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Mitt Romney’s 47 Percent Problem

| September 18, 2012

There’s a Romney in there somewhere. (DonkeyHotey)

“You cannot be serious.”John McEnroe

One of the many challenges of John McCain’s campaign four years ago, besides the past-due expiration date on the candidate himself, was Sarah Palin’s IED of a mouth. If the campaign wasn’t finished before her nomination, she doomed it. The biggest challenge for Mitt Romney, among too many to flip-flop through, is Mitt Romney’s mouth: what were IEDs in the McCain campaign are now suicide bombings in Romney’s, with Romney the Groundhog-Day bomber: he self-destructs, and comes back for more. Maybe Mormons have more in common with Buddhist notions of reincarnation than we knew.

pierre tristam flaglerlive editor's blogThe post-truth compulsions of the Romney campaign are making us nostalgic for Richard Nixon. But three howlers stand out (so far) from that video of Romney’s talk at a post-convention fund-raiser Mother Jones acquired (see below): his alleged joke about wishing he was Latino, his rejection of the two-state solution between Israel and Palestine, which would be an astounding reversal of 35 years of American aims and policy going back to the Camp David accords of 1978, and of course this statement, the most damaging at home, which must have lacked the usual warning savvier political candidates tend to respect (“don’t try this at home”):

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax…[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

Romney’s backtracking in a rapid-deployment news conference Monday evening was clever but convincing only to the extent that it confirmed his pirouetting skills and the vacuum at his political inner-core: he’ll fill it with whatever is necessary to say, to win, in any given moment. He smoothed the edges of his abrasive statements at the fund-raiser, but he did not retreat from the fundamental points, and dug his hole deeper in some regards, especially when he cast the election in purely self-serving mathematical terms, when he described his aims at no more than winning 50.1 percent. That’s not the best way to portray oneself as a statesman-like leader who recognizes the limits of his appeal but nevertheless aims to represent the entire nation.

The statement about the 47 percent is in and of itself, in whatever context, a fountain of revelations, mostly of Romney’s contradictions and cynicism.

First, while 46 percent of Americans paid no federal income tax in 2011, most of those paid the payroll tax, which, by itself, puts most Americans’ tax liability at more than half that of Mitt Romney’s 13 percent: it’s not smart for a man whose millions are taxed so lightly to criticize half of America of paying no taxes. The majority of those 47 percent also pay excise taxes, state taxes, property taxes, sales taxes and sin taxes, to name a few.

Then there’s the insult about those 47 percent as “dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims.” But most of the people who pay no income taxes don’t do so because of Republican policies. It’s Democrats, remember, who allegedly like to tax people more, and Republicans who do the opposite. You can’t have it both ways—cut taxes then blame the opposition for not paying taxes.


Ronald Reagan successfully pushed the Earned Income Tax Credit, which gives working class people money back as an incentive for working. The Earned Income Tax Credit was expanded by Newt Gingrich on the way to welfare reform Bill Clinton signed in 1997. Republican-favored tax credits to the elderly, passed with winning states like Florida in mind, eliminated millions of elderly tax payers from the tax rolls. George W. Bush’s massive 2001 tax cuts eliminated millions of lower-income people off the tax rolls. His massive 2003 tax cut, much of which directed at the wealthiest Americans by way of exempting investment income, lowered the tax liabilities of another chunk (Romney was in that batch).

The expansion of the child tax credit eliminated millions more (7.8 million, according to the Tax Foundation). A good many millionaires, too, pay no income taxes: 4,000 did so in 2011, by taking advantage of deductions. Dependent on government? Maybe: on deductions. Victims? In the Romney liturgy, they’re only victims of still-too-high taxes: his tax cuts would exempt even more people from paying them.

Finally, while a majority of people who pay no income taxes do so by taking advantage of tax breaks, three-fourths of remaining households that pay no income tax do so “because of provisions that benefit senior citizens and low-income working families with children. Those provisions include the exclusion of some Social Security benefits from taxable income, the tax credit and extra standard deduction for the elderly,” the Tax Policy Center found.  See the fuller Tax Policy Center’s analysis here.

One last point. In his backtracking Monday evening, Romney blamed President Obama for the 23 million people who are either out of work or under-employed, and said he was running for president to help them. But he’d just called people receiving unemployment checks “victims” and “dependents.” He’d just lumped most of those 23 million people in the “my-job-is-not-to-worry-about-those-people” camp, adding them to batches of Social Security recipients, those millionaires and those working class people, who have been voting solidly Republican since Reagan.

Romney’s math has never computed. His politics aren’t computing, either. Nor is his campaign. At that fund-raiser he didn’t so much reveal who he was as confirm what had been known and presumed but never said so well in his own words. He called himself inelegant in his backtracking last night. That’s the least of it.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here or follow him on Twitter.

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55 Responses for “Mitt Romney’s 47 Percent Problem”

  1. RightIsRight says:

    “First, while 46 percent of Americans paid no federal income tax in 2011, most of those paid the payroll tax, which, by itself, puts most Americans’ tax liability at more than half that of Mitt Romney’s 13 percent: it’s not smart for a man whose millions are taxed so lightly to criticize half of America of paying no taxes.”

    Taxed lightly? This puts most American’s tax liability at more than half of Romney’s? Pierre, I think you need to go back to school and learn the different between percentages and actual amounts. On the flip side, if I paid only $5 in taxes last year and you paid only $1, should I envy you because I paid 500% more in taxes than you? Just to help guide you, if we take a conservative amount and say Romney made 20 million last year, 13 percent of that is $2.6 million. Half of that is $1.3 million. Did you pay more than $1.3 million in taxes Pierre? Will you ever pay that much in your lifetime? Is it because he is successful, we should envy him and insist that he pays more?

    People need to wake up. This isn’t about rich vs. poor, democrat vs. republican, this is about free market vs. the abyss of government waste, dependency, and inefficiency. As our government has grown, we have transformed from a highly productive, competitive free market society that generated unsurpassed wealth to a bunch of wealth consumers, just looking at what our neighbors have that we can take.

    I for one, would rather have Mitt’s money in the free market than given to a wasteful government, that will end up borrowing half again as much to sustain out of control spending.

       9 likes

  2. Sherry Epley says:

    Regarding the Ben Blakley posting. . . thanks so much, Flagler Live, for keeping the posters honest. We all benefit from fact checking instead of just posting political (lies) propaganda often found on the internet.

       3 likes

    • Samuel Smith says:

      I agree, any idiot can post garbage cut and pasted from stormfront.org’s forums but the true light shines when it’s been fact checked.

         1 likes

  3. John Boy says:

    4,000 millionaires are included in the Mitt’s 47% who pay no taxes, another 14,000 who made between $500,000. and $999.999. also did not pay any income tax. Mitt wants to expand these numbers and make the elderly, disabled and poor pickup the tab. No wonder he has been called a Mormon Cult Leader.

       2 likes

  4. Ralph says:

    Late Tuesday evening, Jacobson obtained the following comment from David Corn of Mother Jones:

    According to the source, the recording device inadvertently turned off. The source noticed this quickly and turned it back one [sic]. The source estimates that one to two minutes, maybe less, of recording was missed.

    Check it out for your self…..if the video camera shut off then it shut off . Is it possible the tape was leaked so Romney could gaff the president over his 1998 redistribution comments on another tape? I think it is possible.

       0 likes

  5. forwardthinker says:

    To all the racists .. and plain ‘ol deep south boys the hate you spew negates everything else you say, whether true or untrue. You folks will never be the voice of this country.

       3 likes

  6. Dorothea says:

    Go to Mother Jones for the complete, unabridged 49 minutes tape.

    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/09/watch-full-secret-video-private-romney-fundraiser

       1 likes

  7. Ralph says:

    “Americans strongly believe that there is too much government dependency in the country today. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 64% of Adults think there are too many Americans dependent on the government for financial aid. Just 10% think not enough Americans are dependent on the government, while 16% say the level of dependency is about right. (To see survey question wording, click here.) ”

    from Rasmussen

       5 likes

  8. Karma says:

    @Dorothea
    I got the contract information Wednesday morning in the Tampa Bay Times, the story came from the New York Times.http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/19/us/vote-scheduled-on-chicago-teachers-contract.html?pagewanted=all
    The part about the 60% graduation rate came from NBC news. Its good the teachers went on strike. I wonder how people knew they had one of the lowest graduations rates in the country.That the city median household income, is $43,628, yet the average teacher income was $76,000 before the new pay raises. Would you go to a hospital with a 60% success rate for surgery? Then would you give them a raise for their work? Stories like this need to be reported more often. The story from media matters and Fox news is a none issue in my opinion.

    The story from media matters and Fox news is a none issue in my opinion.

       1 likes

  9. Karma says:

    @Dorothea
    I got the contract information Wednesday morning in the Tampa Bay Times, the story came from the New York Times.http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/19/us/vote-scheduled-on-chicago-teachers-contract.html?pagewanted=all
    The part about the 60% graduation rate came from NBC news. Its good the teachers went on strike. I wonder how people knew they had one of the lowest graduations rates in the country.That the city median household income, is $43,628, yet the average teacher income was $76,000 before the new pay raises. Would you go to a hospital with a 60% success rate for surgery? Then would you give them a raise for their work? Stories like this need to be reported more often. The story from media matters and Fox news is a none issue in my opinion.

       3 likes

  10. Dorothea says:

    @Karma

    Thank you for posting the New York Times article, a far more balanced article than your post would imply. I have no problem with teachers who earn $76,000 a year if you consider that many have masters degrees or higher and that the cost of living in Chicago is 13.5% higher than it is in Orlando.

    http://swz.salary.com/costoflivingwizard/layoutscripts/coll_start.aspx

    However, the NYTimes left this part of the contract out:

    “…. that the contract includes provisions for the school day and year to be lengthened (though state law gives the district the power to do so on its own). “This gives a kindergartener today two extra years of learning by the time she graduates high school,” he said.

    Also, he said the deal was good for taxpayers. As part of the agreement the union will drop its litigation against the Board of Education for rescinding a promised 4 percent raise in 2011.

    The final teacher salary increase was only 1 percent more than the original offer and will cost the district less than in previous agreements.”

    Excerpted from:

    http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/notebook/2012/09/18/20435/delegates-strike-over

    I also don’t agree that the socio-economic factors that enter into a graduation rate are comparable to surgery. I wish that the graduation rate was that simple a problem to cure. Florida overall has a graduation rate of 70% which could certainly use some improving.

    I do note that you failed to answer or source the rest of your comment, in particular, “redistribution” which got a pants-on-fire rating as a lie (see article FlaglerLive) and the lies perpetrated about the coal industry by its owners. The coal industry is losing out to cleaner and cheaper natural gas, the result of our free market economy.

       0 likes

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