Ethically, Romney did the Right Thing
So Mitt Romney told his supporters last Friday that he won’t run for President in 2016. He made the right choice from an ethical perspective, at least in my opinion, because he has done nothing the past four years of his life to qualify him to run again.
As far as I can tell, Romney has done virtually nothing to convince me he has the public interest at heart. As far as I can tell, he hasn’t held a job like forever. His main “accomplishment” since losing the 2012 election to Barack Obama was to join the board of directors of Marriott International in December 2012 for a third stint as a director. He also began working as executive partner group chairman for Solamere Capital, a private capital firm in Boston owned by his son Tagg.
One of the basic values that inform my life is civic duty. I mean service to others – those needier; or through public service; or through charitable activities, to name a few. To his credit, Romney and his wife, Ann, have been charitable during their lifetime and they support several charitable causes. Of course, the latter ties into the Mormon requirement to tithe ten percent of one’s income to the Church.
I feel Romney hasn’t earned the right to run again because he lacks a commitment to public service. Moreover, what has he done since the last election to demonstrate a commitment to reverse the notion that he is a snob and insensitive to those in need? You’ll recall his statement during the 2012 campaign to a group of wealthy donors gathered at a high-dollar campaign fundraiser that there’s a group of voters he believes he can never win over: people who pay no taxes. Some say that statement doomed his chances to become President. Here’s what he said:
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what… There are 47 percent who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax.”
The fact is this is a truthful statement if you limit the tax discussion to the federal income tax. The Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center found that in 2011, 46 percent of tax filers paid no income tax, vs. about 54 percent of tax filers that did have some federal income tax liability. In 2009, the Tax Policy Center estimated the proportion who paid no taxes was 47 percent.
However, that doesn’t mean the 47 percent are deadbeats, as many believed Romney was saying. About half of people who don’t pay income taxes are simply poor, and the tax code explicitly exempts them.
For example, a couple with two children earning less than $26,400 will pay no federal income tax because their $12,800 standard deduction and four exemptions of $3,950 each reduce their taxable income to zero. The remaining Americans who owe no federal income taxes are benefiting from tax breaks, the center found.
Romney has proven he is out of touch with the average American. He has done nothing in the past four years to make me feel differently.
Contrast Mitt Romney’s activities with those of another would-be candidate, Jeb Bush, and we see that the later has a stronger claim to represent the Republic Party in 2016. Regardless of how you feel about “Common Core” educational standards, after leaving public service in 2008 Bush has been an advocate for change in the educational standards for K-12 students. While serving as Governor of Florida, Bush served as a Board Member for the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB). Created by Congress, the board's purpose is to establish policy on reports examining K-12 students' academic progress in America's public and private schools. Since then Bush's education foundation has advocated for the Common Core State Standards Initiative. In October 2013, referring to opponents of the standards, Bush said that while "criticisms and conspiracy theories are easy attention grabbers, he instead wanted to hear their solutions to the problems in American education."
Bush has also been an advocate for immigration reform, albeit on a more liberalized basis than other candidates for the Republican nomination. Regardless of your viewpoint on this issue, he has demonstrated a great deal of passion on the education and immigration issues. This is a quality lacking in Romney and, I believe, it is not in his DNA. That is why he would have had no chance of beating whoever the Democrats put up in 2016, widely believed to be Hillary Clinton.
Passionate belief in helping those in need was as hallmark of President Obama’s campaign. He made us believe he stood for something. Again, regardless of your political affiliation and personal beliefs, Romney had his chance to convince the American people he could feel their pain whether it was the poor or middle class – and he failed.
The ironic thing is Romney, who espouses the virtues of Capitalism, misses the key point that the way the system is supposed to work is for all to benefit from economic development. Ethically, it should be based on “Enlightened Egoism,” that is, the benefits of the system should be for all Americans. Decision makers should act only after considering how their actions affect others and not in an egoistic, pursuit of self-interest way. After all, isn’t that the real complaint about corporate America today – it’s only for the upper class. The middle class gets squeezed more and more each year. Wasn’t that the rallying cry of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement?
Blog posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on February 2, 2015. Professor Mintz is on the faculty of the Orfalea College of Business at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He also blogs at: www.workplaceethicsadvice.com.