Mitt and Ann Romney, starting out with nothing.
Nothing except stock from dad, worth $96 a share.
You're going to need a hanky for this sob story, as told by Ann Romney back in 1994, of just how hard young Mitt and Ann struggled when they were just starting out:
They were not easy years. [...]
We were happy, studying hard. Neither one of us had a job, because Mitt had enough of an investment from stock that we could sell off a little at a time.
The stock came from Mitt’s father. When he took over American Motors, the stock was worth nothing. But he invested Mitt’s birthday money year to year — it wasn’t much, a few thousand, but he put it into American Motors because he believed in himself. Five years later, stock that had been $6 a share was $96 and Mitt cashed it so we could live and pay for education.
Let's interrupt this tale of woe for just a minute to reflect on the value of $96-a-share stock back in 1969, when this great triumph over poverty occurred. Andrew Sabl, who dug up this old Boston Globe
interview, did some quick calculations
to figure out just how "not easy" it was to live off Mitt's stock portfolio:
By Ann’s own account, the stock amounted to “a few thousand” dollars when bought, but it had gone up by a factor of sixteen. So let’s conservatively say that they got through five years as students—neither one of them working—only by “chipping away at” assets of $60,000 in 1969 dollars (about $377,000 today).
Amazing they didn't starve to death, isn't it? How ever did they survive? Please, Ann, tell us more:
Mitt and I walked to class together, shared housekeeping, had a lot of pasta and tuna fish and learned hard lessons. [...]
We were living on the edge, not entertaining. No, I did not work. Mitt thought it was important for me to stay home with the children, and I was delighted.
Right after Mitt graduated in 1975, we had our third boy and it was about the time Mitt’s first paycheck came along. So, we were married a long time before we had any income, about five years as struggling students.
So the young Romneys, "living on the edge," refused to get jobs, which some people say
parents "need to" do to "have the dignity of work," and also to ensure
that they don't raise "indolent and unproductive" children.
There's nothing inherently wrong with coming from families of extraordinary wealth and privilege. There's nothing wrong with letting your family put you through school, buy you a house and set you up with a nice stock portfolio so you don't have to get a job.
But the Romneys want to pretend that they're just regular folks who know first-hand what it means to struggle. Mitt Romney says he's "also unemployed"; Ann "doesn't even consider" herself wealthy. And it is because of their so-called struggles, because of their perceived hardships, especially in those early years when they had to scrape by on today's equivalent of almost $400,000, that gives them both some unique insight into today's economy and how to fix it. (Note to the Romneys: If you're still having to live off tuna, when you're sitting on that much money, you suck at managing money.)
Mitt Romney's whole pitch to America, the justification for his draconian economic policies to make the rich richer and the poor poorer, is that he came from humble beginnings and pulled himself up by his own bootstraps. His wife supplements this fiction with stories of having to forego entertaining and living off tuna—and stock investments. And if they can do it, if they can create all this wealth and success for themselves out of nothing more than hard work and sacrifice, by golly, everyone else should be able to do it too, with absolutely no help whatsoever. Just like they did.
The reality, though, is that the Romneys didn't do it all on their own, and unlike them, most Americans don't have the opportunities they did to pull themselves up by their own stock portfolios.