Surreptitiously recorded video of Mitt Romney addressing wealthy supporters at the Boca Raton home of controversial private equity manager Marc Leder, as most of you probably know by now, was made public yesterday afternoon by David Corn, the Washington bureau chief of Mother Jones magazine. Recorded on May 17, the video shows the ruggedly handsome Republican candidate speaking candidly about the 47% of Americans who, in his opinion, cannot be swayed from their support of Obama. These people, Romney tells his supporters, who paid $50,000 each for the privilege of meeting him, are freeloaders who perceive themselves as victims, take no responsibility for their own lives, contribute nothing in the way of taxes, and expect the government to provide for their every need. Here are Romney’s exact words, followed by the video.
“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… My job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
The comment is fucked up on a number of different levels, most of which have been outlined in exhaustive detail in the press today. The thing I find most interesting is the fact that a good number of these useless bags of shit to whom Romney refers, are in fact his supporters… Before we get into that, though, let’s look at that number – 47%.
Is it true that 47% of American households pay no taxes? Yes and no. While 47% of American households pay no federal income tax, that doesn’t mean that they don’t pay taxes. Three-fifths of those who comprise the Freeloading 47, as I like to call them, do in fact work, and pay payroll tax. It just so happens, that, because they earn so little, they qualify for programs, like the Earned Income Tax Credit, which zeros out their federal tax obligations. (Last year, the income level at which a family of four would begin paying taxes was $26,400.) It should be noted that the Earned Income Tax Credit has been supported by Republican presidents since Reagan, as, in theory, it incentivizes Americans to work, as opposed to just collecting welfare. Romney, apparently either didn’t understand this at the time he made his statement, or was being purposefully dishonest to his donors – leading them to believe that a full 47% of Americans are on the government dole… As for the remaining two-fifths of this Freeloading 47, roughly half are retired, after having worked, and paid taxes, for a majority of their lives.
Oh, and it’s probably worth noting that payroll taxes in the United States are extremely regressive, which means that, relatively speaking, they hit poorer households harder than the do wealthy ones. So, not only are these perceived freeloaders actually paying taxes to the federal government, but they’re doing so at levels that impact them more adversely than the wealthy individuals for whom they work.
Here, thanks to NPR, is a breakdown of Romney’s Freeloading 47.
It’s just speculation at this point, but I’m inclined to think, given the anecdotal information I’ve collected over the past few years, that some percentage of those comprising the 47%, contrary to what Romney may have told his wealthy supporters in Florida, had been planning to vote for him. At least one would expect that not every elderly white retiree from the deep south would be voting for Obama… Oh, and it’s also true that most of the states with the greatest concentration of non-federal income tax-paying individuals, also tend to vote Republican. And, here, in case you don’t believe me about that, is another graphic.
So, it would seem that Romney has essentially come out and called a good portion of his base, lazy, Obama-loving moochers, who, in spite of their libertarian rhetoric, are just worthless government dependents… And, to make matters worse, he may even be one of them himself. As we haven’t seen his tax returns, we can’t be certain, but there’s a good chance that, after the market collapse of 2008, Romney was among the Freeloading 47 who paid nothing in federal income tax… Here a clip from The Atlantic.
…But there’s another group of people who don’t pay federal income taxes. That’s people who have had a bad year. Some of them have lost their jobs. Some of them have lost money on investments. In either case, they don’t have much, or any, income to tax. And that brings us to Romney and 2009. As Joshua Green of Businesweek has speculated, it’s possible that Romney suffered big enough losses during the 2008 market crash that he zeroed out his 2009 federal income tax liability. Of course, Romney has claimed that he never paid less than a 13 percent effective federal rate the last decade… but he refuses to release any tax returns from before 2010. That’s not to say that Romney is necessarily lying, just that we have no way to check. Consider that six of the top 400 tax filers — a group making nearly ten times as much as Romney — paid nothing in federal income taxes in 2009. It’s certainly plausible that Romney was a member of the 47 percent in 2009…
A very desperate looking Romney, trying to get in front of this mess, called a press conference this afternoon, but the damage had already been done. His comments were already all over the web, and the Obama campaign’s rapid response team had already responded.
I suppose anything could happen between now and the election. Israel could attack Iran, or someone could release an even more grotesque caricature of Mohammed, inciting yet another wave of Muslim rage. Romney could somehow manage to bounce back. I suspect, however, that it’s done. And I don’t say that just because of this most recent gaffe. I say it because the money’s drying up. And I think that’s the big story here. The Romney campaign, as of today, having borrowed $20 million in August, is $11 million in debt. And I don’t see anyone coming forward at this point to contribute to what more and more people are seeing as a losing cause. As it looks as though the Senate could go either way, I suspect that’s the direction in which the big money will begin to flow this week. And, along with the money, I think Romney’s team will begin to transition away as well, as they try to distance themselves from the sinking ship… Actually, I wouldn’t be all that surprised if we learned, at some point in the future, that the Mother Jones video was shot by someone on Mitt’s campaign, who chose to share it now in order to divert attention away from how the campaign was run, and onto the candidate himself. People have been known to do stranger things to protect their careers.
update: Jon Stewart came out last night, blasting Romney on his comments concerning the 47%, and bringing up the fact, in the process, that Romney’s father was on welfare when he first came to this country from Mexico.