Point-One Percenter Popcorn, Perrier, and Parsimony (or: Mitt’s Money Management Morals Make Mere Mortal Mores Immaterial)

September 30th, 2012

Inspired by Romney’s money trap (Ann Gerhart and Philip Rucker, Washington Post 9/30/12, page A1).


“Cheap.” – Ann Romney, when asked by Jay Leno if Mitt is frugal or cheap
“When Romney goes to the movies, he pops a bag of his own popcorn at home, stuffs it into his wife’s purse and sneaks it into the movie theater so he doesn’t have to buy a snack he considers overpriced… Says a political adviser who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk frankly about Romney’s habits: ‘I watched him go into an outdoor cafe in Santa Monica once and a guy at the table ordered a Perrier off the menu and Romney looked at the price and said, no, no don’t do that, walked across the street to the 7-Eleven and bought a six-pack of Perrier and said, let’s just drink this. He is frugal to the extreme. It’s a joke within the campaign. It kills everybody that’s been around him.’” – Washington Post
“That’s cheating.” – My 15-year old daughter’s response when I described Mitt’s ways to save money


Mitt Romney is cheap.

I am too.

But I would never

Those things do.


Why not?

Because they’re

Immoral, illegal,

And unfair.


But because of Mitt’s

Much higher morals,

He needn’t follow rules

Meant for mere mortals.


Mitt brings his own home-made popcorn to the movies by hiding it in his wife’s purse. He brings his own bottled water to a restaurant. Why does he do these things?

The superficial explanation (and the message the Romney campaign wants to send by putting this information out there) is that Romney is “cheap.” He’s so cost-conscious that he goes out of his way to save money when he thinks something’s overpriced, even though he can clearly afford the higher price. So vote for him, because he’ll do the same with out bloated government budget!

But there’s something much deeper going on here, and it eerily echoes and reinforces some other less positive things that we know about Mitt Romney.

Mitt, his campaign, and especially his wife Ann have all said repeatedly that Mitt has the highest ethical standards imaginable. It’s true that Mitt does live by a higher moral standard–his own. And like many who have convinced themselves of the superior rightness and righteousness of their own morals, Mitt therefore doesn’t feel constrained to follow the lesser rules that we mere mortals must.

It’s the same with his taxes: Mitt doesn’t think it’s fair that he should have to pay the tax rates normal people do, so he evades them, just like he ignores the rules established by the local small businesses he patronizes. Movie theater’s popcorn over-priced? Bring your own. Restaurant’s Perrier too expensive? Go buy a bottle at the store and bring it. Tax rates too high? Just avoid them.

I’m cheap too (just ask my wife and kids), but I do not and would not bring popcorn into a movie theater, or outside food and drink into a restaurant. Instead, I’d just eat my popcorn before the movie or on the way home in the car, and drink tap water, soda, or a beer at the restaurant (that’s what I do anyway, because I can’t bring myself to buy bottled water, even at supermarket prices).

And I pay a much higher tax rate than Mitt does.


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