I think that the moment I started getting links en masse to David Brooks’ article titled: “Thurston Howell Romney” will be the moment that I remember as the defining moment of this Presidential campaign. Brooks notes that: “Romney, who criticizes President Obama for dividing the nation, divided the nation into two groups: the makers and the moochers.” Although it may be interesting to note the hypocrisy of Romney’s claims, it would take days to sit here and list all the issues that Mr. Romney has been hypocritical on. As some have noted, by Romney’s definition of the 47% he is part of that 47 %.
What Romney said was this:
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” Romney says in one clip. “All right — there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them. Who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing…my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
My political instinct is to side with Josh Barro and Johnathon Chait on this. Barro’s piece in Bloomberg View is titled: Today, Mitt Romney Lost the Election. Chait’s piece, titled: The Real Romney Captured On Tape Turns Out To Be A Sneering Plutocrat is equally devastating to the Romney campaign. But those on the right seem to want to have this fight regardless of how bad they will look in having it. To many on the right, Romney’s comments were not anathema, but signs of a clear orthodoxy that they believe will excite the base of the party. This view is so stunningly articulated in an equally offensive op-ed by the conservative talker Neal Boortz who said: “Romney is right. We’re now at the point where over 47 percent of the people in this county — over 47 percent [sic] of people who are old enough to be in the U.S. workforce — pay no income taxes at all. Actually, it’s worse than that. Not only do they not pay taxes, they consume a good portion of the taxes paid by the other 52+ percent. These people are on the government teat .. and for all-too-many of them, that’s exactly where they want to stay.”
What Boortz is more than implying here, he is basically attempting to articulate the view that nearly half of the U.S. population is beholden to one political party because they rely on patronage that is dispersed on their behalf. Could more ludicrous nonsense possibly be spewed before election day? Pray yes for I am in wanton need of better news. Chris Stirewalt at Fox News attempts to provide this for me saying that: “Romney is trying to expand the argument beyond the government workers fight. He is, in some moments at least, calling for a national referendum on the question of how much government we can afford, even if we like the benefits obtained from it.” Oh, he so is not. Let’s look at what Mr. Romney is saying here:
The idea that Mitt Romney is out there on the ledge preaching from the bully pulpit these “hard truths” that most Americans just can’t bear to hear is something that is so contrary to my sense of reason and logic that I can barely fathom the thought of it. This is a man who is campaigning to be President of 53% of America against the so-called “47%” who are just part of President Obama’s “taker” class. David Frum’s comment yesterday was so pitch perfect that it must have driven Mr. Romney’s advisors to tears. Frum said that: “if you’re not running for President of all the country, you won’t be elected President of any of it.” This reminds me of my favorite advice for political pundits:
The interesting takeaway from this latest Romney gaffe is that it could lead to the serious policy discussion that we were promised when Mr. Romney selected Paul Ryan as his running mate. Unlike the vast majority of political commentators, I think it is more useful to to focus on the factual inaccuracy of what Mr. Romney said and not the complete and total contempt – however real it may be – that he appears to hold nearly half of the electorate in. When we look at who these 47% of Americans are we see that most pay a higher percentage of their overall income in payroll taxes than Mitt Romney paid in total taxes in 2010. Your effective rate is around 17% if you paid just the payroll tax last year whereas Mitt Romney’s effective tax rate was 13.9%. That should be stunning in and of itself. The fact that Mr. Romney pays less as a percentage of his overall earnings not working than most people do working their butts off should enrage every American to no end and should lead Americans to search for a policy alternative to make sure this doesn’t happen again in the future.
This policy alternative would be – at least in the eyes of foggy-eyed liberals like me – a completely redrawn map of the Republican Party. Indeed, that is what this nation deserves. America deserves an honest discourse about the problems it faces. The problems we face are so enormous that we don’t have time for all the lies, at least we shouldn’t have time for the lies, but because a major party has nominated a couple of major liars as it’s Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates we’re left without a choice. This seems to me quite fitting as we have suffered as a people for the last two years through an election cycle devoid of any real issues or any real factual debate, it has been an election full of comic book characters, (remember Rick Perry? Herman Cain? Dare I say: Michelle Bachman!) the orthodox fundamentalist that took human form in Rick Santorum and a man who would be ill cast as a James Bond villian in Newt Gingrich. I say ill cast because even an international audience would have difficulty believing anyone could be that cruel. This reminds me of what one of my heroes Mark Twain said about these matters:
The 2012 election could have been an election about ideas or about the future, it could have been about foreign policy, about our unending deployment of troops to a war that is without purpose and today without a joint-allied mission for it has become too dangerous to train with the people we will be leaving that country to in less than two years. We could be talking about the economy as Mr. Romney claims he’d like to be talking about only in Mr. Romney’s mind we don’t talk about the actual economy we only talk about the fictional economy that Mr. Romney would like to run against. You see, Mitt Romney is all for being President so long as it is on his terms. He defines the way you look at the world. He defines whether companies are hiring or firing. He determines whether you get to vote or not. That is the America that Mitt Romney wants to run, but tonight we will all have to kneel by our bedsides and say a prayer for ourselves because we have found ourselves in a country that Mitt Romney doesn’t really want to run.
Most Americans do pay taxes, but because of our good friends Ronald Reagan and Grover Norquist we don’t all pay income taxes. 52% of the population does pay income taxes and Mr. Romney is correct that 47% do not. What he neglects to tell you is that in the one year of tax returns that he released to the American people he paid absolutely 0 in income taxes. I’m going to repeat that because that’s kind of a significant fact: Mitt Romney is part of the 47% he admonishes for paying no income tax. He does pay taxes on carried interest, which is what you pay when you have Swiss bank accounts, money made from capital gains and earned income from things like public speaking and book publishing. 63% of Americans pay a payroll tax. 22% don’t pay taxes because they’re elderly. That leaves 15% of the population that doesn’t pay taxes and a majority of that 15% receive government benefits. Yes, it is those pesky 15% that are bankrupting this country! This is a man in Mitt Romney who thinks America is exceptional enough to say that he shouldn’t be forced to pay more money in taxes but those pesky poor people? Well, they’re another story.
It is insulting, to say the least, that Mitt Romney didn’t even have the dignity to ask for my vote. That’s right, he didn’t ask for my vote just as he didn’t ask for yours. He said: “if you want a government hand out, vote for the other guy.” There’s a certain arrogance that comes with feeling you’re above asking the American people to put their trust in you. There’s a certain arrogance that comes with saying that half of America just won’t dig you as President because they don’t want to work for anything in their lives. Being talked to about tax policy by a man who has accounts in the Cayman islands and Bermuda to hide his money is like being told where you’re supposed to be going by a blind man. You’ll get somewhere alright, but it sure as hell isn’t going to be where you wanted to go.