IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Romney's 'subterranean mansion'

The part of the Romney mansion that's above ground.
The part of the Romney mansion that's above real estate listing

When we talk about Mitt Romney's housing problem, it's tempting to first think of his pro-foreclosure agenda, which seems likely to hurt his campaign in states like Nevada, Florida, and Arizona.

But with Romney, "housing problem" can also take on a more literal meaning -- he has a political problem related to his own personal homes.

It can be admittedly tough to keep track of, but at last count, the former governor has three homes: 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.

The part of the Romney mansion that's above ground.
The part of the Romney mansion that's above real estate listing

With this in mind, the Wall Street Journal reports today on a detail I hadn't heard about: the growing oceanfront mansion will have a very impressive basement , which the newspaper refers to as part of a "subterranean mansion" movement.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has filed an application to replace a single-story 3,000-square-foot beach house in La Jolla, Calif., with a 7,400-square-foot home with an additional 3,600 square feet of finished underground space, according to public records. A representative declined to comment. Tony Crisafi, one of the project's architects, declined to comment on Mr. Romney's motivations but says that these days, most of his clients want to be discreet about the scale of their home, and one way to do that is "by pushing things underground."

Not bad for a guy who jokes about being "unemployed."

At a certain level, I can appreciate why this seems irrelevant to the campaign. After all, after a successful career as a vulture capitalist, Romney enjoys enormous personal wealth, and it stands to reason he would spend some of his millions on lavish accommodations.

But I'm inclined to take note of stories like these in large part because of Romney's policy agenda. The former governor's platform calls for "sacrifice," but only for those at the bottom -- the very wealthy (those who can afford "subterranean mansions") would get a massive tax break from a President Romney, while those struggling most would get a tax increase, in addition to cuts to programs the less fortunate rely heavily on, including deep cuts in education and health care.

It's against this backdrop that Romney boasts about his wife driving "a couple of Cadillacs," says he's "not concerned about the very poor," and says making over $374,000 in speaking fees in a year is "not very much" money. All of those examples followed Romney suggesting elected office is only for the rich, clumsily talking about his fondness for being able to fire people, demanding that talk of economic justice be limited to "quiet rooms," accusing those who care about income inequality of "envy," daring Rick Perry to accept a $10,000 bet, and suggesting that Americans should somehow feel sorry for poor banks.

While Romney's spending habits are his business, it's hardly unreasonable to think voters may take note of these details.