Romney Doesn't Carry Small Change

Written by Eli Lehrer on Monday December 12, 2011

Mitt Romney's proposed $10,000 bet with Rick Perry has earned a lot of criticism for the candidate. Given that it was a rhetorical device (albeit a clumsy one) rather than an actual bet and given that a $10,000 is not really a lot of money for a presidential campaign, I'm personally inclined to give Romney a pass.

That said, another story that got much less media attention at the time it happened does really seem to show that he is out of touch on financial issues. Here are the basics: during a campaign stop, a small boy offered Romney a small bird he had folded out of a dollar bill, Romney glanced in his wallet and, at first, the Washington Post reports, could only find a $100 bill. (He eventually found a $5 to give to the boy.)

Here's why it shows him to be out of touch: everyone I know gets money out of ATMs and, except in casinos, I've never seen an ATM that dispenses $100 bills. Such bills, furthermore, are hugely inconvenient in real life: its difficult to make change for them and , because they're so rarely passed, merchants will often give them a once-over. And, in any case, since most that operate on a cash-only/cash mostly basis--parking lots, taxi cabs, newsstands--sell things that cost well less than $100, nearly all $100 bills get "broken" into smaller denominations very quickly.

This leaves two major reasons why an ordinary American outside of a casino would have a $100 bill in his or her wallet. First, the person is poor or unsophisticated or involved in the underground economy, does not deal with banks, and thus needs to pay major bills like rent in cash. Obviously, none of these things describe Romney.

Second--and this is my point--that person doesn't actually dirty his or her hands by purchasing anything but, instead, has a staff that picks up restaurant checks, drives him everywhere, arranges for private planes when a car won't do, and fetches the large cinnamon dulce lattes from Starbucks. Thus, when the person sends a staffer to the bank to get "walking around money" the $100 bill that comes back just sits in the wallet for weeks. The later very probably describes Romney and, more than his bet with Perry, it indicates that he's out of touch.