Romney vs. the 47%

1. David Frum is the Tweeter to watch this campaign season. 

2. Mitt Romney began running against the press last week; he’s running against half of America today.

It was supposed to be a campaign reboot. But instead, Mitt Romney had a bad day. What a day Mitt had. Sad. Mitt. Bad. Had. 

The day started with a Politico article detailing what can best – and most charitably – be described as complete and utter disarray within his campaign apparatus.

For a guy running on his management bona fides, he’s running the worst national campaign I can remember. Heavy on ideology – light on details, the Romney campaign is now suffering through the type of postmortem interviews that usually happen after they lose on election day. (It was then that all the stories about just how awful Sarah Palin was came out).  David Frum Tweeted: 

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It got worse. 

Late yesterday, former Bush aide and current sane conservative David Frum Tweeted that, “If you’re not running for president of all the country, you won’t be elected president of any of it.”

He was writing in response to a blockbuster series of videos that were clandestinely recorded during a big-money fundraiser that was held in Boca Raton on May 17th, where Romney spoke. What it revealed was the real Mitt Romney – the guy who is in his element and doesn’t feel constrained by politeness, inclusiveness, or basic political correctness – some pretty key qualities needed in a viable candidate in a general election for President of the United States. 

In a surprising nod to the theories of horrible person Ayn Rand, Romney broke down the American electorate into producers and moochers;  that 47% of Americans don’t pay any taxes, don’t work, take no personal responsibility and enjoy being dependent on government for all needs. Why, they even feel entitled to receive health care! Can you believe it?! Romney concluded that he was never going to convince these people to vote for him, so he wasn’t running to convince them. He even added – astoundingly – that they pay no income tax and had no sense of personal responsibility. Instead, he explained, he was running for the 5 – 10% of the electorate that are “thoughtful” “independents” who voted for Obama but are disappointed in him – pretty much the theme of Romney’s convention speech. 

Romney painted himself into a corner by affixing a percentage to that number. He has no wiggle room – he can’t say, “oh, I was talking about a small population that just lives off of public assistance” – he indicted almost fully half of the American population for being do-nothing takers and moochers. That’s astonishing

On the first anniversary of the Occupy movement, you’re not just the 99%, you may also be the 47%. 

Coincidentally, 47% is how many people in Michigan plan on voting for Obama versus 37% for “native son” Romney. 

The Atlantic broke down and identified the 47%:

In 2011, 47% of Americans paid no federal income taxes. Within that group, two-thirds still pay payroll taxes. The rest are almost all either (a) old and retired folks collecting Social Security or (b) households earning less than $20,000. Overall, four out of five households not owing federal income tax earn less than $30,000, according to the Tax Policy Center.

Here’s another, slightly wonkier, way to think about the 47%. Divide the group into two halves. The first half is made tax-free by credits and exemptions, the vast majority of which go to senior citizens and children of the working poor. The half that you’re left with is so poor, they wouldn’t owe federal income taxes even if there were zero tax expenditures.

There are some not-so-poor outliers, like the 7,000 millionaires who paid no federal income taxes in 2011. But for the most part, when you hear “The 47%” you should think “old retired folks and poor working families.” …

…Mitt Romney’s off-the-record comments were inelegant. But they were also part of a long trend of Republicans attacking the 47% as lazy, or playing by a different set of rules, or not fully contributing to the country. Michele Bachmann went after the non-payers. So did Rick Santorum. And Sen. John Cornyn.

The 47% aren’t lucky ducks cheating the system. They’re mostly poor working families getting pilloried by the political party that wrote the rules they’re following. If the 47% are the monster here, then Republicans helped play the role of Dr. Frankenstein. “Non-payers” have grown in the last 30 years because of marginal tax rate cuts and credits like the EITC passed under Republican presidents and continued by both parties in Congress.

It would be one thing to ask poor working families to pay higher taxes if Republicans were trying to raise money to improve government services. Quite the opposite, Romney’s tax plan would, if passed, either reduce revenue or come out neutral by raising taxes on upper-middle class families. Meanwhile, his budget would gruesomely gut Medicaid and income-support programs below their projected 2020 levels.

The working poor families and elderly people who make up the 47% also tend to live in the deep South, in predominately red states: 

But now, remember that Mr. Romney has repeatedly refused to release more than (a) a partial, incomplete 2010 income tax return; and (b) an estimate for 2011 income taxes. He will not release any more taxes.  Here’s a guy who wanted pretty desperately to change the subject on his own taxes – and thanks to a press that’s sensitive about being called “liberal”, he was largely successful. Yet here he opened the door for everyone to re-examine his own tax situation.

When you factor in the payroll taxes that the working poor automatically pay every pay period, the actual figure for Americans who pay “no income tax” is reduced to about 18%

…according to the Tax Policy Center, more than 60% of those non-income tax paying households did pay federal payroll taxes—meaning Social Security and Medicare taxes.  (Considering all Americans households, including those that owed income tax, 62% paid more in payroll taxes than in federal income taxes.)

What of the 18.1% of U.S. households that paid neither income nor payroll taxes?  More than half of them were headed by a senior–in other words, by someone who paid payroll taxes and likely some income taxes too, in the past.  (No, the amount the elderly have paid in does not cover the cost of the Medicare  benefits they are now getting. And that is true despite the fact that in a Romney TV adattacking Obamacare’s cuts to the growth in Medicare spending, an announcer seems to suggest otherwise, intoning:  “You paid into Medicare for years, every paycheck…. So now the money you paid for your guaranteed healthcare Is going to a massive new government program that’s not for you.”)

Of course, it goes without saying, that those  folks who aren’t paying federal taxes are almost all paying state and local taxes—state sales taxes, real estate taxes (either on their homes or built into their rents) and possibly state income taxes too, since those taxes tend to exempt fewer poor families than does the federal income tax.  If they buy gasoline, liquor or tobacco, or have telephones, they’re also feeding the federal purse.

The tax deadbeat thinks half of Americans are tax deadbeats who aren’t worth fighting for. We’ve become a country where the millionaires and billionaires express envy for the extremely poor. This is evidence of madness. 

Here are the videos. 


  • Glad you saw the David Frum stuff.  He’s quite knowledgeable and reasonable, and yes, one of the few sane conservative voices. 

  • At one point I wanted to be David Frum when I grew up. I wonder how long he can keep up the lone-voice-in-the-wilderness routine before he gives up and goes home.

  • A member of the working poor stood in front of me at the checkout line at Walgreen’s…dropped $50 cash for a couple of packs of smokes, and used the EBT card to buy a few boxes of freezy pops and a half dozen suckers…another at my kid’s school has an HD TV in every room in their home and drives an SUV…we have the richest “working poor” in the world.

  • That 47% that Romney showed such disdain for share about 1% of our nations wealth, this is the single most important issue facing America today. We can never have a healthy economy (or society) when so many have so little, we need to expand the middle class and give all Americans a stake in the game.

  • Love the “Lybia Embassy Attacks were planned” stories that the righties are picking up. Sources all unnamed. Perhaps Scooter Libby or Dick Cheney?

  • Now that Romney has pissed off 47 percent of the electorate, he has to get to 50 plus one from the remaining 53 percent.  Not much  margin of error there.

    I’ve had many people who share my disdain for the current officeholder ask how can Obama be winning when the economy sucks, gas is outrageous, the Middle East is burning, etc. etc.  The answer is that you never beat something with nothing.  {Sigh}

    Is the GOP bench really this thin that this is the best we could do?

    • Basically.  Reminds me of when the Democrats ran Kerry against Bush and his entire platform consisted of not being Bush.  It is never enough to hope that people will come out to simply vote against someone.  This is Obama’s biggest edge.

    • Tony – quick question for you….has there been a point in history when your taxes were lower than they are today?

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