Why don’t liberals take shots at Mark Dayton’s wealth the way they do when it comes to Mitt Romney’s wealth? It’s a question that Minnesota conservatives are posing these days, and it is a fair question.
After all, Dayton and Romney were both born into millionaire families, and enjoyed the advantages offered by prestigious prep schools and elite colleges. And neither man has ever really had to worry about money.
Still, the two millionaires are different. Very different.
First, Dayton doesn’t live a Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous-style existence the way Romney does. If Mark Dayton was installing a car elevator in his Malibu home, characterizing $374,000 per year in speaking fees as “not very much,” sheltering millions in foreign bank accounts to avoid supporting his native country, and claiming a five-figure tax loophole associated with a dancing dressage horse, I have a suspicion Minnesota liberals would have had a problem with Dayton too.
Instead, Dayton seems to live relatively modestly. He doesn’t live like Ghandi, but, by millionaire’s standards anyway, he lives pretty simply. Dayton’s most coveted possession appears to be his two dogs, and my understanding is that they can’t even dance.
Stylistically, there is a difference in the vibe each politician gives off about their respective wealth. Romney wears his wealth the way divas wears bling, with pomp, pride and a sense of entitlement. Dayton wears his wealth the way some school boys wear their first suit and tie, begrudgingly, self consciously and awkwardly.
Style issues aside, the policy differences are even more stark. Dayton persistently presses to have his fellow millionaires “pay their fair share” of state taxes, in part so the state can spend more on things that non-millionaires need, such as public education and a social safety net. On the other hand, Romney proposes to cut taxes that benefit his fellow millionaires and services that benefit the non-wealthy.
How did these two millionaire politicians end up so different from one another? Dayton points to his millionaire father as someone who shaped his view of wealth:
My father had the greatest influence in my life. I looked up to him, and I still do. He taught me a lot of good values and the importance of hard work. He used to say, “The only thing worse than a bum is a rich bum.”
Some might hear that advice and think their father was talking about a rich person who never works. But Governor Dayton seems to view this “bum” as someone born with a leg up who isn’t willing to offer a hand up to others.
Beyond his father, Dayton’s inner life appears to be focused on things other than building and sheltering wealth. For instance, Dayton tells reporters he likes to spend quiet time reading “The Bhagavad Gita,” which grapples with life’s ethical and moral dilemmas.
For his part, Romney tells reporters he likes to read the Bible, which also grapples with life’s ethical and moral dilemmas. But for whatever reason, Romney doesn’t embrace Christ’s liberal teachings such as: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12.15)
Again, Mark Dayton and Mitt Romney are very different types of millionaires. Which kind of millionaire sells better in the political arena? Millionaire Dayton’s approval rating in Minnesota is 56%, while millionaire Romney’s favorability rating in Minnesota is only 32%.