Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Inside the mind of Mitt Romney

Here's a trick question for you: Is Mitt Romney kinda ignorant, or is he just a right-winger?

I know the Republicans don't like what they see as Obama pandering to the Muslim world. But I'm not sure they really wanted Mitt Romney to offer the Muslim world a big F U either.

JERUSALEM -- Mitt Romney told Jewish donors Monday that their culture is part of what has allowed them to be more economically successful than the Palestinians, outraging Palestinian leaders who suggested his comments were racist and out of touch with the realities of the Middle East. Romney's campaign later said his remarks were mischaracterized.
"As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality," the Republican presidential candidate told about 40 wealthy donors who ate breakfast at the luxurious King David Hotel.
Romney said some economic histories have theorized that "culture makes all the difference."
"And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things," Romney said, citing an innovative business climate, the Jewish history of thriving in difficult circumstances and the "hand of providence." He said similar disparity exists between neighboring countries, like Mexico and the United States.
While speaking to U.S. audiences, Romney often highlights culture as a key to economic success and emphasizes the power of the American entrepreneurial spirit compared to the values of other countries. But his decision to highlight cultural differences in a region where such differences have helped fuel violence for generations raises new questions about the former businessman's diplomacy skills.
As he has at home, Romney in Jerusalem cited a book titled, "Guns, Germs and Steel," that suggests the physical characteristics of the land account for the differences in the success of the people that live there.
"And you look at Israel and you say you have a hard time suggesting that all of the natural resources on the land could account for all the accomplishment of the people here," Romney said, before citing another book, "The Wealth and Poverty of Nations," by former Harvard professor David Landes. This book, Romney said in Jerusalem, concludes that "if you could learn anything from the economic history of the world it's this: Culture makes all the difference. Culture makes all the difference."
The economic disparity between the Israelis and the Palestinians is actually much greater than Romney stated. Israel had a per capita gross domestic product of about $31,000 in 2011, while the West Bank and Gaza had a per capita GDP of just over $1,500, according to the World Bank.

Got that? The reason the Palestinians are poorer than the Israeli Jews is that their culture is just not as good. It has nothing to do with the fact that the Jews took over their land and forced them to live in  what is basically a refugee camp.

Someone needs to tell Mitt that it is possible to pay someone a compliment without having to piss on someone else.

Is Mitt's idea about some cultures being very geared to certain kinds of success completely wrong? Actually, no. Jewish culture places a high value on success through education, and that is a significant factor in why Israel is an extremely successful nation, and why a significant proportion of the world's pre-eminent scientists and thinkers have been Jewish. You can say the same about Chinese culture, illustrated by the economic dominance of the ethnic Chinese throughout South East Asia.

Is the culture of Israeli Jews better disposed to economic vitality and an innovative business climate than that of the Palestinians? Perhaps. But it is completely absurd to even talk about that without mentioning the primary factor that holds Palestinians back, which is that they live under Israeli occupation.

But that shouldn't be news to anybody. It can't have escaped Mitt's notice that the Palestinian situation is kind of a big thing. Anyone who even occasionally watches the news would know that the conditions Palestinians are forced to live under are not exactly optimal for a thriving business climate.

But perhaps it is not too surprising that Mitt thinks this way, as it is merely a logical extension of his particular brand of right-wing thinking. Mitt is an insanely wealthy individual, and in his own little universe, he got that way because of his sheer awesomeness. If someone is not wealthy, it's clearly because they just aren't smart enough, or haven't tried hard enough.

People don't dislike Mitt Romney because he is rich; anyone who is in a position to run for President of the United States is going to be very rich by the standards of the average person. People dislike him because he is a virtual caricature of a wealthy elitist, who has no idea what everyday life looks like for the average person who was not born into privilege.

In the mind of Mitt Romney, Palestinians feel aggrieved towards Israelis not because they are an oppressed and dispossessed people; rather, it's because the Palestinians are just playa-haters.

1 comment:

  1. What a disgusting spectacle in American politics, with both Democrats and Republicans competing to see who can best kiss Israel, and by extension, the Jewish lobby's rear end. At least Obama only does it for politically expedient reasons, while Romney and Netanyahu are BFF's.

    Anyway, back to the main point raised by the post. I do certainly believe that the cultures of certain ethnic groups are indeed superior to others. Give me an Ashkenazi Jew, East Asian (ie. Chinese, Japanese, Korean), Swede or German over a Somali or Gulf Arab any day.

    Sure, all of the groups in the former category have their own quirks and problems, but they've proven that they're an efficient and industrious people.

    So yes, Israeli Jewish culture, while notoriously neurotic, paranoid, and rude, does seem to produce results. Of course, they have benefitted tremendously from U.S. aid, protection from U.N. disciplinary action, favored trade arrangements with the West, etc. But even before the "special relationship," they were more advanced than their Arab neighbors.

    However, you are absolutely correct to point out that you cannot divorce the Palestinians' miserable economic position from the fact that they essentially live in open air prisons.

    Now, freed from Israeli Jewish oppression and constraints, would the Palestinians be an advanced, first world people on par with North America, Western Europe, and East Asia? Highly unlikely.

    But they would certainly be in a tremendously better position, both economically and politically.

    Another good point about people not hating the rich for being rich, but because of the arrogance conveyed by their attitudes. Most middle, lower middle, or working class people don't necessarily hate the rich, they would like to become rich themselves! Likewise, less confident or attractive guys don't hate alpha males who get all the good looking girls, they want to be like them.

    However, if the rich show off their wealth, rub other peoples' lack of wealth/success in their face, or if an alpha male obnoxiously and arrogantly shows off his attractive girlfriend to other guys who are struggling, then it rubs people the wrong way.

    I think as Amy Chua once pointed out in her book World On Fire (which is about economically dominant minorities), a little humility can go a long way towards not arousing the resentment of people.