This hasn’t been the best couple of weeks for Willard. After getting ripped to shreds by both the left and the right for his poorly timed, poorly delivered attack on Obama after the Libya protests, Mittens put himself in another potentially damaging situation this week after a video was leaked of him bashing the close to 47% of Americans who don’t pay income taxes. As Mittens spoke at an exclusive fundraiser with a roomful of wealthy donors, he openly vented about so-called beneficiaries of entitlement programs and their ostensible devotion to Obama. According to Mitt, these folks “believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.” He continued by saying he’d “…never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
This story has become fodder on social media sites and in the news as an indication of Mitt’s out-of-touchness. But in addition to showcasing Romney’s elitism (the $50,000-a-plate dinner didn’t help much), he was factually off in a lot of ways:
(1) Contrary to Willard’s rant, most of the people he’s bashing actually are taxpayers: As Ezra Klein from the Washington Post brilliantly pointed out, of the now infamous 47 percent to whom Romney was referring, 61% of them did pay payroll taxes. Many of whom paid as high as 15.3% in income taxes, which is more than Romney at 13.9%. What Romney also failed to take in to account were all the Americans paying sales taxes and property taxes. Suddenly that 47% all but disappears.
The truth of the matter is: only the very poor neither pay income taxes or payroll taxes.
(2) According to figures provided by the Tax Policy Center, over 10% of Americans not paying federal income tax are retired or elderly. Since Social Security benefits aren’t considered taxable income, elderly citizens who rely on that as their income will obviously pay no tax on it. When you consider how overwhelming elderly folks vote Republican, Romney conflating the line between them and so-called ‘freeloaders’ is dangerous ground.
(3) Of those 47% who apparently will support Obama no matter what, the reality is that a very sizable amount of those people actually live in red states; states which decidedly vote Republican. Of the 10 states with the highest percentage of people who pay no income tax, nine are red states. Clearly, Romney’s team hasn’t done it’s electoral map homework.
(4) Last, but certainly not least, we can’t forget the top 0.1% wealthy people in this country who paid no federal income taxes because of how their incomes were generated from lowly-taxed capital gains. The existence of tax law provisions almost always allows the ultra-wealthy to minimize any tax liability they have.
Thing is: the American electorate has an increasingly short-term memory, matched with a propensity to vote against their interests. So it’s not likely that Romney’s outrageous assertions will be remembered a couple of months from now, much less investigated. But his comments were an eye-opener for me, at least. I guess I can live with that.