If you follow politics to any degree, I’m sure you’ve heard all about presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s infamous $10,000 bet during a televised debate this past weekend. As illustrated in the video above, many if not most reporters and pundits agree that this was a pretty unfortunate move by the normally uber-disciplined Romney. But why? The Washington Monthly‘s Steve Benen pretty much sums up the conventional take on the issue:
As a political story, Mitt Romney’s offer of a $10,000 bet on Saturday night has a lot going for it. The story reinforces allegations that Romney is out of touch and unable to relate to middle-class anxieties; it comes at an awful time for Romney as Newt Gingrich surges; and perhaps best of all for the media, “Willard’s Wager” is amusing and easy to understand.
This follows in line with what’s said in the video above. The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent goes further:
While the $10,000 moment is politically problematic and revealing in some ways, it doesn’t really deserve to rise to the level of national narrative. What’s more deserving of a national storyline about Romney is his serial dishonesty, his willingness to say and do anything to win. […]
More broadly, political reporters and commentators are always tempted to seize on such moments as the $10,000 bet as defining of a candidate’s character. But this moment is ultimately almost as trivial as was John Edwards’ $400 haircut…. This broader pattern [of dishonesty] is what deserves the status of national narrative about Romney’s character, not some throwaway line about a bet.
While both make valid points, I feel there’s more to this story. More specifically, this incident could be put towards better use besides merely being a passing jab at Romney. The defining issue of the presidential election will ultimately be the economy and whether Americans support Obama’s continued push for infrastructure stimulus and consumer protection or the Republican candidate’s push for deregulation and austerity measures. “Willard’s Wager” highlights this choice.
Romney’s $10,000 bet illustrates why our fiscal policy shouldn’t be centered around fickle millionaires and billionaires like him. A future of deregulation that leaves the economy and consumers vulnerable and measures that cut programs targeted for the middle class would only further the gap between the have and have nots, and that is much more relevant to what’s at stake in next year’s election than how out of touch Romney is. It’s also a winning argument politically and at the heart of why Romney’s bet should be an eye-opener for Progressives.
The Republican ticket wants to put the fate of the economy in the hands of those who can afford to make five-figure wagers like Romney. And as long as our economy’s success is primarily dependent upon a rich person’s capricious discretion, like whether to invest in jobs or make silly bets on national television, inequality will remain and the middle class will continue to rot away.