Romney’s Silver Spoon

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“There’s a perception that all of you were born with a silver spoon. You know, you never had to earn anything and so forth. Frankly, I was born with a silver spoon, which is the greatest gift you can have — which is to get born in America.”

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Pundits are scrambling to find the opening for Governor Romney in his now-famous remarks to wealthy donors. It’s a rich vein, to be sure, since there are so many themes on which the governor can expand to put his issues in sharp relief. By our lights the choicest part is the business about the silver spoon. Let the Democrats try to make an issue out of the silver spoon remark. Mr. Romney can talk about the fact that ever fewer Americans can afford a silver spoon.

This is because the value of silver has risen to a 1/50th of an ounce of gold from the 75th of an ounce of gold that silver was valued at on the day President Obama acceded to presidency. But the value of the dollars in which most Americans keep their savings has plunged — at a dizzying pace — to a bit less than a 34th of an ounce of silver from the 11th of an ounce at which the dollar was valued on the day Mr. Obama acceded. No wonder so many Americans are feeling poorer.

We made this point back when President Obama gave a weekly radio address about gasoline prices. He said there was “no silver bullet” to solve the problem of the soaring price of gasoline at the pump. It was a funny choice of words, we said, given that when gasoline is priced in silver, one sees that the value of a gallon of gasoline is lower than it used to be. It turns out to be not that the gasoline is going up but that the dollar is going down.

This is not a word game. Silver and gold are what the constitutional founders of America — Geo. Washington, Jas. Madison, Thos. Jefferson — thought of when they thought of money. They thought of money as specie, meaning silver or gold. They wrote it into law. Today we have stopped thinking about money in terms of silver and gold. For most of the past two generations, this hasn’t been a Democratic or Republican issue. It was President Lyndon Johnson who ended the era of silver coinage, and President Nixon who ended the era of a dollar defined in terms of gold.

Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan have been the first candidates in years to try to make this an issue. They are running on a platform that calls for the establishment of a new gold commission. Mr. Romney has stated in no uncertain terms that he would, if elected, name a new chairman of the Federal Reserve, replacing at the first opportunity Chairman Bernanke, who has declared himself against ending the system of fiat money.

President Obama has been clueless — completely unpresidential — in respect of the dollar, and no wonder. The only programs he has offered involve a vast expansion of government spending, and he hasn’t been able to get funding for what he wants to do through the democratic methodology of a vote in Congress. So the government has turned to deficit spending enabled by the Fed, and the value of the dollar has collapsed. There is a prediction being reported today that one analyst reckons the value of the dollar could fall by 2014 to but a 2,400th of an ounce of gold.

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Now we can read plain English well enough to comprehend that Mr. Romney’s reference to himself being born with a silver spoon was a reference not to an actual spoon but to being born in America. The point he was trying to make is that American freedom — not the spoon — was the great gift with which he was born. It’s a marvelous point. But if his political foes are going to ignore his metaphor and turn the conversation to the confounded silver spoon itself, we say it’s a choice opening for Mr. Romney to talk about the collapse of the dollar and how that has put a lot of things out of the reach of ordinary Americans, from gasoline at the pump, to groceries in the store, to houses to dwell in, and to the kinds of spoons millions of middle-class Americans used to engrave for their new-born children.

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