What Romney doesn't understand about personal responsibility

maid.jpgThis is not a freeloading society. For the most part, people have jobs and work hard - Democrat, Republican, it doesn't matter. And yet the Republican candidate for president somehow equates personal responsibility with paying federal income taxes (quite a leap considering how low a rate he pays). Not to dwell on the infamous 47 percent solution, but Ezra Klein brings up a good point about Romney' simply not knowing what it's like to be poor:

The thing about not having much money is you have to take much more responsibility for your life. You can't pay people to watch your kids or clean your house or fix your meals. You can't necessarily afford a car or a washing machine or a home in a good school district. That's what money buys you: goods and services that make your life easier. That's what money has bought Romney, too. He's a guy who sold his dad's stock to pay for college, who built an elevator to ensure easier access to his multiple cars and who was able to support his wife's decision to be a stay-at-home mom. That's great! That's the dream.

The problem is that he doesn't seem to realize how difficult it is to focus on college when you're also working full time, how much planning it takes to reliably commute to work without a car, or the agonizing choices faced by families in which both parents work and a child falls ill. The working poor haven't abdicated responsibility for their lives. They're drowning in it. In their book "Poor Economics," the poverty researchers Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo try to explain why the poor around the world so often make decisions that befuddle the rich. Their answer, in part, is this: The poor use up an enormous amount of their mental energy just getting by. They're not dumber or lazier or more interested in being dependent on the government. They're just cognitively exhausted:

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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