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Long before she married Mitt Romney, Ann Davies had a pretty nice life. Her father, president of a manufacturing company, was the mayor of Bloomfield Hills, one of the five wealthiest cities in America. She went to a private school that had a fat endowment. So from the beginning, there was a certain difference between her life and ours — and she wasn't even married to Mittens yet.
But once they did marry, they had a baby while they were undergraduates. Unlike many of us, though, it's not likely they were living hand-to-mouth while her husband attended grad school. Now, taking care of a baby is no picnic, even with a nanny (or five) — but neither is it the same thing as getting up every morning, dropping your kid off at the babysitter's, and going to your job.
More to the point, I don't believe Ann Davies Romney understands what it's like to worry about keeping a roof over her family's heads. She's had her problems, including breast cancer and multiple sclerosis. But she has plenty of money to cushion that blow, and whether she understands it or not, it makes a huge difference. (I have a friend who's blown through her entire retirement fund and maxed out her credit cards to cover $30,000 a month in chemo for her brain tumor.)
Anyway, there was a big fake blowup yesterday when Hilary Rosen said Ann Romney's "actually never worked a day in her life." Republicans promptly clutched pearls and pulled out their smelling salts. "Why, I never!"
Rosen, from what I hear via a mutual friend, is a truly lovely person. (She certainly comes across that way on tee vee. And she's one of the better Democratic commentators.) But while that may be true, she's also worked for some organizations that just make my skin crawl. (Like the RIAA and BP oil.) She's made herself a nice bundle in the process — more than $1 million a year at RIAA.
So when Rosen is pointing out that Ann Romney's "never worked a day in her life," well, I'd like to point out that no matter what her roots, Hilary Rosen's work life and mothering experience isn't like most of ours, either. Like Ann Romney's, it's now comfortably cushioned by wealth and privilege. While her wealth and privilege was earned through her own hard work, it's still a life that's in an economic bubble.
There are some things I just wouldn't do. For instance, I wouldn't have single mothers indicted because their kid downloaded songs. And I wouldn't help an oil company cover up their ecological crimes. But whatever. We make the choices we can live with. I just want to point out that Hilary Rosen is hardly representative of economic suffering, either.
Just once, I'd like to see a Democratic spokesperson who is.
This whole fake controversy made me think about my idealistic friend M., who graduates from an Ivy League law school next month. Like Ann Romney, M. also has MS; she has four kids, two of them autistic - one of them, profoundly so. Her husband travels a lot for work and to assist his elderly parent, and as long as I've known them both, their finances are always close to going over the cliff. But somehow, she manages.
In the years before law school, she and her husband sold their house just ahead of foreclosure. With the proceeds, they bought a trailer and traveled around the U.S. (did I mention the part about the FOUR KIDS?) for more than four years, mostly staying in state parks. There were times when I tried to talk her into bagging it and settling down somewhere to get medical treatment. But, as she pointed out, they no longer had health insurance. And she really, really wanted to see the country with her kids "while I can still travel." Because the MS is always hovering.
I remember when she was taking a final exam and had an MS flareup. As a result, she couldn't even see to take the test. (And no, the school made no allowances for her illness.) She's had several flares during the school year, but as she says, "What are you gonna do?" She also had pneumonia and even pericarditis.
I'm proud of my friend and can't wait to see what she does next. But I think about how much easier her life would be if she had the advantages of an Ann Romney, or even a Hilary Rosen. (After all, once she graduates, she's no longer covered by the student health plan.)
My point being that one wealthy person criticizing a much wealthier person sounds a little crazy to the rest of us who are just struggling to stay afloat.