Patriotism and Riches

While live-blogging the Democratic National Convention, Andrew Sullivan took umbrage at the attacks on Romney’s personal wealth management:

“Swiss bank accounts never built an American bridge.” I’m not entirely sure of that – and again, I really hate this attempt to make Romney a man who “bets against America.” He has every right to do with his money as he sees fit within the law.

Andrew is of course correct that Romney has the legal right to shelter his money in Swiss bank accounts as he sees fit within the law.  That, however, is not a rebuttal of the excerpt that Andrew quoted.  Americans have the legal right to be unpatriotic.

It’s perfectly within one’s freedom of speech to burn the flag (which, incidentally, doesn’t bother me nearly as much now that I have a sense of perspective) but that doesn’t make burning the flag a patriotic act.  We have the legal right to be jerks and tell innocent bystanders to fuck off on a daily basis, but that doesn’t make the act morally acceptable.  It seems patronizing to spell that out in words, but the distinction was not acknowledged in Andrew’s criticism.

Mitt Romney has the right to store his millions in places to which ordinary people lack access so as to avoid paying taxes that can be used to invest in American education and infrastructure.  But doing so is a demonstration of the limit to which he is willing to place his selfish desires second to the welfare of his country and the many Americans not helped by his personal spending.  There’s nothing improper about pointing that out.  Romney doesn’t even want to help fund the government he wishes to run.

Nor is running for president itself an act of patriotism.  For example, it’s not patriotic if one is motivated primarily by a thirst for power.  I don’t know if this is what motivates Romney; I’m just anticipating the argument.


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