The ‘how many homes’ question

Four years ago, John McCain ran into a little trouble when he owned so many homes, he forgot exactly how many and had to check with his staff. Mitt Romney is not quite in the same boat, but the issue does come from time to time.

Take this exchange last night in New Hampshire, for example.

Here’s the transcript for those who can’t watch clips online:

VOTER: I’m a middle class American, like a lot of people here. We’re all hurting, we really are. We New Englanders, we know that you should help your neighbors. It’s a little hard for me because I know you’re a multi-millionaire, I read this morning you have like four houses. Would you be willing to give up some of that so that we middle Americans can get some tax cuts?

ROMNEY: (Laughing) Well, that’s an idea. Okay, that’s right. Um, let’s see. Well, I don’t have four houses, that’s number one — although it’s a good idea, thank you for the idea.

For the record, Romney’s response was correct. He had four houses, but now, he’s been reduced to only three.

There’s the $12 million oceanfront residence in California (the one Romney is quadrupling in size); a $10 million home in New Hampshire; and a townhouse in Belmont, Mass. There’s also the nearby mansion, where one of Romney’s sons lives, and where Romney was registered to vote as recently as last year, but it’s technically not one of the candidate’s houses.

There was also the $5 million ski-house in an exclusive area in Utah, but he sold it in 2010.

Not bad for a guy who jokes about being “unemployed.”

Arguably more important, though, is what followed Romney’s initial response. After clarifying the fact that he doesn’t have four homes, he rejected the question’s premise and dismissed the idea that the very wealthy should be asked to pay a little more.

“I know that there are some who say, ‘Let’s just get more money from the higher-income people, let’s just tax them some more.’ And I understand that’s popular in a lot of people’s minds,” Romney said. “But just don’t forget that old Margaret Thatcher line: ‘Sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.'”

I understand the philosophy, but I have a follow-up question for Romney: even if you don’t want to ask the wealthy to sacrifice, is it really necessary to give rich people more tax cuts, while raising taxes on those already struggling?