Politics Straight, No Chaser
“Forty-Seven Percent” Video Gives Rare Glimpse into Romney’s Psyche
Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 00:09
September has been a rough month for Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney. And it just got worse.
Early last week, the liberal-leaning news source, Mother Jones, released a video of Romney at a $50,000 per-plate fundraiser. In the video, Romney is heard speaking about supporters of President Barack Obama as the “47 percent” of Americans who “pay no income tax” and are “dependent upon government, believe they are victims, believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.” He continued, “My job is not to worry about these people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
Immediately upon the video’s release, Twitter feeds exploded, fact-checkers busily got to work and both parties prepared to respond.
The Obama campaign pounced on the issue. They consistently promoted the view of Romney as an entitled and out-of-touch elitist who cares for his fellow multi-millionaires more than he cares for average, middle-class Americans. They couldn’t have asked for better evidence.
“It’s hard to serve as President for all Americans when you’ve disdainfully written off half the nation,” Obama Campaign Manager Jim Messina wrote.
To avoid it festering, Romney also responded swiftly to the issue. He insisted that he “spoke off the cuff” and did not speak elegantly. In regard to his statement of not needing to worry about the 47 percent, he clarified that he needn’t worry about them just during the campaign, since he’s certain they’ll vote for Obama “no matter what.” On Fox News, Romney stood strong on his tax statement and emphasized the clear differences between Obama and himself, stating that he believes in “free people and free enterprise,” while Obama believes in “redistributing wealth.”
Romney uses this “redistribution” idea as a counter attack, implying a socialist Obama agenda. It’s important to remember, however, that Social Security, Veteran benefits, student Pell Grants and other widely popular federal programs are all essentially forms of government redistribution. Romney is certainly not opposed to these.
Before we continue with the political spin, however, let’s clear some things up: Where did this figure of “47 percent” come from, anyway? Do 47 percent of Americans really pay no federal income tax?
Actually, yes. According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, 46.4 percent of American households paid no federal income tax in 2011. But that statement alone is incredibly misleading.
What Romney left out is that nearly two-thirds of those households were working and paid payroll taxes as well as some combination of state, local, sales, gas and property taxes—which means their effective tax rate on income was actually higher than Romney’s.
Furthermore, most of these households earned less than $20,000 a year and were exempt from paying income taxes due largely to the GOP-supported Earned Income Tax Credit that was added to the tax code under former Republican President Gerald Ford and deemed as “one of the best anti-poverty programs this country has ever seen” by Republican icon and former President Ronald Reagan.
Also, within the 47 percent figure, 20 percent were elderly citizens. So, combined with the two-thirds of working households, over 80 percent of these “dependent victims” were either working or past retirement age.
This leads to the most bothersome part of the video—Mitt’s smug and oversimplified moral condemnation of nearly 150 million people. He attempted to spin off some technical excuse about the structural flaws of the tax system. However, when he used judgmental words such as “dependent,” “victim” and “entitled,” he made it personal. Instead of clarifying the wide variety of demographics among the “47 percent,” he implied that it is comprised solely of poor people who are poor because they’re lazy, irresponsible and keen on living the rest of their lives off of government entitlements.