In an interview with Matt Lauer this morning, Mitt Romney repeated three times his claim that widespread concern about income inequality is motivated by “envy.”
It’s a pretty bold assertion, given that as recently as November, 60 percent of Americans supported government efforts to address historically high income inequality. And it’s especially bold coming from the mouth of a multi-hundred-millionaire in a time of 8.5% unemployment – especially a multi-hundred-millionaire who made his fortune helping large corporations lay off workers and outsource jobs.
Until fairly recently, Republicans had united behind the vapid phrase “class warfare” to describe efforts to require the wealthiest to pay their fair share in taxes and companies to abide by reasonable regulations. But in the heat of the New Hampshire primary, both Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry tapped into the widespread anger about the slash-and-burn capitalism that got Romney where he is today.
In his New Hampshire victory speech last night, Romney accused his rivals of being “desperate” and putting “free enterprise on trial.” But perhaps they were just quicker to realize that dismissing the economic concerns of a majority of Americans as “envy” might not be the smartest move.