July 16 2012
The Life of Henry
Sometimes the Romney campaign gives the impression that Governor Romney’s plan is to just stand there and get elected president.
But campaigns matter. Even in a time when the economy is awful and likely to remain that way through November, the campaign has to do more than just stand there.
In a must-read piece in the Weekly Standard, Matthew Continetti writes about a constituency Romney must address: the Henrys. ? H. E. N. R. Y. is an acronym, used in Fortune magazine, for High Earners who are Not Rich Yet. If President Obama is re-elected, Henry's chances of becoming rich pretty much evaporate.
Henry is the opposite of Julia, the fictional beneficiary of Obama policies portrayed on the Obama campaign’s “Life of Julia” website. As Continetti points out, Julia was “intended to illustrate, in a literal and rather vulgar way, the benefits of the entitlement state.”
Like Julia, Henry voted for President Obama in 2008. But in other ways, their lives could not be more different. Henry’s household income is somewhere between $100,000 and $250,000. His spending accounts for 40 percent of consumer spending and 70 percent of economic activity. Without the Henrys, we’d be sunk.
Unlike Julia, Henry can’t be justifiably claimed as a beneficiary of the Obama years. While his business may have survived, it hasn’t expanded and likely Henry dreads the financial impact of Obamacare, which, even if he has prospered more than other Henrys in the last three years, makes him think twice before hiring more people.
Here is the situation in which Henry finds himself:
Time and again, Obama officials said the economy was improving. Each time, the improvement turned out to be transitory or illusory. The president’s one constant ambition, it seemed, was to increase taxes on households making more than $250,000 a year?—?yet in his speeches, the president emphasized that “millionaires and billionaires” could “afford to pay a little bit more.”
Henry is not a millionaire. He makes less than $250,000. But his goal is to have a successful business, and make as much money as he can to pay for his mortgage, utilities, gas bill, credit cards, loans for business and education, maintenance for the house, furnishings for the house, groceries, property and life insurance, and, if the situation is good, vacation and travel.
What’s the incentive to cross that $250,000 threshold if Obama is just going to tax more of his earnings? Why do the Democrats lump Henry’s ambition to make an extra $1,000 or more with that of millionaires and billionaires who have already made fortunes? Henry could see raising taxes on billionaires. He’s never met one. But he has plenty of friends who make a little more than $250,000 and are still by no means “rich.” What’s Obama got against them?
The results of the November election will depend a lot of how Henry votes this time, and he’s not sold on Mitt Romney. Continetti writes that Henry wonders if the Republicans have changed during their years in exile. Henry worries about the tax code, policies that send American jobs overseas—and he wonders why Mitt Romney isn’t making impassioned pleas on all these issues that affect Henry’s ability to move up and perhaps become rich.
How can Romney find an agenda that would energize the Henrys? Continetti writes:
This agenda would be framed not in terms of “free enterprise” or “efficiency” but in the language and tradition of American exceptionalism, middle-class values, common sense, and national strength. These are the things that will move Henry’s heart and drive his vote. The alternative is apathy and thus a second Obama term.
After all, whether or not Henry turns out in November, Julia most certainly will.
You may regard it as a big boo hoo that Henry's upward mobility will be stymied if President Obama gets a second term. But remember, somebody's taxes have to pay for Julia's benefits.