Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Romney's 47 percent

A few observations on Mitt Romney's latest fumble:

1. Romney is largely right that a large share of the American electorate will not vote for him and can't be persuaded to do so. But the same is true for Barack Obama.

2. It's true that many Americans feel they are "entitled" to certain benefits from the government or from charities that help poor people, and it's true that these people are probably unlikely to vote for a Republican for president. But to say that all of the 47 percent of Americans who don't pay income taxes are in this broader "entitlement" category is simply wrong. The 47 percent includes retirees who don't make enough money to be taxed. It also includes a large portion of the working class who have children and large deductible expenses resulting in an adjusted gross income of zero or near-zero. And there is a small portion of that 47 percent who are quite well off — Romney fans — who have deductions, non-taxable income and tax dodges that exempt them from the income tax.

3. Just because you don't pay federal income tax doesn't mean you don't pay taxes. All working people pay FICA, the payroll tax that goes to Social Security and Medicare. Even among people who pay taxes, for some working people, the payroll tax exceeds their income tax liability. These people who pay no federal income tax do pay sales taxes, payroll taxes and (sometimes) state income taxes. So it's not like they're complete freeloaders.

4. Romney's private-party comments suggest that he doesn't care much for the great unwashed masses, nor does he understand them. While some may be entitlement beggars, others are struggling, patriotic workers who are doing the best they can within the system. If he'd known his comments would become public, I doubt that he would have denigrated so many potential voters.

5. One measure of character is how one treats those people who can do nothing for you. Or how you think of people who aren't like you and can do nothing for you.


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