Some things speak for themselves

David Corn of Mother Jones obtains a video of Governor Mitt Romney explaining why people support President Obama

David Corn of Mother Jones obtains a video of Governor Mitt Romney explaining why people support President Obama. One of many quotes:

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.

For the record, I pay about twice the average tax rate that Governor Romney does.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect,, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

26 thoughts on “Some things speak for themselves”

  1. Many (possibly but maybe not most) people who owe no 1040 income tax pay a higher fraction of their income in taxes than Mitt Romney. This is probably a majority without government spending into account for its impact on after-tax income, and it’s definitely a majority if you do take government spending into account and rightly treat tax expenditures such as the preferential treatment of dividends, charitable contributions and the mortgage deduction as government spending. Properly calculated, Mitt Romney is personally the recipient of more government spending than many thousands of the poorest Americans added together.

    1. Indeed.

      Just the payroll tax (counting the employer portion) gets you to Mitt’s rate.

      To be cautious, is this video confirmed as accurate? It sure looks and sounds that way – like someone took it wth an iPhone or something – but there’s still a “too good to be true” smell about it.

      1. I’d be cautious, too. Mitt’s been particularly careful to avoid mentioning the “half pay no taxes” line. Ryan, too, although he once had a pretty similar formulation in a speech (paraphrasing, that we’re reaching a threshold after which there are more takers than makers in America). Another Rathergate because someone on the Left was an idiot or someone on the Right was really clever could be the one thing that could get the media to ignore that Romney’s promising to cut hundreds of billions a year in healthcare for the poor and middle class to pay for hundreds of billions in tax cuts for the rich.

  2. If you count both the employee and employer sides of the payroll tax, almost everyone with a job pays at least as high a tax rate as Romney does, and most who work and aren’t the working poor pay twice his rate. And his tax plan would slash his taxes while raising most everyone else’s – and his running mate’s tax plan would essentially eliminate his taxes.

    1. He’s just such an idiot. Think of saying these things while disdainfully withholding one’s own tax returns — from the people whose votes one seeks!

      He really doesn’t understand the whole “powers derived from the people” idea. He really does see himself as our overlord.

  3. how many of that 47% received a refund only because of the stimulus package? i would think that a $400 dollar credit for individual filers or an $800 credit for married filing jointly gave MANY a refund they would not otherwise have received. if that is indeed the case, we have a presidential candidate diatribing against a tax cut for working citizens, and one that is as effective a stimulus as could be imagined.

    1. What I’ve seen suggests that the number is more in the neighborhood of 35% in non-depression years. You’ve got something like 5-10% students, 10-15% retired or disabled, and then the working poor. I wonder if they also count spouses who don’t work outside the home — ostensibly the preferred role for women, but in practice considered a sign of horrific laziness.

      1. No it doesn’t count spouses (or children, etc) in that way; it’s 47% of households (basically; actually, tax units in Tax-Policy-Center-ese) who have $0 regular income tax (withheld or paid in April).

      2. The standard deed deduction and the EITC mean that a lot of working poor, especially those with kids, pay no federal income tax, not just the student and retiree (and unfortunate) classes you name. Of course, they do pay 15% payroll tax.

  4. It is not necessary to prefer one faction or another in order to see that this marks an advanced stage of faction itself (that incurable disease of polities), tantamount to what may as well be called a Cold Civil War. Very well, Mr. Romney, let us say that you have persuaded us; you have demonstrated convincingly that half (47% ? 49% ? who’s quibbling? half, give or take noise) of the American people are not legitimate participants in the political system (as it is presently worked). ALL RIGHT, NOW WHAT? What conclusions do you draw? What actions must be taken, as the necessary consequence of what you have pointed out? Do tell us, we are all ears. If you can’t quite hear this respectful request (we being illegitimate and all, perhaps our voices are too whiny for our words to register with you), we’ll just go and ask your numerous surrogates. One of them will tell us (– with any luck at all!).

  5. Does Mitt Romney think that there is something wrong with paying as little federal income tax as is legally possible?

    1. Romney’s not saying these people are wrong to pay the taxes that they do. He just thinks it’s bad that they don’t pay income taxes.

      But don’t you dare suggest he’d raise anyone’s taxes though! That would be crazy talk.

      1. Wait, I thought the republicans were all about it was GOOD when people paid no taxes? I thouht that ould bethe ideal state of affairs — o one payin any taxes — for the power to tax is the power to destroy, and that govt. is best which governs least. Oh — that doesnt go for everyone? Who, then? Oh, they meant the rich. I see.

  6. Is there anything that guy won’t lie about? Never mind, after his comments about what happened in Egypt and Libya that’s clearly just a rhetorical question.

    Romney conflates all those who don’t pay income tax with people who depend on the government for food, housing and healthcare. Not even close. My full-time college student daughter, for example, files her own tax returns and works as well as going to school, but doesn’t make enough to pay income tax. She’s not getting a penny from the government for food, housing or health care.

    Second he implies that anyone who pays no income taxes is a deadbeat with no initiative, etc. The truth is that a big chunk of the people who pay no income taxes are retirees on Social Security. They do get money from the government, which most of them undoubtedly do use to pay for food, housing and health care, but that money all comes from payroll taxes, not income taxes, and most of them have both paid into that system and paid income taxes for many decades. Even the Tea Partiers don’t see Social Security as a handout for deadbeats the way Romney implies.

    Sheldon, I saw somewhere that before the stimulus refund the number was more like 38%. And, of course, when unemployment is high like it is now, thanks to the economic policies Romney favors, the number will be higher than it would otherwise be. If anything, the fact that many households don’t pay income tax because they don’t make enough money, despite many of them working harder than Mitt Romney ever has in his life, is an indictment of how poorly our economy works.

    1. In the follow-up press conference tonight, Romney as much as said that anyone who doesn’t pay income tax has no reason to vote for him. I hope a lot of students, retires, disabled, and temporarily embarrassed folks take him at his word.

  7. The most interesting thing about this to me is that Romney is, I think, very much aware that it’s a lie. He’s avoided using the “half pay no tax” formulation because he knows it’s politically toxic and will get no support in the non-Fox media. John McCain was dumb enough to release an ad along these lines in 2008 (I think only on YouTube) and he VERY quickly pulled it back because it invites the most obvious man-on-the-street attack ad you can imagine… have a cameraman go around your swing state of choice and interview real voters asking whether they pay taxes, looking for the mythical voter who pays no tax and asking everyone whether they think Romney’s right that half of people pay no taxes.

    Rather, Romney’s saying it because it’s a very effective way to extract money from paranoid rich people who are even more out of touch than Mitt and think that it’s totally true. The sort of folks that were queued up in the Hamptons a few months ago and interviewed through the windows of their luxury cars before a Romney fundraiser.

    1. “…Romney’s saying it because it’s a very effective way to extract money from paranoid rich people…”

      Yep. It’s the same reason he picked Ryan … it goes over VERY well with paranoid rich people.

  8. If I were running for president I would say “47% of the people in this country give no military service and that’s why I want to start another three or four wars against all the countries in the middle east that Israel is bothered by.”

    If 47 percent are deadbeats for not paying fed income tax then surely those who don’t serve in the military are also deadbeats. Write them off, too, mitt.

  9. Who’s the Deep Throat responsible for releasing the video? Progressive spies don’t go to that sort of event. A rebellious teenager finds the clip on Daddy’s iPhone? Or Daddy thinks it’s brilliant and circulates it to a few friends, who circulate it to a few friends, one of whom turns out not to agree?

    1. Could be any of those.

      Or someone invited by mistake who went out of curiosity.

      Or a legitimate invitee who was recording for no particular reason and was appalled at the speech.

    2. “Progressive spies don’t go to that sort of event.”

      As Matt Yglesias tweeted (to give him fair credit, quote from memory):

      ‘It’s a major problem with Republican strategy when waiters have smart phones’.

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