A CENTRAL PART OF America’s national identity is the idea that anyone who works hard and plays by the rules can move up in the world. Indeed, we are suspicious of those who are handed success rather than earning it through their own grit and determination. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whose father was the CEO of an auto company and governor of Michigan, attended an exclusive boarding school before getting degrees at Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School and running a private equity firm. But in her speech to the 2012 Republican National Convention that nominated Romney, his wife was compelled to describe their hardscrabble existence as newlyweds in a basement apartment, where they “ate a lot ...

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