Center for American Progress Action
Mitt Romney Attacks 47% of Americans
Yesterday, a hidden camera video of Mitt Romney addressing millionaire donors emerged — and it wasn’t pretty. Among other things, Romney accuses nearly half of all Americans of being lazy and dependent on government largesse. For good measure, Romney adds that his “job is not to worry about those people” because they’ll always be lazy and will never change.
Check out the video:
Here’s the transcript, via Mother Jones:
“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.
“[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
The video immediately caused a social media firestorm and the condemnations from progressives and many pundits were swift. In response, Romney hastily called a late night press conference at which he doubled down on his comments, saying he stood behind them even if they were not “elegantly stated.”
Conservatives Pile On
Much like during last week’s blowup over Romney’s outrageous charge that the president “sympathized” with the attackers in Libya who killed four Americans, Romney found himself under fire from fellow conservatives.
New York Times columnist David Brooks penned a devastating column entitled “Thurston Howell Romney,” in which he argued the GOP presidential nominee doesn’t understand America:
“[Romney’s] comment suggests a few things. First, it suggests that he really doesn’t know much about the country he inhabits. Who are these freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A.? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare?
“It suggests that Romney doesn’t know much about the culture of America.”
Even archconservative Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol called Romney’s comments “arrogant and stupid”:
“It’s worth recalling that a good chunk of the 47 percent who don’t pay income taxes are Romney supporters—especially of course seniors (who might well “believe they are entitled to heath care,” a position Romney agrees with), as well as many lower-income Americans (including men and women serving in the military) who think conservative policies are better for the country even if they’re not getting a tax cut under the Romney plan. So Romney seems to have contempt not just for the Democrats who oppose him, but for tens of millions who intend to vote for him.“
Republican candidates in competitive senate races also began to distance themselves from Romney. Even the ultrawealthy private equity CEO who hosted the fundraiser, who like Romney has shifted pension obligations onto the government and bankrupted companies while walking away with billions in profits, declined to rise to Romney’s defense.
Who are the 47% of Americans Romney Attacked?
They are probably not the moocher class that Romney envisioned when he made the comments. They are a diverse group and don’t pay federal income tax for a diverse set of reasons:
- Mostly, they are either too poor to qualify for even the lowest tax bracket (but still pay federal payroll tax, and state or local sales taxes, gas taxes, and excise taxes), or they benefit from tax credits for the working poor, the elderly, or students.
- Active duty military in combat zones
- Seniors – one in five of those that pay no federal income taxes are elderly.
- Working Americans – 61 percent have jobs and pay 15.3 percent of their income in payroll taxes
- Fully 83 percent of those paying no federal income taxes are either working or are elderly.
As Ezra Klein noted, a good many of them appear to pay a higher share of their income in taxes than Mitt Romney himself:
“Among the Americans who paid no federal income taxes in 2011, 61 percent paid payroll taxes — which means they have jobs and, when you account for both sides of the payroll tax, they paid 15.3 percent of their income in taxes, which is higher than the 13.9 percent that Romney paid.”
The Atlantic points out that the 47% are more heavily concentrated in red states than blue ones:
BOTTOM LINE: We need a president of all Americans, not one who writes off nearly half of Americans – seniors, veterans,students, and working people – simply because he believes they are “entitled” “victims” who will “never” “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.