When Barack Obama spoke rather condescendingly at a 2008 fundraiser about “bitter” people who “cling” to guns and religion, he at least expressed understanding of their economic plight:
“You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.”
When Gordon Brown in 2010– unaware he was wearing a live mic– spoke angrily after meeting a woman who expressed concerns about immigration to Britain, he at least expressed genuine outrage at what he perceived as bigotry.
I can’t think of anything mitigating to say about Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s extremely revealing comments secretly recorded by a Rooseveltian traitor to his class at an exclusive fundraiser earlier this year, and passed on to David Corn at Mother Jones magazine:
“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.”
Of course Romney– speaking on a “just between us rich folks” basis– was simply expressing what many on the political Right sincerely believe– including, I am sure, a number of our persistent commenters. While his running mate Paul Ryan claims to have rejected the philosophy of Ayn Rand, it appears Romney has embraced the idea of a Manichean struggle between “makers” and “takers.”
Romney’s contempt for half of his fellow Americans– including tens of millions of working people who have the nerve to earn so little that they don’t pay federal income taxes (while paying plenty of other taxes), or they require food stamps to adequately feed their families– ought to tell us everything we need to know about the guy.
Or perhaps he doesn’t believe what he said (there is, after all, Romneycare), and was just sucking up to rich donors.
Who knows what he believes any more?
Update: Glenn Kessler at The Washington Post offers some clarity:
Some 44 percent of those who do not pay income taxes are because they benefit from tax benefits aimed at the elderly, while another 30 percent benefit from tax credits for children or for the working poor, according to a paper published by the Tax Policy Center.
But not all of these people are automatically Obama supporters. In fact, according to a map published by the Tax Foundation, eight of the top ten states with the lowest income-tax liability are the heart of Romney country — the deep south. The only exceptions are Florida, a battleground state, and New Mexico, which leans toward Obama. Meanwhile, most of the states with the lowest level of nonpayers are Obama states.
As for other entitlements, of course Social Security and Medicare are reserved for the elderly — and are generally popular. But it seems simplistic to think these are all Obama voters, especially since polling indicates that the Republican share of the vote among white seniors have increased in each of the last five elections, to 58 percent in 2008.
Further update: Another reality check for Romney and his apologists, from February.
Additional update: Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo explains what an utter mess of confusion Romney’s remarks were:
I had a number of emailers last night who wrote in and said some version of, “Hey, you must not get out much. Republicans say this 47% thing all the time.” But again, that totally misses the point. If Romney had simply said, 47% of Americans pay no income taxes (which I think he has actually) and that’s wrong, I don’t think he would have had that much problem. Expressing such unvarnished contempt for these people as victim-feeling losers who can’t get their act together and equating them one for one with all Obama supporters put him into altogether different territory.