(Photo: Associated Press)
(Photo: Associated Press)


In his 1936 book “The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money,” John Maynard Keynes popularized the term “animal spirits,” attempting to explain seemingly random human behavior that operated on “spontaneous optimism.”

The underlying implication is that humans (he was thinking of investors and consumers) will never overcome the fear (of risk) without a communal double-think to convince ourselves of the positives – that human behavior cannot be fully reasoned using “strict mathematical expectation.”

Last weekend, a video surfaced from a Mother Jones reporter that showed a grainy Mitt Romney speaking with a small group of very wealthy campaign contributors. It’s clear that Mitt Romney’s animal spirits got the best of him.

At one point during this sort of open forum dinner, Romney was asked, essentially, how he was going to convince people in the last two months before the election that they need to take care of themselves. Mitt, factoid in hand, jumps the gun a bit.

Romney beings on the now infamous 47%, characterizing them as “[voting] for the president no matter what,” as dependent on the government, as thinking of themselves as victims, and deeply entitled. After stumbling through a mouthful of character judgments, he remembers what he was trying to say – that the 47% of people in the US pay no income taxes and that the Reagan-era solution of cutting taxes across the board doesn’t resonate with a large number of people. He continues on this uplifting note: “…my job is not to worry about those people—I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Statements like these are not the rational, well-thought out statements of a president-to-be who needs votes from the majority of voting Americans, the vast majority of whom do in fact “care for their lives.” Rather, this is the territory of far-right think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute.

Nicholas Eberstadt, a “scholar” of the AEI, has written and spoken extensively on what he calls “a nation of takers,” carefully selecting data to support the ideologies presented by Mitt – that entitlement programs have turned America into a debt-ridden nation of needy, sniveling, moochers. What Eberstadt – and Romney by extension – fail to realize is that the vast majority of recipient of government transfers (read: handouts) have also contributed their share in taxes and that big business is just as guilty of reaching too far into the proverbial cookie jar. Romney clearly needs to slow down and think about who is going to be voting for him before he talks.

It’s difficult to tell whether dear Mittens truly believes in this characterization of hard-working Americans or if he’s just pandering to his audience of super-rich White Folks. Based on Ann Romney’s description of how tough she and Mitt had it in college – when Mitt sold off pieces of the stock portfolio his father bequeathed so they could pay the bills – I’m not sure he’s really in touch with the reality of working class people.

What is clear is that being talked down to by a monied, fear-mongerer can be a low-key class awakening.

What is clear is the danger of electing a president that truly believes the 47% of Americans are moochers as well as electing a president whose financial and political interests lie in the perpetuation of these ideas.