Mitt Romney And The 47%

I’ve listened to the Mother Jones video several times now – I just listened to it again –  and I don’t hear a controversy.  I don’t hear anything inflammatory.  I don’t hear one word said in malice or with the intent to hurt anyone.  And I certainly don’t hear anything not true.

Nearly Half of Americans Don’t Pay Federal Income Tax

In the Mother Jones video Romney makes the claim that 47% of Americans don’t pay a federal income tax.  He’s right, or at least he was right when he made the claim.  In 2011 that number was only 46%, but in 2010 the percentage of Americans not paying the tax was 47%.  Just like Romney said.

According to the CBO, in aggregate, the poorest 60% of us don’t pay a federal income tax.  Worse, the top quintile, the wealthiest 20%, pay more than 94% of federal incomes taxes according to the most recent numbers in 2009.

Ninety Four Percent!

Romney Was Discussing Campaign Strategy

The left has gone crazy with the release of this video.  The reporting is that this is proof that Romney doesn’t care about “poor America.”  The quote “And so my job is not to worry about these people.” is getting all the play.  But what did Romney mean?  He meant, of course, that there is a population of America that’s gonna vote for Obama no matter the evidence presented them.  Further, and more specifically, there is a population of America who have a tax situation that renders them immune to the concept of lower taxes – They’re already not paying  any.  For this population, “tax the rich” resonates.

Romney is simply saying that he’ll never win this sector and therefore, won’t campaign to them.  This is no more controversial than Romney admitting that he doesn’t need to campaign in California, New York or Texas.  He’s already lost the first two and won the last.  Does that mean when he wins he won’t govern with those state in mind?  Clearly not, to think such a thing is ridiculous.

And so it is with that segment of the population Romney has identified as the 47%

Is the 47% Label Literal

No.  The label is symbolic and not meant to be taken literal.  Within that 47% of the folks not paying federal income taxes are staunch Romney supports.  And to be sure, there are significant numbers in the remaining 53% that won’t ever considering pulling the lever for Romney.  The label is meant to convey that segment of American’s who make a living out taking support from the government.  Are there seniors paying no federal income taxes that are going to vote Republican?  You betcha!  And are they insulted by this statement?  No way.


Because they know who Romney is talking about.

This Is Politics – Turn About Is Fair Play

All of this is, of course true.  And no matter how loud the liberal screams from the rooftop, it won’t change the fact that this is true.  However, there IS something else that’s equally true; life is a bitch.

Sometime ago Obama was stumping at a firehouse in Virgina when he uttered the rallying cry for the republicans, his now famous “You didn’t build that.”  In that statement Obama clearly was referring to the infrastructure that supports America, but the right took it like sharks to blood.  And it’s been a powerful indictment on the perception of Obama.  My suspicion is that the left is going to use this in the same way. No reasonable person listening to Romney’s comments are going to interpret them as Romney admitting that he won’t govern with that 47% in mind.

But all’s fair in love and war.  And politics.

12 responses to “Mitt Romney And The 47%

  1. It is a shame that this is what the election has been reduced to. That both parties are focusing on stupid comments and perceptions rather than on performance is a sad commentary on our society.

    • To be sure, people vote for a person to lead the country. Governor Romney’s campaign and his unwillingness to deal with specifics and release information about himself make it hard for people to judge whether they trust him. I think many in the GOP want to say Obama has failed and has not performed well, so he should be replaced. On the other hand, we have a global economic crisis and NO country has pulled out of it (the US is outperforming many). Moreover, it was caused by decades of policies. To blame Obama for not getting us out of it is a very weak argument in objective terms.

      But IF Romney wants to make that, he must give an alternative to both Obama and to the policies pre-2008 that got us here. He seems to be calling for policies much like what the GOP argued for in the past, suggesting he’s bringing nothing new. That makes the choice: a) go back to what caused the problem, or b) stick with what hasn’t yet solved the crisis. That’s a tougher call. In foreign policy Obama gets generally good marks, but the GOP claims he’s had a lot of failures. OK, what is Romney’s alternative? Again, vague – lots of tough talk and bravado, but tough talk and bravado was the trademark of President Bush. To voters the choice is: a) Obama who’s had some real success but hasn’t obviously fixed everything; or b) a return to Bush like foreign policy which didn’t work out well at all.

      So even if we put aside all the gaffes and the like, Romney’s big mistake has been not to give the voters a clear alternative. It’s not a referendum on Obama, it’s a choice between two candidates. Romney should be ahead, but he’s run a bad campaign and people don’t know for sure what he stands for and what he’ll do. So with nothing else to go on, people look for clues on how he thinks. For that reason, the video is very dangerous.

      • Scott,

        How on earth is it a weak argument that Obama failed to get us out of a funk (“on objective terms”)?

        The data doesn’t support your assertion. Not remotely.

        Over 15% of the US population is on food stamps (up from 12% under Bush). Unemployment is still higher than it was when Obama took office, and this is after the president ran up $5.1 trillion in deficit spending. The unemployment rate would be even higher if millions of Americans hadn’t left the work force. The median family income has declined by about $4,000.

        Obama certainly inherited a mess, but he certainly hasn’t done much to improve things. The economic data I cited are all worse. Small business confidence is currently at where it was in 2008.

        Moreover, Obama hasn’t made a case whatsoever about what it is he would do differently if reelected.

        Furthermore his support of democratic Islamists in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya has exploded in his face, just as I predicted they would.

        But everyone is focused on silly statements by both candidates rather than their actual track records. By any reasonable objective macroeconomic measure, President Obama has underperformed. And he’s had plenty of time to help turn things around.

        • First, it’s a global crisis. Second, it takes Obama and the Congress working together to craft solutions. The Congress has been obstructionist (and even when the Democrats held both houses, the Senate used filibuster). So both parties share blame for not doing more. But even if they cooperated this is a structural crisis that nobody could fix in four years. If McCain had won he’d be in the same position Obama is in. I do think Obama was right to support change in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere. Continued support for repressive dictators only delays the inevitable. But it’ll take time to transition to a better future. I note that here:

  2. Oh come in, look at what even conservative commentators are saying. It’s not the 47% that don’t pay federal income taxes (which include the elderly, military retirees, and working poor who may be working two jobs but still not paying enough). He says they consider themselves victims, that they are all voting for Obama (they’re not), and that he doesn’t have to care about them. As far as I’m concerned, that, his views on the Mideast, and his general disdain and lack of knowledge about how Americans live make me consider him a vile politician that shouldn’t be allowed close to the Presidency. I had a much higher opinion of him just a day ago.

    The idea that the working poor are moochers is a disgusting lie. The idea that anyone who is too poor to pay into the tax system considers themselves a victim and isn’t working is a lie. The idea these people pay no taxes is a lie (most do pay taxes of some sort — it was Reagan’s reforms that tried to get them off the federal tax roles). The way he callously dismissed them was divisive, reeked of class warfare, and I think will assure that Obama’s base will be motivated and enthused. Romney still could win this with the big money he has, but personally, I have lost all respect for him and I don’t think he has the character to be President.

    The wealthy pay the most and the poor the least because the distribution of wealth is so skewed towards the wealthy. The wealthy are swimming in money and taxes mean nothing to them – they’re taxed at a lower rate than the wealthy anywhere else in the industrialized world. For them to complain about taxes when they’re in the lap of luxury and others are struggling is perverse. For them to want the poor to pay more when they’re doing so well is sick. The poor and working class are struggling to get buy and Romney disses them. Sorry, but I find that disgusting.

    • OK, I let emotion get the better of me there, but I really think Romney’s words showed disdain for the working poor. I think it will really hurt him. But I was too harsh in the critique above.

      • In fact, feel free to delete my little rant against Romney. One shouldn’t reply when one is typing furiously driven by emotion rather than taking a minute to reflect!

  3. Anyone who is being honest with themselves and not blinded by ideology will recognize the ‘ Context ‘ of what Governor Romney said . The Governor was speaking to donors who have an interest that their money is spent effectively . That means not wasting resources on groups who are not open to being persuaded . President Obama does the same thing . You do not see the President wasting his time and money at NRA meetings . Although I have read that Obama’s 2008 victory was a great boost to gun sales . It could be again in 2012 . However manufacturers are afraid to ramp up production just in case Mitt wins . This is causes shortages .

  4. Sorry Pino, but you’re completely wrong here. Romney is not talking strategy, he’s dismissing those people:
    He said his role “is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

    • Sorry Pino, but you’re completely wrong here. Romney is not talking strategy, he’s dismissing those people:

      I think he’s dismissing them from a campaign stand-point. In the same way he might admit that California is lost to him he’s admitting that this segment, this 47%, is lost to him. No one would be surprised or horrified had he said he won’t court California. I don’t understand why folks think this comment is surprising.

      I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

      So, the group of people that the label 47% invokes, those folks who are truly living on the government dole; do you think he’s incorrect? Do you think that Romney will ever be able to convince that segment that health care isn’t an entitlement and that they should eat better, get some exercise and save their money to buy insurance?

      You are an intelligent and capable individual and I would suggest you think that health care is an entitlement. If you think that, what hope is there for Romney to convince that segment of the population to think otherwise?

  5. I think it’s a mistake to present this as an either/or. He was both talking campaign strategy AND he was showing disdain for people who don’t pay income taxes.

    • He was both talking campaign strategy AND he was showing disdain for people who don’t pay income taxes.

      This is probably true. And something I’m gonna post on.

      I want Romney to campaign on that message! I want him to come out and point out that Obama and his agenda is to create a larger and larger segment of the population that is dependent on the government. And THAT isn’t the American way. We want these people OFF the government roles.

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