Mitt Romney’s “Let them eat cake” moment*

Mitt Romney has gotten a lot bad press lately. Mostly it’s been well-deserved, as he’s essentially called 47% of Americans parasites on the body politic, and someone who’s trying to project corporate know-how and techno-leadership shouldn’t be wondering why you can’t roll down windows in airplanes.

Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt as much as we can.  In the 47% case, he was sucking up to a bunch of John Galt-want-to-be types (at the home of a financier who throws sex parties, how’s that for family values), so let’s assume he was just telling them what they wanted to hear in the hopes of getting a few gold ducats dropped into this campaign coffers. And the whole airplane window thing was just a brain fart; he got caught up in a moment of concern for his wife and wasn’t thinking clearly. Fine. Let’s pretend.

However, last weekend on “60 Minutes”, he said that emergency rooms were the solution to the country’s health care problems, and promptly disqualified himself as a serious candidate for president. There are no excuses this time: he’s prepared in advance, he’s speaking to a national audience (not just “the base”**),  and he fails completely at delineating a policy that makes any sense what so ever.

Using emergency rooms to provide heath care is a horrible mechanism on so many levels:

  • It causes overcrowding. People come to the ER as a place of last resort, but in these cases, their conditions are  frequently not life-threatening, and it means that people with truly dangerous health problems may not be seen as quickly.
  • When people don’t have recourse to other forms of care, things become emergencies that could have been prevented, increasing pain and suffering.
  • The economics are crazy. The ER is the most expensive way to provide health care, and those costs fall hardest on the localities served by the ER hospital.

So we have Romney going on national television to illustrate a complete lack of understanding of economics, community needs, resource management, and a general lack of compassion. Tell me again why this wouldn’t be a re-run of the last time we elected a guy whose daddy was rich and into politics, the guy whose policies triggered a recession so deep we’re still climbing out of it four years later.

* I’m aware the historical Marie Antoinette never said “Let them eat cake” or even brioche, but it is the metaphor for political cluelessness.

**I’ve always been struck by how that Rovian phrase matches the translation of “Al-Qaeda.”


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