.

  • booch221

    Romney’s problem isn’t that he doesn’t carry one dollar bills or carries one hundred dollar bills.

    His problem is he’s a fake.


  • gmckee1985

    Good Lord. Who cares? The guy made his money legitimately and legally. He’s filthy rich. Again, who cares. I forgot we live in Obama’s America where the other people who count are people on welfare and the governmental employee class.

  • SteveThompson

    Here’s an article that breaks down exactly how much each GOP candidate has spent to date, how much they have raised and how much debt they have taken on in a desperate grasp for power:

    Other than Rick Santorum, each of the candidates has already spent more than an average American household earns in a lifetime.

    • Carney

      The total amount of presidential campaigns is significantly smaller than the yogurt industry.

  • LaLupa

    I do not believe running Mr. Venture Capitalist that can wager $10K on a whim is the best option for the GOP. Romney’s electability is a myth:

  • jquintana

    I’m stunned by the number of posters in this forum who don’t support Romney, or worse, despise him. Romney is the most centrist candidate of the field and since FrumForum is clearly intended to be a center-right place to exchange ideas, I would expect many in here to at least consider Romney as a serious candidate given his track record and credentials.

    If you disagree with all conservatives and Republicans, no matter how centrist, or moderate, or center-right, what are you doing here? If that’s the case, you have nothing intellectual to contribute to FrumForum, and it seems to me that you’ve got nothing better to do than come here and pick a fight with people who want to have a reasoned discussion about the candidates and their qualifications for office.

    So, you hate all Republicans and conservatives…ok fine, we get it. Good for you. But you’re not adding anything to the conversation here on FF if you’re that ideologically rigid.

    • LFC

      JQ, you might believe that Romney is truly center-right, but he’s not running as that. So my question to you is if a candidate repudiates (or refudiates in Palinspeak) nearly all of their previous center-right record and currently provides nothing but hard right rhetoric, why should I expect him to govern one way or the other?

      Reagan, HW, Clinton, and Obama have all governed reasonably close to how I expected. GW predictably skyrocketed the deficit (I knew that as soon as his economic “plan” was defended by simply repeating “FUZZY MATH!”) and he was much worse on foreign policy than I believed any President could be. My problem with Romney is that I have no idea how he’d govern. Would he return to his Gov. days, be controlled for at least 4 years by the Tea Party, or sit someplace in the middle? More than anybody who has taken office since I voted, I don’t think anybody knows … including him.

      • jquintana

        JQ, you might believe that Romney is truly center-right, but he’s not running as that.

        Because he’s running for the nomination in the primaries. I’m sure you already understand this, but it doesn’t hurt to get a reminder once in a while: candidates always appeal to the base during the primaries, then shift to the center in the general.

        • LFC

          I disagree. I don’t recall McCain making much of a central shift. In fact he went Full Metal Jackass when he nominated the very right-wing Palin. Bush actually campaigned as more of a centrist and then governed much further to the right. Dole certainly didn’t run as more of a centrist in 1996 or I might have voted for him. He had a good center-right record but he ran away from that to distinguish himself from Clinton.

          I see no evidence that makes me believe I should expect Romney to make any real sized shift to the center, especially since Obama pretty much owns that turf right now.

          FYI, Sullivan has a quote from the Romney you’d like to have running (and so would I, actually):

          “I think people recognize that I’m not a partisan Republican – that I’m someone who is moderate, and that my views are progressive.” — Mitt Romney, 2002

  • nhthinker

    Romney blew it with the $10K bet, but not that badly.
    He would have been much better off saying he would put up 10 grand to any amount that Perry was will to put up and the winner of the inaccuracy/accuracy of Perry’s assertion would get to select the charity the combined money would go to.

    Obviously both Perry and Romney can afford $10K- but there was no reason why Romney should think it valuable to use debate time to point that out.

    Board room behavior during a debate performance is not recommended.

  • LFC

    Things are really not looking good for Romney right now…

    A chart from Sullivan shows the Romney/Gingrich gap at:

    And an interesting quote at TPM:

    Taking a step back from the various state polls, and looking at the flow of the calendar itself, something starts to become clear: If a person had sat down to write a primary calendar, designed around the goal of making things hard for Romney, they could not do much better than the current one.

    The whole TPM article is at:

    • nhthinker

      Here is Gallup’s daily trending… Gringrich lead dropped from 15 points to 9 in just 5 days. No honest statistician in their right mind would ever allow that particular line fitting formula in the Charles Franklin graph to be used for polling data. Totally prejudicial to the latest point. That’s what happens when amateurs or dishonest statisticians get hold of tools.

      • LFC

        a) If you look at the dots, you’ll see that this point was not yet added.

        b) One data point does not destroy a trend line.

        Should the Gallup poll be the first of several that show the same narrowing, the trend line will go the other direction. In the meantime, you display your ignorance of statistics by waving around a single data point.

        • nhthinker

          Were you actually trained in statistical data representation?
          In college, many, many years ago, I was paid to run statistical analysis on medical/injury data for a medical department at a top northeast university.
          The Charles Franklin trend-line is extended far beyond what every honest trained statistician would ever consider valid.
          If you have expertise that goes counter to this, please cite it.

  • PracticalGirl

    Romney isn’t the only out-of-touch megamillionaire throwing his money around this political season. Not sure he’ll enjoy the comparison, though.

    Michael Savage, desperately seeking the spotlight, is offering $1 million dollars to Newt Gingrich to drop out of the race. Like all snakeoil salesmen, the offer isn’t without disclaimers, including one that stipulates Newt must go within 72 hours or the offer is null and void. I can’t find it in the fine print, but I think he’s also offering a case a month of Rock Star beverages courtesy of his son Russ who owns the company.

    • dante

      So here’s why I don’t think that the GOP can win regardless of who wins the nomination: There are two camps in the GOP, the Romney camp and the Not-Romney camp, and they LITERALLY despise each other. All of the talking heads have talked IMMENSE trash about one of the candidates, whether it’s Frum bashin any of the Not-Romney’s or Rush/Hannity/Fox News/etc bashing Romney. I’m not talking about disagreeing as to who’d be a better president, I’m talking about pure hatred and vitriol oozing from every orifice. I just can’t see any of the Not-Romney crowd saying “oh well, our guy didn’t win but lets support the candidate with 110% anyway”. I just don’t see it happening.

      The closest thing I can think of to it was the women who were absolutely HORRIFIED that Clinton didn’t get the nomination last year. There were websites and hordes of women who, when their woman didn’t get the nomination went into active campaign mode *against* Obama. I don’t know if it will go that far, but I can easily see Frum having a hard time threading the needle between supporting the GOP nominee and not “carrying water” for him.

      • PracticalGirl

        I don’t know about Frum, per se, but I think that most Republicans today need vitriol to have a political discussion. It’s the way the entire lot of them have been trained to think. In order to have a super hero, there must be a villian to provide contrast. So sure- there’s primary bashing from all corners, often of a personal or sideline/non-issue nature.

        But make no mistake: Once the primaries are over, the group will coalesce behind their candidate. Their differences will pale in comparison to their raw, visceral hatred of the SuperVillian of All Time, President Barack Obama.

  • nitrat

    He should have reverted to childhood and said: “betcha a nickel”.
    Of course, born rich children could bet $10,000 for all I know.