Mitt Romney’s run of self inflicted electoral harm continues. Yesterday Mother Jones released a video that revealed his opinion of 47% of voters:
‘There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what… dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them.’
He goes onto say that ‘these are people who pay no income tax’. The claim that President Obama is overseeing a
terrifying dependency culture in which half of the population are scroungers is made again and again by Republicans.
In August, British historian Niall Ferguson wrote a much ridiculed and factually challenged piece which argued that ‘We are becoming the 50–50 nation—half of us paying the taxes, the other half receiving the benefits.’
It is true that 47% of Americans do not pay federal income tax. However, they still contribute through other taxes. As Matthew O’Brien points out,
‘Federal income taxes… barely account for half of federal taxes, and much less of total taxes, if you count the state and local level. Many of those other taxes can be regressive. If you take all taxes into account, our system is barely progressive at all.’
Also the huge problem with Ferguson and Romney’s analysis is that the bulk of people who do not pay federal income tax cannot pay it. Firstly, many of those who pay no income tax are elderly and so are usually retired. Secondly, many of those who don’t pay this tax are too poor.
The view that half of Americans contribute nothing to the public purse is just wrong. The fact that a significant number do not pay federal income tax is true, but to claim that this is their fault and that they revel in dependence shows the extent to which Republicans have lost touch with reality.
The most brutal and startling of his already extraordinarily dismissive words are that it his job ‘not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.’
Romney’s words hit a new low when it comes to politicians insulting voters. Not only is there the contempt for people who vote for his opponent, but he is actually insulting many of his own supporters.
As Matt Yglesias points out, ‘Make of this what you will, but in terms of partisan politics it seems very likely that a large share of these elderly freeloaders are actually Romney voters.’
Will this be the end of Romney’s campaign? The moment when he offended and dismissed close to half of the voting public?
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