They have this quaint little phrase in the nicely carpeted hallways of the executive suite: numbers speak louder than words. If that’s the case, the numbers in politics are screaming bloody murder these days - and not anything that the masses want to hear.
Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, one of the world’s richest men, gave Newt Gingrich $5 million in the form of a contribution to his Super PAC during the South Carolina primary. Five million dollars doesn’t go as far as it used to, so Adelson’s wife gave another $5 million this week to help with Florida. Stay tuned for Ohio.
The Massachusetts Senate race will probably see more than $60 million in spending, roughly $20 million from each candidate and another $20 million from independent groups (don’t believe the hollow pledges to curb outside spending).
And, hey, why not? Karl Rove has vowed to raise more than $300 million for his Crossroads super PACs to help elect Republican candidates, which seems like a staggering amount until you consider that President Obama raised $750 million for his 2008 presidential campaign and is expected to break the billion-dollar barrier this year.
Just one quick question: Have we lost our collective minds? And another: How is it that a country so short on money has a political system that is awash in it?
Everywhere you turn in politics now, there is cash, lots of cold, hard cash. Mitt Romney released his tax returns yesterday for 2010, and they were 211 pages longer than his book, “No Apology,’’ and certainly didn’t contain one for his 15 percent tax rate. Romney reported income of $42 million over the last two years, which makes you wonder what he would have made if he actually held a job.
Romney made his fortune before he entered politics, and the indisputable reality is that he is a businessman of extraordinary talent. Gingrich, a generally abhorrent human being who is also a world-class debater, pulled in $3.2 million in 2010, much of it in speaking fees and consulting work. Obama made $1.7 million in 2010, the bulk of it in royalties on his two books.
Closer to home, Elizabeth Warren was making upwards of $500,000 a year from a variety of sources, infuriating rival Scott Brown, the senator and memoirist who was paid a $700,000 advance for a book that sold just more than 26,000 hardcover copies in the critical first six months after publication.
Bad as those sales were, he was undercut by Deval Patrick, who got a $1.35 million advance for a memoir that sold fewer than 10,000 hardcovers in its first half year. Brown and Patrick are to the literary world what J.D. Drew and Daisuke Matsuzaka are to Boston sports.
All of this may or may not be fine if it wasn’t for this one little group of often overlooked people called the American workers, the men and women who are making $40,000, $60,000, or $80,000 a year at demanding jobs that could be blipped away the next time this absurdly fragile economy lurches in the wrong direction.
Amid the bacchanal that is national politics, this is the forgotten group, whose members get more lip service than action. Obama has been a distant, ineffectual friend, and Romney and Gingrich, when they’re not slapping each other silly on debate stages and carpet bombing one another over the airwaves, are far more devoted to deeper tax cuts for their own kind, meaning the wealthiest Americans. It worked so well for the economy under President George W. Bush, why not double down?
Washington is woefully divided. The nation is in serious trouble. And this is what we get - a system soaked in money and a middle class desperate for help.Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.